Opening Up the Cloud

Michael Vizard

Rackspace Holdings wants to keep the pressure on Amazon and anybody else pursuing proprietary agendas in the cloud.

The managed hosting and cloud computing platform provider today announced that 40 companies are now part of the OpenStack ecosystem, which Rackspace launched six months ago in conjunction with NASA. The latest member of the ecosystem is Internap Network Services Corp., which today launched the beta of Internap XIPCloud Storage, a public cloud storage service that leverages OpenStack technology such as the Object Storage software

OpenStack is a suite of open source technologies that collectively make up a cloud operating system. Rackspace is using OpenStack as the enabling software to power a variety of public and private cloud computing services, while NASA uses it for its internal private cloud computing platform. Other companies that have committed to supporting OpenStack include Dell, Microsoft, Citrix, Intel and Advanced Micro Devices.

According to Jonathan Bryce, chairman of the OpenStack project oversight committee, the OpenStack software developed by Rackspace and NASA is starting to pick up momentum because both cloud computing service providers and internal IT organizations are starting to appreciate the extensibility of the approach.

Rather than being totally dependent on one vendor, the OpenStack approach, says Bobby Minnear, vice president of engineering for Internap, allows users to mix and match components as they see fit, or add other modules that extend the functionality of the core OpenStack platform.

As cloud computing evolves, IT organizations are going to be looking for federated architectures that allow them to integrate with not only multiple cloud computing service providers, but also private clouds set up by companies they do business with.

The Amazon approach to cloud computing is wrapped in proprietary APIs that many IT organizations find arcane. For cloud computing to truly thrive, the IT industry as a whole is going to need to promote open standards that give customers a maximum amount of flexibility, says Minnear.

There's no doubt that in the rush to establish cloud computing, proprietary approaches were a necessary evil in the absence of any real open standards. But as 2011 continues to evolve, it's pretty clear that cloud computing standards are rapidly catching up to the overall market. And once that happens, what was once acceptable today is going to look like a blatant attempt to lock customers into a particular vendor tomorrow.

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