OpenStack from Rackspace, NASA shows power of open source in clouds

The open source and cloud computing worlds were simultaneously abuzz with today’s announcement of OpenStack, a new open source cloud computing project that represents roughly two-thirds of Rackspace’s own cloud computing infrastructure, which is now licensed under the Apache License 2.0, with some NASA Nebula, also open source under the Apache 2.0, added in. We believe OpenStack is significant in that it highlights the importance of open source software in cloud computing. We’re currently working on a report with our CloudScape practice that explores how critical open source software is to a majority of cloud computing technology and service providers, including Rackspace.

OpenStack consists of two projects: OpenStack Storage is open source Rackspace Cloud Files, while OpenStack Compute is the open source Rackspace Cloud Servers plus NASA’s Nebula code. Rackspace’s Cloud Sites PaaS service is not being open sourced and is not included in OpenStack. Still, the new open source projecet from Rackspace and NASA, which we cover in a new report (subscribers and trialists), also represents a more pronounced use of and move toward open source software for cloud computing, one that we anticipated and something we expect will continue to involve more vendors and more software.

In talking to both Rackspace and NASA backers of OpenStack, it also becomes apparent that there is significant energy and enthusiasm behind the project, and this highlights another important aspect of open source software and open source in the clouds: the champions. Once again, we see that the people behind the technology are critical, and Rackspace — impressed with NASA’s Nebula and the code — was wise to partner with NASA while the U.S. space agency also gains a proof point for its own open source efforts, which have come a long way in the last five years.

Rackspace is among a number of vendors that report many customers want an open source alternative to proprietary virtualization and cloud computing approaches, but we, along with others, do wonder how many alternatives might be too many? Still, any true open source projects and communities intended to open up cloud computing are good for open source, the industry in general and customers. We see OpenStack as a real and meaningful open source move by Rackspace, which, along with partner NASA, stands to benefit from community and ecosystem growth around their technologies.

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