OpenStack takes on Amazon with open source cloud computing

Today’s big open source announcement is OpenStack, an open source cloud platform that aims to be an non-proprietary alternative to Amazon’s Elastic Computer Cloud (EC2) and Simple Storage Service (S3).

There are nearly 30 companies currently signed up to support OpenStack, including NASA, Citrix, Dell, Intel, AMD and Right Scale, but the big mover here is Rackspace, which says:

On July 19, 2010, we announced that we are opening the code on our cloud infrastructure. That’s big news for us and for the hosting industry in general. The result? Cloud technology will never look back.

The full press release is here. The initial offering is a distributed object store and a virtual machine provisioning engine.

OpenStack is not itself a cloud provider. Rather, it is offering software that lets you build a cloud, either for public or private use. Therefore, it is of immediate use only to large organisations, though for smaller users it might make sense to purchase services from an OpenStack provider since you are protected against lock-in.

The OpenStack cloud is IAAS – infrastructure as a service – offering storage and virtual machine instances. Therefore it is going up against Amazon rather than, say, Salesforce.com or Google App Engine. It is also an open source alternative to Microsoft Azure, which is also available (or will be) for both public and private clouds.

Looking at Right Scale’s comment, it seems that concern about Amazon taking over this market is a key driver behind the initiative:

From the RightScale perspective we will of course continue to support a variety of public and private clouds. We already have basic support for RackSpace’s API, which OpenStack will start out with, and we have a number of implementations under way with Eucalyptus and Cloud.com which we’re looking forward to multiply. At the same time, having many fragmented cloud efforts doesn’t really help build a compelling alternative to Amazon which keep adding incredible new features at a blazing pace. And the industry needs an alternative to Amazon, not because of some problem with AWS, but because in the long run cloud computing cannot fulfill its promise to revolutionizing the way computing is consumed if there aren’t a multitude of vendors with offerings targeting different use-cases, different needs, different budgets, different customer segments, etc. OpenStack promises to build enough momentum to create an exciting cloud offering that is as feature rich as AWS, that is implemented by a number of service providers, like RackSpace, and that enterprises can also run internally, like NASA.

For more information see the OpenStack site.

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2 comments to OpenStack takes on Amazon with open source cloud computing

  • Tim, thanks for picking up the story and including an excerpt from my blog. Just to be clear, RightScale does not have “concern about Amazon taking over this market”. Amazon defined and created the cloud computing market, Amazon owns the cloud computing market. Period.
    What we’re not concerned about, but simply waiting for are “alternate sources”. Cloud computing is changing the way computing is consumed. We firmly believe that computing will become a utility like electricity, that servers in private datacenters will go the way of generators: some companies will still have a few for emergency or other special purposes but the majority of computing will happen in the cloud. This future cannot happen on the shoulders of a single vendor.

  • OpenStack is an interesting idea, but I don’t think that
    most people care. To enjoy the low incremental costs of servers
    that Amazon or Google enjoy, you would have to deploy more than
    5000 of them (from an article I read). The only other benefit I see
    is being able to second-source cloud providers, and to do that, I
    suppose that the virtual machine format would enable one to migrate
    machines from one cloud provider to another. However, given that
    the server OS market has consolidated to a few major OS
    configurations, as long as you have the ability to install your
    software on a “standard” OS configuration, then the virtual machine
    format is not as important.