Cisco backs OpenStack cloud platform

Canonical, the distributor of Ubuntu, has also climbed on board, bringing the number of suporters to about 50

Cisco Systems has thrown its weight behind OpenStack, the open-source cloud infrastructure platform developed jointly by NASA and managed service provider Rackspace Hosting.

Thursday also marked the release of a new version of OpenStack, code-named Bexar, which adds better storage capabilities, a software image repository and support for Internet Protocol version 6, Rackspace said.

OpenStack is a free, open-source platform that service providers can use to offer infrastructure services similar to Amazon Web Services' EC2 and S3. It has two main parts -- Nova, originally developed by NASA for its computer processing services, and Swift, the storage service component developed by Rackspace.

Rackspace says its goal is to enable the development of interoperable services, or those that allow a customer to move a workload from one cloud service provider to another, without being locked in.

It's trying to muscle in alongside VMware's vCloud software, which is not open source but is also aimed at service providers, and Eucalyptus, an open-source platform compatible with Amazon Web Services.

Last month, Internap became the first company outside Rackspace and NASA to offer a service based on OpenStack. Its XIPCloud Storage service is currently in beta.

Cisco is expected to contribute code to the project that will make it easier for customers to configure its switches in an OpenStack environment, said Mark Collier, vice president of business development at Rackspace.

Officials at Cisco, which is also a close partner of VMware, weren't available for an interview late Wednesday. In a statement via email, Lew Tucker, CTO of Cisco's Cloud Computing division, said Cisco is "pleased to announce its participation as a contributing member of the OpenStack community."

"Provisioning of the network and network-based services are fundamental components of cloud computing and we look forward to working with the rest of the community to ensure the success of this open source project,” he said.

Along with Cisco, other OpenStack members announced Thursday include Ubunto Linux distributor Canonical, Extreme Networks, and Grid Dynamics. They bring the total to about 50 members, which already included Dell and Citrix Systems. Microsoft is not a member but has said its Hyper-V virtualization software will work with OpenStack.

The OpenStack project is still new -- its first release, Austin, came out only in October -- so Rackspace hopes support from big vendors like Cisco will make companies more confident about using its software.

"People are making big decisions about the cloud that they'll have to live with for many years," Collier said. "If someone thinks about adopting a cloud platform, especially an open source one, the more credible the companies behind it, the more they're going to feel at ease that it will be here for the long haul."

Canonical will distribute OpenStack with the next release of its Linux distribution, which should make it easier to set up an OpenStack environment. Canonical will also distribute Eucalyptus alongside it, Canonical Chairman Mark Shuttleworth said last month.

"We'll have both OpenStack and Eucalyptus-based cloud options in Ubuntu 11.04, due out in April, and we'll have to see how they shake out from a competitive perspective," he said in a video on Dell's Web site.

"The really important thing is that we're starting to get some sense of standardization at the infrastructure level of the cloud, and both Eucalyptus and OpenStack are going to be central to that process," Shuttleworth said.

Unlike Eucalyptus, OpenStack doesn't have built-in support for Amazon's APIs, but it says service providers can add them as "compatibility layers" if they want to. It says being "tied" to the AWS road map wouldn't be good for its users.

"Maybe Amazon is the default right now ... but no one but them controls their roadmap, and I think that's a very uncomfortable position for service providers and enterprises to be in in the long term," said Jim Curry, general manager for OpenStack at Rackspace.

The IPv6 support in Bexar was provided by Japan's NTT, another OpenStack member. The new release also adds support for eight international languages, Collier said.

The imaging service, called Glance, provides services for discovering, registering, and retrieving virtual machine images. And Bexar expands the storage object size from 5GB in Austin to unlimited size, according to Collier.

Work on the next release, code-named Cactus, is underway. One of the main goals is making it robust enough for large-scale deployments at telcos and service providers, and adding new tools for easier management, said Jesse Andrews, cofounder of Anso Labs, which works with NASA to run its own cloud environment.

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