IBM says OpenStack will be central to its future cloud strategy

Big Blue announces orchestration tool built on OpenStack for deploying apps in its cloud more easily

Already a platinum member of the cloud operating system platform OpenStack, IBM officials said open source code from the project will be the foundation of the company's cloud strategy moving forward, including a new product it announced today.

At the company's Pulse show in Las Vegas, IBM announced SmartCloud Orchestrator, a service that helps customers configure the compute, storage and networking resources for applications to run on the company's SmartCloud platform.

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Robert LeBlanc, senior vice president of middleware software for IBM, says there's a lot of talk about the debate between public and private clouds, but he believes customers will more likely end up using both in a hybrid world. Open source tools, like OpenStack, he says are critical for supporting common platforms that span public and private clouds, which is why the company plans to "fully adopt OpenStack in our products and services," he says.

That could be somewhat of an issue though: The basis of IBM's cloud strategy is SmartCloud, which combines a pay-as-you-go public cloud offering, with components for customers to launch a private cloud or have dedicated hosted infrastructure, along with even a platform as a service (PaaS) offering, according to the company's website. IBM developed SmartCloud before OpenStack was founded two and a half years ago though, so LeBlanc said SmartCloud is not running on OpenStack at this point. Will it in the future? "We're on a continual journey," LeBlanc said about integrating OpenStack into the SmartCloud Platform. "But we think this is a major step in that journey."

SmartCloud Orchestration, which IBM dropped today, is built on OpenStack. It's mean to provide a simple graphical user interface for deploying, managing and automating cloud resources and it allows users to automate applications running in the cloud. It also provides a self-service portal with metering and charge-back features.

IBM joins a handful of major IT vendors that are seemingly going all in with OpenStack. HP, Dell, Cisco, Red Hat and Rackspace have also announced major initiatives around the OpenStack project. Josh McKenty, who helped develop the compute portion of OpenStack while at NASA, welcomes IBM's support for the project, but says he's waiting to see how much the company integrates OpenStack into its products and services, specifically the broader SmartCloud platform. "Having the Big Blue stamp of approval is great for OpenStack," says McKenty, who now serves as CTO of Piston Cloud Computing, which has its own private-cloud distribution of OpenStack. It's "not at all clear" exactly how IBM will integrate OpenStack into its platform specifically moving forward though, he adds.

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Much more OpenStack news is expected in the coming months as the next biannual release of OpenStack code is set to be released next month. Project backers are also gearing up for the next developer and user's conference, during which a variety of OpenStack-backed companies are expected to make announcements about their OpenStack strategies.

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

Copyright © 2013 IDG Communications, Inc.

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