OpenStack Brings Liberty to the Cloud

OpenStack Brings Liberty to the Cloud

When it comes to the public cloud, Amazon Web Services (AWS) is the clear winner today. Outside of the public cloud, the winner on the private side is also clear and it’s the open-source OpenStack cloud platform.

Simply put, no other cloud technology platform is as widely supported or deployed as OpenStack. OpenStack got its start in 2010 as a joint effort of NASA and Rackspace and in the last five years has grown well beyond its origins. The biggest names in technology now all support OpenStack. HP, IBM, Intel, Cisco, Dell, EMC, VMware, Symantec, Huawei and Yahoo are among its members.


OpenStack: The Open Source Cloud Operating System

Who is Using OpenStack?

Supporting vendors are only half the equation, as production deployments for OpenStack are also impressive. At the OpenStack Summit in Vancouver, which ran from May 18 to May 22, the world’s largest retailer, Walmart, described how it is using OpenStack in production to power its ecommerce operations. OpenStack is also the engine behind eBay, Paypal, Comcast, Time Warner Cable and Best Buy. NASA is also still a huge believer in OpenStack and is using it to help build technologies that one day will land humans on Mars.

So now that we understand who is using OpenStack and where, it’s important to understand what OpenStack actually is. First of all, despite what you may have read elsewhere, OpenStack is not a homogeneous cloud product. OpenStack is not a virtualization hypervisor product. Actually, to be fair, OpenStack itself isn’t even a product at all.

OpenStack, in the words of OpenStack Foundation Chief Operating Officer Mark Collier, is an integration platform. That is, OpenStack provides a framework for cloud services, with a set of APIs and tools, into which products and technologies can be integrated and deployed to create an OpenStack cloud.

Vendors Skew The meaning of Cloud

Going back half a step, it’s also important to actually define what the word “cloud” means. Different vendors have skewed the meaning of cloud over time to fit their own purposes, though there is a formal NIST (National Institute of Science and Technology) definition that unfortunately is rarely adhered to.

In the context of an OpenStack cloud, let’s use a definition of cloud put forward by Amandeep Singh Juneja, senior director of Cloud Engineering and Operations at Walmart Labs.

“At the end of the day, cloud offers the promise that infrastructure is available rapidly and it’s flexible,” Singh said.

Makes sense to me and that’s what OpenStack provides, a framework for infrastructure that can be rapidly deployed and is flexible.

Defining an OpenStack Cloud

Initially, OpenStack started with two projects – the Nova Compute Project and Swift Storage. Inside of Nova, a cloud operator can now choose to deploy from multiple forms of hypervisors and virtualization technologies. VMware’s ESX, the open-source KVM and Xen hypervisors and even Microsoft’s Hyper-V are all supported and can be deployed in Nova.

Over time, OpenStack has expanded to include multiple projects under the umbrella of what became known as the OpenStack Integrated Release. For the OpenStack Kilo release, which debuted on April 30, the integrated projects included: Nova compute, Swift object storage, Cinder block storage, Keystone identity, Horizon dashboard, Glance image, Neutron networking, Trove database, Sahara Big Data, Heat orchestration, Ceilometer monitoring and Ironic Bare Metal projects.

The challenge with the integrated release is that not all OpenStack cloud deployments were actually deploying a full integrated release. Starting with the upcoming OpenStack Liberty release which will debut in October, there is a new model for defining OpenStack. There are DefCore projects, that is items that must be in a cloud for it to be considered to be OpenStack, and then there is a ‘Big Tent’ full of myriad projects that a cloud operator or vendor can choose to include.

The Big Tent redefines what an OpenStack cloud is all about and can include. It means that the OpenStack Liberty release and those clouds based on it may look different and have different capabilities. That said, DefCore means that certain items need to be present, notably the Keystone Identity service and its APIs. That’s important because Keystone enables federated identity across OpenStack powered clouds. It’s an idea that the OpenStack Foundation now refers to as the OpenStack Powered Planet. It’s literally about OpenStack deployments around Earth that can now all be federated into one massive pool of flexible rapidly deployable computing power.

It is somewhat ironic that an effort co-founded by NASA, whose mission is to expand the reach of humans beyond planet Earth, has now evolved to become an effort that binds the computing power of the Earth together.

OpenStack is now truly set to bring Liberty to the cloud.

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist

This article was originally published on June 02, 2015

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