Channeling the Cloud

IBM Gives OpenStack Ecosystem a Major Boost

IBM has thrown its weight behind the OpenStack project, joining the likes of heavyweights HP, Intel, Cisco and Dell.

Everyone is taking aim at the widely used Amazon Web Services Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) in different ways. Microsoft is getting ready to let customers provision Windows Server and Linux-based VMs in Windows Azure. VMware last month announced plans to launch a cloud service by year's end. Google Compute Engine is in play.

And then there's OpenStack.

The OpenStack project, which was kicked off nearly three years ago by Rackspace and NASA, has become cloud computing's open source equivalent to what Linux, Apache/Enterprise Java and Eclipse are in the OS, Web app server and software development worlds, respectively. While that was Rackspace and NASA's original goal when they made the code available for the cloud compute and storage OS they developed, OpenStack took a major leap forward last month when IBM made it the centerpiece of its cloud computing initiative.

Big Blue actually blessed OpenStack last spring after quietly testing the waters for two years. But at its annual Pulse conference in Las Vegas, IBM told its 8,500 customers and partners all of its cloud services and software will be based on open standards, with OpenStack at the IaaS layer, the Topology and Orchestration Specification for Cloud Applications (TOSCA) for Platform as a Service (PaaS) application portability, and HTML5 for Software as a Service (SaaS).

While IBM isn't the first major cloud provider outside of Rackspace to throw its weight behind OpenStack -- Red Hat, HP, Intel, Cisco and Dell are among others -- the company has rallied all its resources to OpenStack. "We are jumping in full force," said Robert Leblanc, senior vice president for middleware at IBM, speaking at Pulse.

If you're an IBM partner (or not), you might have clients that want to use the company's cloud software or services. And if you're not already beholden to running your customers' instances on Amazon and those customers aren't sold on Windows Azure or other cloud providers hosting Windows Server, there are a number of OpenStack options. In addition to Rackspace and IBM, HP is slowly building out its service and Oracle joined the OpenStack party last month with its agreement to acquire Nimbula, a provider of cloud infrastructure software that allows organizations to provision Amazon Machine Image (AMI)-compatible clouds. Nimbula last fall joined OpenStack and is developing an API to enable portability with OpenStack clouds.

Meanwhile, Microsoft's commitment to supporting more open source efforts notwithstanding, its involvement in OpenStack has been hot and cold. While Microsoft says it's planning to enable System Center to manage OpenStack clouds and claims Hyper-V is supported on OpenStack, Jim Curry, senior VP and general manager of Rackspace's private cloud business, told me the only hypervisor completely supported is the open source Xen. Curry called on both Microsoft and VMware to step up their efforts.

I don't believe that's off the table for either company, though that remains to be seen. Either way, if you've had limited exposure to open source to date, OpenStack may very well change that.

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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.