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RackSpace OpenStack Opens the Cloud
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Posted On July 29, 2010

The forecast ahead is for lots of clouds in our future. This forecast is not about the weather. It is about the way technology resources will be delivered throughout the known universe. A key question is which of these evolving technologies will impact how we make use of these evolving resources. One such new technology is the recent announcement by RackSpace, known for its cloud hosting services. RackSpace has released all of the application code for its OpenStack platform to the world. This moves all of its programming code into what is known as "open source" so that end users can build and host cloud storage servers for whatever needs they see fit.

This code will be free to anyone who wants to download it from RackSpace. Open source will appeal first to all those techies who believe everything should be free. The multitude of technology companies that are developing cloud-based applications and services will be able to craft, run, and manage their own solutions. This will include custom designed interfaces and add-ins that can be optimized for a specific application. Even basement-based programmers will be able to build their own clouds employing the same technology used by the biggest and brightest.

This announcement is being hailed by technology pundits as a lot more than something free, like smartphone apps and town parks. Open Source means that the needs of public and private clouds, regardless of size, will be less difficult to implement and massively scalable.

It is likely that you are not one of the cloud-in-the-sky techies. Therefore, this information about the clouds and applications focuses on how these expanded resources will impact your work. You should already know that cloud computing is continuously being enriched by layers upon layers of information filled with content, facts, applications, and opinions. Clouds will continue to expand our access to content.

OpenStack is not a miracle cure for cancer, it is not something that will reverse global warming, and it is not a formula for the end of the current economic woes. What it is, however, does have far reaching implications for all of these issues. OpenStack will enable multiple locations, multiple developers, and multiple information providers to better share resources. This translates to more stuff available when we want it and where we can use it. Medical research, for example, will benefit by having more data retrievable without first going through any database style conversion.

Lew Moorman, president, Cloud and CSO at RackSpace, says,

We expect OpenStack to enable several things. One, anyone will be able to run this cloud and do it anywhere. Enterprises will be able to build private clouds. Two, the entire tech ecosystem can build around this foundation. With wide adoption, there will be a market for new services all around this core engine, from storage systems to monitoring tools to management systems. There is no end to what can be attached to the core project. Three, the cloud will advance faster than ever.

The impact of applications in the clouds is already being realized. One or many information pieces can be plucked from huge storehouses of maps, images, books, and more. This includes, but is not limited to satellite TV, movie library, research files, driving directions, archival information, future forecasts, and much, much more.

The technology of OpenStack enables the connection, intersection, overlapping, and multiplication of resources. It is not just synchronizing music libraries with iTunes or allowing Google maps to show images of the street address you are seeking. Open source code will enable a direct linkage of documents and files from multiple sources to be accessed through a single interface. Inside our bodies, we refer to this linkage as ligaments, tendons, and connective tissue.

In a simple form, we have a single interface today with television entertainment. Through a single feed and single display box, we can switch channels with a single remote and not have to change anything inside our home as we click from the football game to a cooking program to an all-news channel.

As of this writing, 25 companies (including Citrix and Dell) have signed on as associates and supporters of the OpenStack platform toolset. Worldwide, there is a huge explosion of cloud platforms and management tools of all shapes and sizes being delivered. OpenStack will not be a monopoly as other big companies expand their cloud service operations and pursue new innovation. Companies like Amazon, Google, and Microsoft are all in the hunt with applications and partnerships that will develop lots of capacity in the coming years.

The anticipation in the pundit community is that this open source project will reach beyond just the cloud service providers. The open cloud platforms will enable companies to switch providers when a specific set of circumstances arise-a vendor goes out of business or fails to provide resources required. The ability to not be held captive by a vendor is a good thing.

OpenStack should have your attention because it has the potential to deliver usable information and resources in greater volume along with greater validation. New application development will be easier and faster as its coding will not have to adhere to only one vendor's platform boundaries. Thus, new frameworks, definitions, and best practices will increase exponentially.

Just imagine what would happen if OpenStack is adopted as a U.S. government standard and/or requirement. Government buying power will force a large portion of the market to follow along. Moorman says, "OpenStack is a step towards building standard tools that anyone can use. We are trying to commoditize the cloud technologies for easier deployments."

Even with NASA as a prime partner, OpenStack Cloud Computing will develop a whole lot of things outside the realm of rocket science. For more information about Rackspace Hosting and the cloud computing industry, visit http://www.rackspace.com. For more information about NASA Nebula Cloud Computing services, visit http://nebula.nasa.gov.


Richard Oppenheim blends business experience, technology skills, and writing competence with a passion to help others succeed. He provides coaching and business advice.

Email Richard Oppenheim

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