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Microsoft backs NASA's open source cloud kit

OpenStack rides Redmond hypervisor

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Microsoft has embraced the OpenStack project – a much-ballyhooed open source platform for building your own "infrastructure clouds" – vowing to provide the project with code that allows these Amazon EC2-like clouds to run atop its own Hyper-V hypervisor.

OpenStack applies to the Linux model to driving infrastructure clouds – online services that provide on-demand access to compute power and storage capable of scaling as needed. The Old Microsoft might have called it a great big cancer in the sky. The New Microsoft calls it a way to make customers happy.

That said, Redmond will not actually contribute code to the project. It has partnered with startup Cloud.com on this effort and Cloud.com –  the outfit that offers a platform for transforming existing a data center setup into an infrastructure cloud – will handle the bulk of the work. "Microsoft will be providing architectural and technical guidance to Cloud.com," general manager for Microsoft’s open solutions group Ted MacLean tells The Register.

Cloud.com will develop code that hooks into Windows Server 2008 R2 Hyper-V, and once the code is finished, it will be checked into the OpenStack public code repository. The inaugural OpenStack release – codenamed Austin – arrived earlier this week. It works with the Xen and KVM open source hypervisors, the Citrix XenServer hypervisor, and – to a lesser extent – Oracle's type 2 or hosted hypervisor.

OpenStack was founded by Rackspace and NASA, after both outfits were struggling to scale their own infrastructure clouds. OpenStack is based on Nova, a cloud fabric controller designed by NASA, and Cloud Files, a storage controller built by Rackspace. According to NASA chief technology officer Chris Kemp, the project is an effort to create a Linux-like ecosystem for infrastructure clouds.

Originally, NASA built its Nebula cloud using Eucalyptus, another open-source platform. But Eucalyptus didn't scale as well as NASA would have liked, and it wasn't as open as the agency expected.

The company that oversees the project, Marten Mickos' Eucalyptus System, has adopted an "open core" model. There's an open-source version of the platform. But there's also an enterprise version that incorporates proprietary software. According to Kemp, NASA tried to make patches to the open source project to improve scaling, but these were rejected because they conflicted with the enterprise product.

So, OpenStack is meant to provide an entirely open framework for cloud builders. And, yes, Microsoft is onboard. "We are actively involved in open-source applications, support for open soruce community, and all that – if you look at our support for PHP and the LAMP stack and SugarCRM," Microsoft director of cloud solutions Hameed Mohammed tells us. "So this was a natural progression for us."

According to Mohammed and MacLean, Microsoft's embrace of OpenStack was driven at least in part by customers and partners. "They want to be able to use our hypervisor technologies as part of their own cloud environments," MacLean says. "As the OpenStack project has moved along, we've taken the opportunity to work provide customers with this choice."

The company is careful to say that the sort of infrastructure clouds promised by OpenStack are very different from the "platform cloud" known as Windows Azure. Whereas an infrastructure cloud offers up raw processing power, storage, and networking as its needed, a platform or development cloud offers tools for building, hosting, and scaling applications, while hiding the raw resources. ®

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