Monday, July 19, 2010

OpenStack: potential for a cloud standard

Today, Rackspace open sourced its cloud platform and announced to create a collaborative effort that includes NASA, Citrix, and Dell to build an open source cloud platform, dubbed OpenStack. Finally, the world of cloud computing gets some weight behind a potential standard. Google, Microsoft, Amazon, and big SaaS players like and Netsuite are getting too isolated and too powerful to be believable to drive any type of standard for interoperability in the cloud. An open source stack could really break this open.

If Dell is true to its word to distribute OpenStack with its storage and server products, and Citrix is true to its word to drive OpenStack into their customer base, this effort has some real power players behind it that could provide the counter weight needed to stop the economic lock-in of the pioneers.

This announcement is very powerful as it provides a platform to accelerate innovation particularly from the university research where long-tailed projects simply do not get the time of day from Google or Microsoft. By offering a path to get integrated in an open source cloud platform, applications and run-times for genetics and proteomics, and deep computational engineering problems like material science and molecular dynamics get an opportunity to leverage cloud computing as a collective.

Most of the innovation in these verticals is delivered through open source and university research. By building solutions into a collective, the university research groups can build momentum that they could not build with adopting solutions from commercial vendors like Amazon AWS, Google Apps, or Microsoft Azure.

It also opens up great innovation opportunities for university IT shops that have to manage clusters themselves. Grid computing has proven to be very complicated and heavy-handed for these IT teams, but hopefully an effort like OpenStack with backing from Rackspace, NASA, Dell, and Citrix can give these teams a shot in the arm. The university clusters can be run with utmost efficiency and tailored to the workload set of the university, and OpenStack gear at Rackspace or participating data centers can be used to deal with demand spikes without any modification to the cloud applications.

These types of problems will always exists and only a cloud computing standard will be able to smooth the landscape. Let's hope that OpenStack with its backers can be the first step towards that level playing field.

This is exciting news for cloud computing developers and users.

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