OpenStack: Open Standards Meet The Cloud

By July 27, 2010Blog

Collaborative development has leveled the playing field and given power to the individual. One young man from Finland started a project, invited others to help, and started a computing revolution. Today two people can use cloud services and free software to start businesses that before needed millions of VC funding. Small device manufacturers, by using open source, can now use the same software used by industry giants. There has been one space missing, however: large scale super computing.

We’re pleased to see OpenStack, the new open source project for cloud computing projects from Rackspace and NASA. In the past, only large institutions like NASA had access to super computing functionality to complete large-scale computational projects. NASA has donated the code they have developed to manage their environments to the OpenStack project to allow others to tap into the same power. With OpenStack, “using these components, organizations would be able to turn physical hardware into scalable and extensible cloud environments using the same code currently in production serving tens of thousands of customers and large government projects.”

Imagine the possibilities of scientists around the world able to tap into this computing power. Innovation in cloud computing will impact innovation in such endeavors as climate science, DNA modeling, and medical research. I would argue there is probably no other area of innovation that will garner as much return.

But there is more to OpenStack: it also gets the power of open standards and how this relates to the cloud. Cloud Computing is the wild west of computing right now with competing strategies and technologies fighting for dominance. The Linux Foundation is pleased to see this new entry that is based on open, collaborative development as well as open standards. Without open standards in cloud computing, we could be headed to the same vendor lock that once gripped the industry. Based on what I can see from the Open Stack project, Rackspace’s aim seems to be to eliminate vendor lock in. If so, I think we will see a huge acceleration in cloud uptake by companies small and large who have been hesitant to enter.

This is a bold move by Rackspace, “giving away” what many would see as their proprietary technology and enabling others to compete with them. It echoes previous moves, however, that turned out very well for the companies involved. Just look at the balance sheets of Red Hat or IBM to see the result of embracing open source and collaborative development models. When individuals have the power to start projects and invite others to join them, great things can happen. Just ask that guy from Finland. Let’s keep an eye on Open Stack: I think we all may benefit.