OpenStack is gaining momentum. This week, OpenStack turns two, and with the "terrible twos" stage comes growing pains. Rackspace, which has partnered with NASA and a few other cloud computing industry players in developing the open-source project, is switching its codebase to OpenStack. But with this second-year anniversary, the open-source cloud computing platform faces new challenges altogether.
OpenStack is celebrating its second anniversary this July 19, and the platform's creators are excited with a major roll-out of the current "Essex" release and the upcoming "Folsom" update this October, which comes with a new network virtualization service called "Quantum."
Jim Curry, general manager of Rackspace Cloud Builders, says OpenStack is rapidly rolling out features, and is approaching a "major milestone in reliability and usability of the platform." He adds that Rackspace is "going 100 percent with the platform," referring to the codebase switch which Rackspace will be implementing next month.
The current "Essex" release was written by 200 developers from 55 different companies, bringing in each participant's respective expertise to the project. This particular release highlights improved automation, project integration, and central management and provisioning through the OpenStack pluggable architecture. OpenStack essentially runs on three platforms: OpenStack Compute, Openstack Object Storage and OpenStack Image Service. Essex adds additional projects that provide infrastructure support to the platforms, namely Dashboard and Identity.
But as OpenStack enters its sophomore year, there are serious challenges that need to be addressed. Too many cooks can spoil the broth, the saying goes. This may have partially ruined the developer and user experience in other (semi) open platforms, like Android. With hordes of developers and manufacturers running their own flavors, the platform has become so fragmented and forked that the user experience takes a hit.
This is one of the biggest concerns that OpenStack managers have. Rackspace's Curry says that individual agendas can result in fracturing, which is one reason why Rackspace wants to strike a balance between openness and control. "Any open-source project that is not controlled by one vendor but with lots of folks with their own agendas is at higher risk of fracturing -- the advantage of single-vendor or close-to-single-vendor projects is that there is more control in the short term and a shorter time to market," he said in an interview with GigaOM.
Curry cites some participants or supporters that have mostly been using the OpenStack initiative as marketing tool, but not really staying true to the mission of the open-source effort. Some former supporters are coming out with their own products that essentially compete with OpenStack. Citrix, for one, has setup its CloudStack open-source cloud platform. Some will claim that their offerings are complementary, and not competitive, with OpenStack. But for a customer, different offerings among partner vendors might result in confusion.
It's All About Choice
Still, the bottom line for Curry is choice. OpenStack offers consumers a choice in their cloud deployments. "Cloud was not this big two years ago. At that time, customers had to choose one technology or another, the choices being Amazon and VMware. It’s not that they were bad technologies -- they’re great technologies with a lot to offer -- but by choosing one of those you limit the opportunity to go to another."
This can perhaps be exemplified by NASA's participation in the OpenStack platform. NASA raised a few eyebrows when the agency announced it was cutting back on its OpenStack development efforts, along with the revelation that the space agency has been an Amazon Web Services customer for years. Rackspace was unperturbed, though, saying that the Amazon endorsement "is not a knock on OpenStack." NASA wanted to contribute to building the infrastructure, with the aim of becoming a consumer once it has launched