OpenStack Declares Independence

Rackspace handed off OpenStack to an independent foundation with its own governance body.

On Wednesday, Rackspace handed off OpenStack, an open-source infrastructure as a service project founded by NASA and Rackspace, to an independent foundation with its own governance body.

The new OpenStack Foundation kicks off with $10 million in funding from member companies over the next three years. That should be ample enough to cover its operating requirements, said Jim Curry, GM of Rackspace Private Cloud and a member of the newly-formed OpenStack Board of Directors.

Curry said Rackspace invested approximately $5 million per year to operate Rackspace, which included running of its various conferences and twice-yearly summits, development and marketing. Asked if Rackspace designated a financial value to OpenStack as an asset it is effectively spinning off, Curry said it was substantial, though he declined to elaborate.

Now that the OpenStack Foundation is an independent body, it removes the perception that it's a Rackspace-controlled entity. While Curry insisted that Rackspace long ago gave up such control, the fact remained that the company still owned the assets. The handoff took place Wednesday Sept. 19.

"I think we are in the position where OpenStack can now serve the best interest of OpenStack and its community and there won't be conflicts of interests with what Rackspace is trying to accomplish," said Randy Bias, CTO and co-founder of Cloudscaling, which provides open-source cloud software for carriers. Bias is also a member of the new OpenStack board.

Bias said the next key priority will be forming consensus over the foundation's mission. Specifically it must determine if it wants to focus on driving adoption of OpenStack versus creating standards to ensure interoperability. For his part, Bias will push for the former. "I think that second path is perilous because it's such early days," he said. "We would probably end up with a lot of bickering with what is the right way to build OpenStack."

Now that OpenStack is an independent foundation, the question is, will it become the de facto open source IaaS platform? It's too early to tell, said Forester Research analyst James Staten, noting while some of its partners have been selling OpenStack-based solutions over the past several months, sales remain weak, likely because they are awaiting the Folsom release due out next week.

But Staten noted OpenStack is also competing with other options such as the Citrix-backed CloudStack effort, released to the Apache Foundation earlier this year, and Eucalyptus and commercial implementations from the likes of Amazon Web Services that are experiencing revenue growth.

"CloudStack has a strong following among ISPs, especially overseas, and with enterprise divisional IT departments who want to replicate public clouds inside their walls," Staten noted. "OpenStack will be competing against CloudStack for this same business. It isn't clear yet how the two will differentiate from one another. That is also something they have to work on."

The key target for OpenStack and CloudStack are providers (hosters, managed services providers and telcos) and business unit IT, Staten added. On the provider side, Staten said "this is Cloudstack's market to lose today and the most attractive immediate opportunity for OpenStack."

The two open-source cloud offerings along with Eucalyptus, which has a partnership with Amazon Web Services, will also appeal to business units looking to shift workloads between public and private clouds.

"It's the business unit developers who are leading the adoption of public clouds and when they recognize the need for this sales type of a service from within their own corporate walls, they aren't turning to central IT to give this to them (their efforts to do so, so far, have fallen well short of developer expectations)," he noted. "So a small but growing trend is for the business unit itself to build and operate the private cloud. They want to start with a solution that looks and acts like a public cloud first, not a virtualization solution. This is the best second market for OpenStack and CloudStack and why Amazon and Eucalyptus partnered."

While some say CloudStack has an advantage today, OpenStack has the benefit of almost all of the blue-chip IT providers supporting it including AT&T Cisco, Dell, Hewlett-Packard, IBM and most recently VMware. Besides Rackspace, the various providers are still in the early stages of delivering their OpenStack products and services.

Angel Diaz, IBM's VP for software standards and cloud, said Big Blue's SmartCloud software and public cloud service will support OpenStack in near future, though he declined to be more specific. "The idea there is within our SmartCloud Foundation is a technology similar to OpenStack architected in the same way," Diaz said.

OpenStack will be as important to SmartCloud as the Apache server was to IBM's WebSphere application server technology, Diaz added. "What you'll see is a lot of the technology in our SmartCloud Foundation at the infrastructure as a service layer will work its way into OpenStack, in the not too distant future," he said. "You will see OpenStack in SmartCloud just like Apache is in WebSphere."

About the Author

Jeffrey Schwartz is editor of Redmond magazine and also covers cloud computing for Virtualization Review's Cloud Report. In addition, he writes the Channeling the Cloud column for Redmond Channel Partner. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreySchwartz.


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