The Troposphere

Oct 11 2011   5:19PM GMT

OpenStack: teenager or toddler?

Alex Barrett Alex Barrett Profile: Alex Barrett

The OpenStack project’s release of Diablo a few weeks ago invited comparisons to adolescence, but after attending the OpenStack Conference in Boston last week, that analogy strikes me as premature. OpenStack is more like a precocious first-born toddler from whom the family expects great things, but who still has a long way to go.

No doubt about it, OpenStackers have incredibly high hopes for their open-source cloud software stack. Take Chris Kemp, founder and CEO of Nebula, which is building an OpenStack-based private cloud deployment package. “OpenStack is more than just a platform, it’s turning in to an economy,” Kemp said, ”….that will power the next generation of computing.” If successful, “I really think we have an opportunity to change the world.”

At just one year, OpenStack’s achievements are impressive. At the show, Alejandro Comisario, infrastructure senior engineer at MercadoLibre, an e-commerce provider focused on Latin America, described how his firm runs 6000 VMs in a production cloud on top of OpenStack. Meanwhile, researchers from the University of Melbourne told me they are developing a national OpenStack cloud for use by Australian research universities. Clearly, OpenStack has gained a lot of traction in a very short time.

But OpenStack is far from a done deal. The newly formed OpenStack Foundation, which took the reins from RackSpace, is still grappling with fundamental questions about OpenStack’s identity and modus operandi. In a panel session entitled ‘Winning OpenStack’s Second Year,’ panelists from companies including Citrix, HP, RackSpace, Nebula and Cisco discussed issues like whether it should publish a roadmap; whether to stick with Infrastructure as a Service or extend to Platform as a Service; how to ensure code quality; and how to engage end users.

These are all foundational questions which commercial cloud platform providers have, by and large, already answered for themselves.

“The troublesome two’s are a difficult time for parents,” said Tim Hill, group leader of the IT/OIS group within IT at CERN that has experimented with the platform. “Hopefully the OpenStack Foundation will have an easier time.”

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