Rackspace's cloud going all OpenStack

Rackspace/NASA cloud project one year old this week

Rackspace is planning to deploy the open source OpenStack software across its entire cloud infrastructure.

A year after Rackspace and NASA unveiled OpenStack, Rackspace is planning to deploy the open source software across its entire cloud infrastructure.

Rackspace's cloud storage service, known as Cloud Files, is already identical to the OpenStack storage software. But Cloud Servers, Rackspace's system for provisioning virtual machines to cloud customers, uses older software that will be replaced by OpenStack starting this year.

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"Right now, [Cloud Servers] is using software we developed internally," says Jonathan Bryce, who co-created Rackspace's cloud and now devotes all his time to OpenStack. "We planned on open sourcing that, but when we saw what NASA built we felt it would be a better starting point."

Rackspace will get rid of the previous Cloud Servers code base. "We will be running entirely on OpenStack, and the legacy system will be deprecated and no longer running," Bryce says.

But with more than 100,000 customers the transition will happen slowly and in a carefully planned manner. Rackspace won't put production applications at risk by forcing customers to move to the new infrastructure right away, but there will be customers running on OpenStack in 2011, Bryce says.

One thing that will remain the same is the hypervisor Rackspace uses, Citrix's XenServer. OpenStack itself is software for building private and public clouds that provide on-demand access to storage and compute instances, but can work with multiple types of virtualization platforms. Bryce says OpenStack is designed to build highly scalable and elastic cloud networks, with interoperability among clouds running the software.

OpenStack was pre-dated by the open source Eucalyptus project, but has gained support from vendors such as Cisco, Citrix and Canonical. Major competitors to OpenStack are VMware and its legion of cloud partners, and the popular Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud.

Overall, 89 organizations and 1,200 developers support OpenStack, Rackspace's Jim Curry writes in a blog on the OpenStack website. The project has three major releases under its belt and is working on a fourth.

"Enterprises are really beginning to deploy OpenStack," Curry writes. "It wasn't until the Cactus release in April that OpenStack truly became ready for production deployments. But during the three months since that release, the number of companies deploying the technologies is truly remarkable."

Curry acknowledges that Rackspace needed help from NASA and an active open source community to build a more effective cloud platform.

"The market lacked an open platform designed specifically for building and managing a cloud," he writes. "We knew that fact at Rackspace because we had been forced to build our own solution. For five years we looked for off the shelf technologies that could power our public cloud but never found an acceptable solution. So we kept building our own proprietary technology. But that wasn't the right answer."

Rival Eucalpytus is also open source, and boasts that with 25,000 clouds running the software "Eucalpytus is the world's most widely deployed software platform for on-premise Infrastructure-as-a-Service clouds."

After OpenStack's first year, the battle to become the top open source cloud platform is shaping up to be a good one. Bryce, for one, compares the early growth of OpenStack to Linux and MySQL. "This is an opportunity that comes along once in a generation," he says.

Follow Jon Brodkin on Twitter: www.twitter.com/jbrodkin

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