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Canonical embraces LAMP stack of the heavens

Ubuntu and OpenStack in open source 'Bexar' hug

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Strata Con OpenStack – the open source "infrastructure cloud" project founded by Rackspace and NASA – has released a second version of its platform codenamed Bexar.

Bexar includes updates to both halves of the project: OpenStack Compute, for serving up on-demand access to readily scalable processing power, and OpenStack Storage, a similarly scalable storage platform.

"[OpenStack] will hopefully enable better adoption of cloud technologies," Rackspace senior software architect Eric Day said today at the Big Data–obsessed Strata Conference in Santa Clara, California. "There are a lot of open source project out there, but none of them are ready for service-provider scale." OpenStack is ready, Eric Day indicates, because it's already in use at Rackspace and NASA.

Rackspace and NASA unveiled OpenStack six months ago, and the project now boasts over 40 partners, including Dell, Japanese telecom giant NTT, Microsoft, and – as of today – Canonical, the commercial outfit behind the Ubuntu Linux distro. Previously, Canonical had announced that the next version of Ubuntu, 11.04, due in April, will include APIs for building your own OpenStack clouds, but this morning, the company officially joined the OpenStack community.

"In fact it is noteworthy that the OpenStack project has taken a lot of the methodology of the Ubuntu project and applied it to how they self-organise and release," reads a blog post from the company. "They have the same twice-yearly open conference to drive the definition of the project and a similar but three-monthly release cycle. It’s easy to forget that this now ‘standard’, time based, approach to open source development and release was pioneered by Ubuntu and it is gratifying to see it permeate."

The idea behind OpenStack is to create a truly open source platform that lets anyone build their own infrastructure clouds – online services that provide on-demand access to virtual computing resources that scale as needed. These might be "public clouds" such as Amazon's AWS, a web service available to everyone, or they might "private clouds" used within a single organization.

OpenStack is based on Nova, a compute engine and fabric controller designed by NASA, and Swift, an object storage platform built by Rackspace. Nova powers NASA's internal Nebula compute cloud, and a version of Swift drives Cloud Files, Rackspace's public storage service.

NASA's Nebula cloud was originally built atop Eucalyptus, another open source infrastructure cloud platform. But according to NASA chief technology officer Chris Kemp, who spoke with The Register last year, Eucalyptus didn't scale as well as NASA would have liked it to, and when his engineers tried to add patches to the open source project to improve scaling, they were rejected by engineers working for Eucalyptus Systems, the commercial outfit that oversees the project and offers a separate "enterprise" version of the platform that includes proprietary code.

Kemp said that the patches were rejected because they conflicted with the enterprise code. But Marten Mickos – the ex-MySQL boss who now runs Eucalyptus as CEO – doesn't agree with this take. Whatever the case, NASA was moved to create an open source project that would operate more like the Linux kernal project. After NASA tossed its Nova code onto a public server, Rackspace found it, and the two joined forces. Rackspace was already considering an open source project based on the code behind its public cloud.

Canonical has long offered Eucalyptus with Ubuntu – that's why the release was dubbed Karmic Koala – and though it continues to do so, it seems obvious that OpenStack is the better fit. Rackspace's Eric Day calls OpenStack a LAMP stack of the cloud.

"Open source is a first step," Day said. "But to really foster growth, you can't stop there. You have to foster community."

The first OpenStack incarnation, codenamed Austin, was released last fall. As Canonical points out in its blog post, the project is on a three-month release cycle. Dubbed Bexar (pronounced "bear") after a county in Rackspace's home state of Texas, the second release is designed to streamline installation and let users create their own application environments that can be readily coped as an application requires additional scale.

The new version of OpenStack Compute offers support for IPv6, Microsoft's HyperV hypervisor, iSCSI with XenAPI, XenServer snapshots, and raw disk images, and it includes a new project known as Glance, designed to move images between disparate OpenStack clouds. The new OpenStack Storage offers support for unlimited file sizes, and it has been more tightly integrated with the Compute piece, according to Rackspace and OpenStack.

With the next incarnation of the platform, codenamed Cactus, the community will focus on optimizing the platform for use in sweeping service-provider public clouds. ®

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