The OpenStack juggernaut

The OpenStack collaborative industry effort to build an open source cloud platform is to be applauded for the remarkable gains it has achieved in a short amount of time. Founded by Rackspace Hosting and NASA in July last year, the organization is now backed by 120 companies, including the likes of HP, Dell, Intel and Cisco, and has already issued four major code releases, the last of which, Diablo, just came out last month and has already been downloaded 50,000 times.

Some 600 OpenStack faithful were in Boston last week at a weeklong conference, the first three days of which was a design summit for developers working on Essex, the next release due out in April.

ANALYSIS: OpenStack's secret weapon is modularity

This is a wildly enthusiastic group brimming with people who like to say they are out to change the world. "From day one, OpenStack has been 10 times bigger than we ever expected," says Lew Moorman, Rackspace's chief strategy officer and president of its cloud business.

Moorman used the conference to announce plans to create the OpenStack Foundation, which will take over governance of the movement and its intellectual property, a shift that is needed for the effort to keep up the momentum.

OpenStack co-founder and former CTO of NASA, Chris Kemp, now CEO of startup Nebula, says the goal is to achieve a common cloud platform for service providers and enterprises that will ensure cloud interoperability, workload portability and development of common tools.

Lofty goals, but the movement is attracting the backing that might just make it possible. "HP is completely onboard with OpenStack," John Purrier, vice president of HP Cloud Services, told the crowd. The company, which is standing up a 1,000 node OpenStack-based public cloud with several petabytes of storage, launched a private beta of that cloud last month and will go into public beta next year.

Some users are already plowing ahead. MercadoLibre, a giant e-commerce site in Latin America, has 5,000 of its 6,000 virtual server instances running on OpenStack, Infrastructure Senior Engineer Alejandro Comisario says. Other buyers on hand to discuss OpenStack plans included Sony and CERN.

The movement, however, still faces major challenges, chief among them fragmentation of this large undertaking. "The group has to figure out how much effort is spent going wide versus focusing and getting good at a few things," says Blake Yeager, the lead product manager for IaaS at HP Cloud Services. HP would prefer the latter, he says, "getting the basics rock solid."

A user attending one panel discussion complained that "there is a fair amount of chaos in the delivery. ... What is needed is a good roadmap about where this is going to be in six months so I can sell it internally."

The next 12 months will determine if OpenStack is a flash in the pan or a sustainable movement.

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