The OpenStack cloud computing framework is marking its third anniversary with plans to become the data centre operating system of the future, as it celebrates the huge progress already made so far.
It is just three years since hosting firm Rackspace and Nasa launched the joint open-source cloud project which went on to become OpenStack. Since then, the OpenStack Design Summit & Conference has grown from just 75 attendees at the first event, to over 3,000 earlier this year.
In the same period, the OpenStack code has seen at least seven releases, and picked up major IT industry players such as Cisco, Red Hat, IBM and HP as backers. Developers from over 200 different companies across more than 120 countries contributed code to the last release, making OpenStack a truly global project.
Rackspace vice president of technology Nigel Beighton told V3 that OpenStack's success can be attributed to their decision to completely open up the platform to anyone wishing to participate, as well as a keen focus on meeting the requirements of end users.
"When we first started OpenStack, there were 75 of us in the room at the first summit, and it was a bit of a geek fest. What's been a subtle but important change is that the last summit was primarily a user conference, and what we do a lot more now is explain just how to use the technology," he said.
However, another factor in its favour is that there are not many other options available for organisations or service providers wanting to implement infrastructure as a service (IaaS), Beighton admits.
One of OpenStack's big early challenges was credibility, as cloud is a complex issue and a major infrastructure investment for organisations to make. Getting the backing of firms like IBM was key, according to Beighton.
"One of the best things the OpenStack community did was to really get on board many of the big long-term traditional IT providers like IBM, HP, Cisco and Juniper. We managed to do this by setting up OpenStack properly: we handed over all the intellectual property relating to it, we set up a proper board and made it a full open-source project and retained nothing," he said.
This is in contrast to some other open source projects where the intellectual property is retained by one company who then use it to develop a private paid-for version, Beighton added.
Indeed, fears that Rackspace would have too much influence over OpenStack led to the creation of the OpenStack Foundation, which took over the management of the platform last year.
Going forward, the challenges for the OpenStack community are to build and maintain interoperability across every cloud that uses the platform, as the code continues to develop.
"The user community cares a great deal about open standards. People don't want to be locked in. If they can't move their applications between Rackspace, HP, IBM or Piston, then it suddenly weakens the whole proposition for all of us," Beighton said.
Going forward, Rackspace sees hybrid cloud as the future, and is positioning OpenStack as the "operating system of the data centre", with a key focus on the links between the private and public cloud infrastructure.
Rackspace and OpenStack are looking to address these with three key developments, according to Beighton. The first is software-defined networking, which is being implemented in an update of the platform's networking component, due with the next OpenStack release codenamed Havana later this year.
The second development is Rackspace's partnership with Cern, which is expected to deliver standards for federating and connecting clouds together, while the third is a bare-metal provisioning technology called Ironic, which is set to enable OpenStack to manage workloads that may not be suitable for virtualised infrastructure.
"The data centre operating system of the future needs to integrate any of the resources in that data centre, because there are lot of technologies that don't like virtualisation, and it's about controlling all of them, not just the cloud part," Beighton said.
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