Rackspace (news, site) may have raised more than a few eyebrows this week when it announced that was open sourcing its hosting platform, but will the move bring more customers on board?

OpenStack - Open Source Cloud Platform

The beginning of this week kicked off with Rackspace announcing a new open source cloud platform, OpenStack. The hosting platform vendor is teaming up with NASA and other technology leader to provide an open platform for any organization wanting to create and offer cloud computing capabilities (public or private).

We are founding the OpenStack initiative to help drive industry standards, prevent vendor lock-in and generally increase the velocity of innovation in cloud technologies,” said Lew Moorman, President, Cloud and CSO at Rackspace.

Also joining the new initative are a number of other industry vendors including Citrix, Dell, Limelight and Rightscale. At an OpenStack Design Summit in mid-July, a number of these vendors came together to validate the code and ratify the project roadmap. One vendors, NTT DATA has already helped with localization capabilities in Japanese.

There are two projects with OpenStack:

  • OpenStack Storage: Based on Rackspace Cloud Files (which Rackspace donated to the project), this is a fully distributed object store. In Developer Preview, OpenStack Storage is expected to be released in mid-September.
  • OpenStack Compute: Based on a combination of Rackspace Cloud Servers and the NASA Nebula Cloud Platform, this is a scalable compute-provisioning engine. Written in Phython, it uses the Tornado and Twisted frameworks. Currently in Developer Preview, it is expected to be released in mid-October

The OpenStack is licensed under the Apache 2.0 license, which means that anyone can use, modify it and submit changes back to the project. You can see who has contributed via the code repository in Launchpad.

The OW2 Consortium has announced its support for OpenStack saying that it will create an open source middleware that will be compatible with OpenStack. 

Will Open Core Fade Away?

Being completely open source was one of the key drivers for NASA contributing to the project. NASA's Nebula infrastructure cloud is currently built on Eucalptus, a cloud infrastructure provider that is open core. When NASA wanted to contribute some its enhancements back into the project, they weren't allowed because some of the contributions were too close to the commercial add-ons available for Eucalptus. NASA has said they will be adopting OpenStack fully going forward.

Learning Opportunities

With OpenStack being fully supported by many of the current cloud platform providers, one might wonder if open core will slowly loose its luster in this market. But many think that isn't likely to happen. On InfoWorld.com Savio Rodrigues points out one vendor who is unlikely to change its open core model: Cloud.com:

Cloud.com quickly followed up the OpenStack announcement with a pledge to support OpenStack. As noted above, Cloud.com utilizes an open-core business model and is unlikely to reject the open-core model as a result of OpenStack. Rather, it's more likely that Cloud.com will utilize OpenStack components within Cloud.com's commercial product offering.

A New Battle for the Cloud

Is OpenStack that beginning of a new battle for the cloud between Rackspace and Amazon? Rakesh Dogra thinks so, saying that even though Amazon holds a huge piece of the cloud, there are issues.

Rackspace is apparently set to take on Amazon even in the Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) domain. Every cloud provider should ideally deliver a “complete” product ecosystem that encompasses not only the solution itself but also the implementation, management, and monitoring or maintenance of the same. By bringing industry leaders like CloudKick, Enstratus, and RightScale into the OpenStack ecosystem, Rackspace has propelled itself into the IaaS big league.

Microsoft has also made some major announcements in the last few weeks related to its Azure cloud platform, including a new Azure appliance. And Google is another major player to keep a close eye on.