OpenStack: We can tell Amazon what to do, instead of the other way around

OpenStack opening keynote lauds potential of open source cloud computing project

SAN DIEGO - Organizers of the OpenStack Design Summit had a slight problem when the conference got underway in earnest this week. More than 1,000 people had registered for the event, but more than 1,400 actually showed up.

"Who are you?" asked a joking Jonathan Bryce, the executive director of the OpenStack Foundation. "Where did you all come from?"

OpenStack enthusiasts gathering in San Diego are happy to have the extra company. It reinforces, they say, momentum they've seen in recent weeks and months around the project, including new companies joining the project and the release of its sixth code release, Folsom.

The momentum, in a broad sense, has been somewhat tempered by some calling the project "hype," and others suggesting that it should be moving a little faster.

These reports get back to a central question, both at the OpenStack Summit and in the broader cloud market: Where exactly is OpenStack now and where is it going? How will providers like HP, Red Hat, Cisco, IBM, Dell, Rackspace and others come together to work with the growing crop of startups - from Piston Cloud Computing, to Nebula, to CloudScaling - to shape this project into the future?

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Chris Kemp, a co-founder of OpenStack from his days as CTO of NASA, says the project has the potential to fundamentally change the cloud computing landscape.

During his keynote speech, Kemp articulated one of the core visions held by OpenStack enthusiasts: It can be a ubiquitous platform used by both enterprises to deploy private clouds and service providers to launch public clouds. If both those sides use OpenStack to build their respective clouds, Kemp argues that allows for interoperability between the two that is not available in the market today in an open source framework. If OpenStack embraces that, he says the marketplace of users and vendors using the platform will be too big for even the market-leading cloud providers to ignore. "We can tell Amazon what to do, instead of the other way around," he says.

Not everyone is buying that vision. "It's not so straightforward," says Krishnan Subramanian, analyst at Rishidot Research and cloud blogger who's attending the event. "It's not a given," he says that two OpenStack vendors will inherently have interoperability between their systems. Vendors within the OpenStack community need to work together for their users to be able to migrate workloads across the disparate systems.

Kemp says that will come. The features and functionality around security and customized components of enterprises' private cloud needs to be replicated in a public cloud for enterprises to truly embrace the cloud. OpenStack, he says, is the way to do that.

The key, he says, is focusing on the users and the applications that will be run on OpenStack. Enterprises in the future will not run all of their applications on a single framework, they will instead use multiple infrastructures and platforms. OpenStack has to not only support those, but integrate features that users care about but aren't yet developed in the code. High availability, easier usability and cloud monitoring are some of the projects in the que for future development. If OpenStack is able to embrace this vision, Kemp says it has the opportunity to be the cloud architecture for the future.

Network World staff writer Brandon Butler covers cloud computing and social collaboration. He can be reached at BButler@nww.com and found on Twitter at @BButlerNWW.

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