There are few ways better to dispel rumors that your baby might be ugly than taking your carefully incubated bundle of joy out for the entire world to see. That’s precisely what Rackspace has done with its open source progeny, OpenStack.
Real Housewives of Cloud Computing
Cloud technology has evolved so quickly that few standards have been finalized or de facto platforms adopted. It’s not for a lack of trying. Other than a love of orderliness, why should you care? Without standards, it can be difficult for organizations to move between cloud vendors. There are no common APIs, architectures or anything else. The more data and services hosted in the cloud, the more painful it is to walk away. Although there are many design practices and contractual clauses that can be used to minimize risk, organizations that operate in this unstandardized environment are accepting the risk that their enterprise's data or core business system could, for all practical purposes, be held hostage by an errant cloud vendor. In the long run, most issues related to a poorly behaved vendor could be resolved legally, but in the long run, we’re all dead.
For smaller vendors, standards could be a selling point, “Hey, what would you have to lose?” For larger vendors, standards can reduce the amount they need to invest to develop and maintain commodity features. For businesses, standards mean flexibility. Countless vendors and standards organizations are working toward defining a common baseline for the cloud. While there is lots of standards activity underway, it is not integrated or cohesive. Some of the standards being developed are complementary, but many are not. In some cases, standards efforts overlap or define contradictory guidelines.
If you have the impression that open source development or participation in standards bodies kills the spirit of competition, a glance into the world of cloud standards will dispel those notions. What’s occurring with NASA and Rackspace-backed OpenStack and Citrix-backed alternative CloudStack illustrate the level of contention in the market. Last week, Citrix Cloud Platforms VP Samer Dholakia threw a verbal jab that would make most reality TV starlets (if they wrote code) proud. Dholakia said his firm was tired of waiting on OpenStack to stabilize and that Citrix,
was left with no choice but to pursue an alternative open source project. We can't afford to wait a year or two for the technical maturation process that needs to happen.”
This week Rackspace fired back,
“Gasp! I know he didn’t!”
Well, not really, but Rackspace has made it clear it is not on board with Citrix’s assessment of OpenStack, announcing the availability of a production-ready cloud service powered by OpenStack. Although the move is not surprising, it is happening faster than anyone expected. Rackspace has been emphatically supporting OpenStack since 2010, but most of its actual cloud products were powered by a proprietary technology stack.
What’s Next for OpenStack
Several industry giants in addition to Rackspace, such as IBM, Hewlett Packard, Dell, Cisco and Netapp are throwing their support (and budgets) behind OpenStack. However, there will likely be a higher level of focus on Rackspace’s offerings because the company was one of the technology’s originators with NASA and will have one of the largest initial public, production deployments. Any missteps by Rackspace could send spur additional companies to follow Citrix’s lead away from the OpenStack Foundation.
In spite of Rackspace’s continued assurances that OpenStack is ready to go, it is taking a bit more measured approach with the rollout. Rackspace’s Cloud Servers and Cloud Control are production-ready, but in limited availability release. Customers can sign up now, and Rackspace will begin incrementally granting access starting on May 1. The company’s Cloud Databases and Cloud Monitoring offerings are in early access release, which Rackspace describes as,
production workload ready but have limited support available, no service commitments and no billing.”
I am pretty sure that’s what used to be called a public beta, but far be it from me to be contradictory. The remaining offerings, Cloud Block Storage and Cloud Networks, are in preview, which seems to mean exactly what it usually means.