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OpenStack: 'There will be only one Ubuntu cloud'

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Strata Con The next version of Ubuntu will offer not one but two open source build-your-own cloud platforms: Eucalyptus and OpenStack.

On Thursday, Canonical – the commercial operation that backs the Ubuntu Linux distro – officially announced that it would include OpenStack after offering Eucalyptus for a little over a year. But Jim Curry – vice president of corporate development at Rackspace, which helps steward the OpenStack project – believes that Canonical will eventually settle on a single cloud platform, and he's confident that OpenStack is in the driver's seat.

"I can't speak to, specifically, how they feel about working with Eucalyptus. I think that, like others, they've found some challenges with it," Curry told us today at the cloud-happy Strata Conference in Santa Clara, California. "What are their intentions in the long term in terms of whether they will continue to offer both [OpenStack and Eucalyptus]? I would say that doesn't make a lot of sense. I think they're going to want to be in a position to offer one or the other, and I think we're in a pretty good spot to be the one they want to promote."

Somewhere along the way, Eucalyptus got a bad rap for its inability to scale to the sort of levels required by a large enterprise or internet service provider. Eucalyptus Systems –  the commercial outfit that oversees the project – has acknowledged these problems. In fact, it never claimed that the platform could scale to such levels.

This fall, CEO Marten Mickos told The Register that the latest release solves the scaling issue. But the company also suffers from another problem. Its business model – which Mickos once called "open core" but no longer does – may not jibe with the Canonical ethos. Eucalyptus Systems offers a open source version of the platform, but there's also a for-pay enterprise version that includes proprietary code. Though Mickos denies this, it appears that the company maintains tight control over the community – or at least it has in the past.

OpenStack is meant to be completely open, and in Canonical's blog post announcing that it is officially backing the platform, the company made a point of saying that OpenStack's open source philosophies aligned with its own. "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," the post read.

"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."

In any event, it seems that Eucalyptus' days are numbered – at least on Ubuntu. If Canonical was pleased with Eucalyptus, why would it offer OpenStack as well? When we recently asked Mickos whether Eucalyptus would continue to be offered with Ubuntu, he said yes. But it wasn't the most convincing yes.

Like Eucalyptus, OpenStack is a platform that lets anyone build their own "infrastructure clouds" – online services that provide on-demand access to virtual computing power, storage, and other resources that scale as needed. These might be "public clouds" similar to Amazon Web Services, something available to world+dog, or they might be "private clouds" used only behind the firewall.

Today, at Strata Con, Curry also downplayed the possibility of Dell offering its own public infrastructure cloud, either based on OpenStack or not. Earlier this year, a Dell "cloud evangelist" let out a tweet indicating that the company would "soon" offer a public infrastructure cloud along the lines of Amazon Web Services.

Dell is a (close) OpenStack partner, so the platform seems a logical choice for a Dell public cloud – if it's really going to offer one. Curry said he had no knowledge of Dell's plans, but he told us he'd be surprised if Dell got into the ISP biz. "I seriously doubt it," he said. "If they were to get into something like the Amazon cloud or the Rackspace cloud, I'd be a little bit surprised."

It does seem like a public cloud would be an odd move for the company – it would undermine their traditional business – but that's what the tweet said. We think. Dell has officially declined to provide clarity. ®

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