In the world of open source cloud computing few topics have collected more attention recently than the ongoing development of OpenStack, the cloud computing project launched by NASA and Rackspace. So, some people may not have been too surprised when Canonical said last week that OpenStack, and not Eucalyptus, would be Ubuntu’s future default cloud platform.
However, Canonical’s decision to move away from Eucalyptus in favor of OpenStack could be risky. OpenStack is less than a year old and still very much in its infancy. Given all the publicity OpenStack has received, it might be fair to wonder whether Canonical was more concerned about being left behind than it was about the technology’s current efficacy.
“A lot of folks figured it was a no brainer just because of the buzz. To be honest, that was not the only reason why we switched. If you switch to something just because it gets buzz, you’d be changing all the time,” said Robbie Williamson, the engineering manager for the Ubuntu server team at Canonical.
Instead, Williamson said, Canonical sees clear technical advantages to OpenStack, specifically when focusing on ARM-based servers.
“We want to be sure Ubuntu can be in the forefront among server operating systems for ARM. We feel like we have an advantage there versus any of the established markets,” he said. “ARM’s Java support isn’t that solid yet, and Eucalyptus is written in Java. So that would have presented a problem for us. We’re also very focused on cloud deployment. For ARM, the virtualization technologies aren’t as mature there. With OpenStack, and the open development model, anyone can participate and contribute as they want, and really drive that functionality in their own self-interest. That is something we will contribute to and drive for our own self-interest. With Eucalyptus, there are some hurdles if we wanted to do that.”
Canonical has done this before, in the case of its support for KVM over Xen. In that case, the company took a risk in deciding to support what it believed was a superior virtualization hypervisor. That decision turned out OK, and there’s no reason to believe – as of yet – that its choice of OpenStack will hurt business.
Even so, Williamson admitted that he, and other Canonical executives, are nervous about whether OpenStack will be enterprise-ready in time for an expected September beta release of Ubuntu 11.10. Like any good gambler, Canonical is hedging its bet, planning to keep support for Eucalyptus through April 2015, and not ruling out a delay in its plan to make OpenStack the default.
“You never know. Come August, maybe we do need to switch it around. Both products are anticipated around the August, September timeline – there is some wiggle room there. … Talking to some of the other engineers, even Mark [Shuttleworth] himself, they were just as nervous, even more so, about this [decision],” Williamson said, comparing the OpenStack decision to the company’s choice of KVM.
Have you tried OpenStack and Eucalyptus? What are your impressions of the two technologies? Do you think this risk will pay off for Ubuntu?