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Cisco aims network code at 'Linux kernel for the cloud'

Ex-Sun man goes OpenStack

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Lew Tucker – Cisco's chief technology officer for cloud computing – says that the networking giant has joined the OpenStack project because "a lot" of its customers are running the open source platform and it hopes to "learn" from the project.

"We need to be able to contribute, and we need to be able to learn," Tucker said this afternoon at the OpenStack Design Summit in Santa Clara, California. OpenStack is meant to be a (truly) open source platform for building Amazon-like "infrastructure clouds", online services that provide access to readily-scalable computing resources, including processing power, storage, and networking.

Project co-founder NASA has called it a "Linux kernel for the cloud".

Specifically, Tucker said, Cisco wants to create a fourth platform within the OpenStack family dedicated to networking. Currently, the project consists of OpenStack Compute, which handles processing; OpenStack Object Storage, the storage platform; and the OpenStack Image Registry and Delivery Service, for juggling virtual machine images.

There's an existing blueprint for an OpenStack networking platform, but Cisco recently published a new proposal to the OpenStack wiki. "Though we share the requirements and many of the design concepts/principles with the other NetworkService proposal (many of the contributors are participants in both proposals)," the company said, "the main motivation for this blueprint is to provide OpenStack community a preview of the overall proposal and some of the new ideas, concepts for the OpenStack: NaaS consideration."

After Tucker's talk, members of the community met to discuss the project and how it should interplay with OpenStack Compute, code-named Nova, the platform originally developed by NASA for its Nebula infrastructure cloud. NASA cofounded the OpenStack project last summer along with Rackspace, which contributed the original code with OpenStack Object Storage, code-named Swift. A larger OpenStack networking meeting is scheduled for tomorrow at the summit.

Tucker was previously vice president and chief technology officer for cloud computing at Sun, leading the creation of the defunct Sun Cloud. He joined Cisco just before the launch of OpenStack, and his new company officially joined the open source project earlier this year.

With the nascent OpenStack networking-as-a-service project, Tucker and company aim to provide a set for APIs for creating virtual networks connecting instances running on the OpenStack Nova clouds, and to build various networking services that will work in tandem with this setup, including firewalls and load balancers.

The company also intends to build the network resources required to connect OpenStack "zones" (geographically separate portions of an OpenStack cloud service) or to set up a virtual private cloud similar to those offered by Amazon. With Amazon's virtual private cloud service, you can create a private section of its cloud where you can create a virtual network topology that matches the physical networking setup in your own data center.

Of course, Lew Tucker stressed that Cisco wants to work alongside members of the community. At the moment, there is no official networking project, and no one is officially leading the effort. ®

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