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Despite Cloud Compute Fragmentation Rackspace Execs Say OpenStack Will Prevail

It's certainly not a shocking revelation that enterprise customers don't want to be tied to any one cloud service, but a new survey commissioned by Rackspace shows 86 percent see portability as a key consideration when choosing a provider.

Rackspace CTO John Engates said in an interview this week that concern over provider lock-in validates its decision to spawn the OpenStack initiative, borne nearly two years ago with the contribution of cloud compute code co-developed with NASA. Now with 180 software, hardware and infrastructure providers on board, Engates said OpenStack should take vendor lock-in off the table.

"OpenStack clouds have a better story because the more fragmentation that exists between cloud providers, the more people will gravitate to something that looks and feels and starts to have familiarity between different cloud providers," Engates argued.

But will they really gravitate to OpenStack to get that portability? Consider Engates' recent remarks targeted at Citrix, in which he called out the vendor for pulling away from its earlier support of the OpenStack compute initiative in favor of its own compute engine and ecosystem CloudStack. There was clearly bad blood when Citrix, an early OpenStack participant and proponent, jumped off the bandwagon and released to the Apache Software Foundation CloudStack as an alternative open-source cloud compute project it acquired last year.

Engates said in a keynote address at the Open Data Center Alliance Forecast 2012 conference two weeks ago that Citrix should have combined CloudStack with OpenStack's Nova compute engine. In response, Sameer Dholakia, group VP and general manager of Citrix cloud platforms group, said at Cloud Expo in New York Citrix decided to decamp from OpenStack and push forward with CloudStack after six months of unsuccessfully trying to bring it together with Nova.

Jonathan Bryce, chairman of the OpenStack Project Policy Board and co-founder Rackspace Cloud responded to those charges saying Citrix never made any moves to submit CloudStack to OpenStack.

"We have these public processes for submitting new projects for incubation and potential inclusion and they never formally submitted any of these things," Bryce said. "They had discussions with different community members but I don't think they submitted blueprints or an incubation proposal to include their CloudStack software into OpenStack."

Combining the two, he added, would be technically challenging. "OpenStack is a bunch of Python services that tie into all these different technologies and CloudStack is basically a Java application," he said. "There was already a different approach from the technology standpoint and how they were built."

Bryce said while that will result in two open source compute cloud systems, he didn't see that as a major setback for OpenStack. "It's not a huge disaster," he said. "It's a very big market and they're different companies with different needs and different types of clouds. What we have tried to build with OpenStack is flexible and scalable cloud components that include compute but also advanced networking and storage as well. Just looking at the breadth of the technology included in OpenStack, and the size of the community we have with the number of developers and the number of companies we have including Cisco, Dell, HP, IBM and Rackspace. We have a pretty broad base of support and that's why we're still moving forward."

But there are still other camps. Among others, there's Microsoft's Windows Azure, which is now emerging into an IaaS, the newly announced Google Compute Engine and of course the huge behemoth Amazon Web Services, which is believed to be the most widely used IaaS. Many players are looking to forge interoperability with Amazon, including CloudStack, Nimbula (a startup formed by the early developers of Amazon Web Services) and Eucalyptus, which recently announced an agreement with Amazon to allow Eucalyptus customers use of Amazon's APIs.

Rackspace's Engates was unbowed by the Eucalyptus-Amazon API sharing pact, which lets customers move Amazon workloads to public and private clouds running the Eucalyptus platform.

"You can try to mimic Amazon APIs, but you are going to be in this constant cycle of reverse engineering whatever Amazon has done and trying to copycat the technology underneath," Engates said. "You don't have Amazon's technology, you don't have their underpinning. You're really trying to build a surface level compatibility without the underlying technology and that's very hard to do in a sustained way."

Eucalyptus CEO Marten Mickos said in an e-mail that it has a large stable of customers already using clouds that are compatible with Amazon. "It's the customers that matter," he noted. "There is a rapidly growing number of them. They love our product, they run hybrid clouds, they are experiencing the everyday benefits of API compatibility. Any statement to the contrary is ludicrous and says more about the one who uttered it than about APIs."

Asked about the implications of OpenStack, he replied: "We will welcome OpenStack as a true public cloud service for the world. If and when they reach a sizeable market share, we will be happy to support whatever API they at that point operate with."

So while users of cloud services are concerned about vendor lock-in, there are a number of viable options for certain levels of portability. OpenStack is clearly one of them with substantial and prominent backers but it's not the only game in town.

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on 06/29/2012 at 1:14 PM


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