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Internap launches first public OpenStack cloud

OpenStack promises enterprises greater portability between cloud providers. But first, there have to be providers to choose among.

By , Network World
October 28, 2011 11:01 AM ET

Network World - Look out Amazon. OpenStack is shaping up to be a game changer in the cloud world. On Thursday Atlanta-based Internap Network Services announced the launch of the first public cloud built on OpenStack.

Internap's new service is dubbed Open Public Cloud. The company had previously launched a cloud storage service based on OpenStack but now offers the whole OpenStack caboodle. Internap is perhaps best known for its VMware-based cloud, which remains as a separate offering to the new cloud.

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Open Public Cloud uses the low-cost, open source Xen Cloud Platform as its base hypervisor. It supports Windows and Linux virtual machines. "We are using OpenStack and Xen, which is a mature hypervisor running on Linux, and supporting both Windows and Linux guest operating systems," Josh Crowe, senior vice president of Internap's product engineering, told Network World. "We also like the robust management capabilities of OpenStack and are using it to handle activities like automated provisioning and usage metering, among others."

OpenStack is a potential game changer in that it offers a standardized set of APIs that the OpenStack consortium hopes will end vendor lock-in, allowing enterprises to easily move workloads between homegrown private OpenStack clouds and any public OpenStack cloud provider. OpenStack is an open source cloud platform that includes its own operating system, storage and networking components and that has garnered widespread industry support. It is a flavor of the Nebula cloud project originally developed by NASA and is championed by Rackspace.

Today, Amazon's cloud is its most popular infrastructure as a service. Although Amazon offers APIs, its cloud is not open source technology being developed by a consortium, as is OpenStack. However, OpenStack is not the only open source, consortium-led, Nebula-based offering out there. OpenNebula is another, and boasts a large community, claiming 5,000 downloads a month and some significant large-scale users. Other vendors have also launched competing efforts. Red Hat, for instance, has championed DeltaCloud, and turned it over to Apache. DeltaCloud claims to avoid vendor lock-in, too, by handling multiple providers' APIs including Amazon and Rackspace.

Still, Internap chose OpenStack over such other options for a few reasons, says Josh Crowe, SVP of product engineering at Internap. With Rackspace's involvement, OpenStack was designed by the hosting/service provider industry, so Internap found it well-suited for the kinds of big-server, multi-tenant workloads asked of a public cloud. But the service provider was also wowed by "its maturing functionality, hypervisor-agnostic design and its extensible nature," Crowe says.

Momentum is steamrolling in favor of OpenStack, which now claims 128 vendors contributing to the project, including such companies as Cisco, Citrix, Gluster (an open source storage firm recently acquired by Red Hat), Extreme Networks, HP, Brocade, Arista and Vyatta. The project, still led by Rackspace, will be turned over to a newly created OpenStack foundation in 2012, project leaders announced earlier this month.

"OpenStack has the potential to provide a comprehensive, standards-based, open alternative for the virtualized data center. And I think with the emergence of the OpenStack foundation, we'll see technology and cloud service providers increasingly willing to commit to OpenStack," Crowe says.

The number of announced OpenStack projects are almost too numerous to count at this point. For instance, earlier this week Attachmate's Suse announced plans to make software for OpenStack private clouds. Suse Cloud, which won't be available for at least nine months, will be based on the latest version of OpenStack, called Diablo.

Then there's Nebula, founded by a former CTO of NASA, who is developing an appliance for building private clouds using OpenStack. It's in testing now and is due in 2012. Piston Cloud Computing is working on an OpenStack distribution that will offer enterprises more granular security features. Piston was founded by the lead architect of NASA's cloud, which was spun to become OpenStack, and the company expects to begin offering the software commercially in late November.

Dell has been testing high-end servers preconfigured with OpenStack, geared toward large data centers and service providers.

In addition, Rackspace, which contributed code along with NASA to create OpenStack, has offered to help companies use OpenStack to build private clouds and announced this summer that its own cloud would be going all OpenStack, too.

On the other hand, all the hype has caused competitors such as Red Hat's Scott Crenshaw to bash OpenStack as a "press release" project. He accused most of the support vendors of having pledged to be nothing but statements in a press release.

Crowe counters, "I think there will always be the inevitable flurry of activity surrounding new technologies, some of which will of course consist of hype. However, OpenStack is based on software that has actually been in production for quite some time and is maturing quickly. There are a growing number of large-scale use cases," he says.

He offers, for example, that like Rackspace, HP has a beta OpenStack public cloud. Cloud infrastructure automation provider Opscode is now shipping products with OpenStack support built in. Plus, he says, "Enterprises like MercadoLibre and government institutions like NASA and CERN are all using OpenStack-based cloud platforms. Korean Telecom has deployed OpenStack Swift for storage, which Internap did earlier this year. So, looking beyond the marketing, we are seeing real commitment -- not to mention investment dollars -- toward bringing OpenStack cloud services to market."

Julie Bort is the editor of Network World's Microsoft Subnet and Open Source Subnet communities. She writes the Microsoft Update and Source Seeker blogs. Follow Bort on Twitter @Julie188.

Read more about cloud computing in Network World's Cloud Computing section.

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