Red Hat's Aeolus to 'out-Linux' Rackspace's cloud
OpenStack with a Fedora twist
Red Hat is leading a Fedora-like effort to succeed where OpenStack has struggled in building an open-source cloud founded on broad community input.
Red Hat's engineers are building Aeolus , a software suite to spin up, manage and deploy applications from physical and virtual servers to any public or private cloud.
Red Hat claims Aeolus will let you pluck apps from various virtual machines and throw them into different clouds: so your choice of cloud is not pre-determined by the hypervisor you use.
While it works with vSphere, Aeolus also runs on KVM, the open-source hypervisor embraced by Red Hat and at the heart of the anti-VMware Open Virtualization Alliance it launched in May with server heavyweights and aspiring cloud providers Hewlett-Packard and IBM.
Aeolus will allow you to configure, program and provision applications on your virtual servers and then let them overflow to Amazon's EC2, Rackspace , and "other" yet-to-be-determined clouds.
The suite has so far been tested on VMware's vSphere and inside Red Hat's KVM-based RHEV-M, as well as on Amazon's EC2 and RackSpace's API. Aeolus runs on the Linux kernel.
The open-source project is not just another cloud compute architecture along the lines of Amazon's EC2 and OpenStack but instead promises to straddle existing clouds.
It also differs from the equally open-source OpenStack, spun up by RackSpace and NASA last year amid great hype and promise, in two crucial ways.
A Linux for the cloud, OpenStack is building the kernel of a compute and storage engine that is open and can be expanded. Companies can enhance the core on their own servers to differentiate themselves from rivals who are also offering OpenStack-based cloud services.
But Aeolus is different in that it is being built as a tool that should work with different clouds, rather than providing yet another cloud option.
The other big difference is how the project is expected to be run and built. Red Hat wants active contributions from across the industry so that the project will not be led by any single company.
Scott Crenshaw, Red Hat vice president and general manager of Red Hat's cloud computing business unit, told The Reg: "You see a lot of people dabbling [in the open-source cloud], but the question is: When do we get real code and real contributions from third parties? There's the OpenStack project that has a lot of people signing up, but when you talk to the people, the vast majority is the press release; a lot of people are keeping their options open."
Sign-up to OpenStack has been rapid since the project was unveiled by RackSpace and NASA last summer; the project claims more than 110 companies are participants.
Listed on the OpenStack site are AMD, Dell, Intel, Citrix, Cisco and NTT among others, but missing from this list are Microsoft and Hewlett-Packard – companies which have announced they are joining but are not in evidence.
Sign up now, contribute later
There seems to be a gulf between sign-up and participation.
A list of contributors compiled by one community member and seen by The Reg shows that people with Rackspace email addresses contributing code vastly outnumber people from any other member company. It seems the vast majority who have signed up to OpenStack are watching to see what happens rather than becoming actively involved.
Rackspace at least initially dominated the leadership of the project it launched with NASA, and occupied many of the top spots on the project oversight committee directing OpenStack.
At the start of 2011, the committee consisted of nine seats – five appointed and four elected – with Rackspace holding five seats and Anso two. Citrix Systems had the remainder. In February The Reg uncovered the fact that Rackspace had bought Anso , bumping up Rackspace's seats on the committee to seven – four of which were appointed.
The right change, done right
Anso had been important to OpenStack in ways other than just governance: Anso had been building the storage component of OpenStack for NASA, with Rackspace supplying the compute part. After the deal, Rackspace was left holding both halves of the OpenStack architectural puzzle.
Rackspace overhauled the OpenStack governance after the Anso deal to involve the representatives of more companies. The committee was expanded to 12 seats – four appointed and eight elected – and was renamed the project policy board. Elections are currently underway  to fill three open seats on the board.
But these changes didn't entirely wash with everybody, as Rackspace's own chief OpenStack architect Rick Clark accused Rackspace of attempting to control the project  as he left to work for Cisco. Clark alleged that Rackspace had made the governance changes without talking to the development community or the sitting governance board. Rackspace would not comment  on the details of his claims at the time.
Crenshaw said that Red Hat had been approached to join OpenStack when the project started, but he said his company had declined as the governance model didn't allow for contributions that would have suited its customers, and the project was too tightly controlled by one vendor.
Crenshaw said he respected Rackspace but: "We felt we had to really move the needle forward in terms of some groundbreaking features to deliver the vision of the open cloud."
There's no word yet on what the governance structure for Aeolus will look like, meaning that – just like just OpenStack – Aeolus will be dominated by engineers from a single company. This time it's Red Hat, which makes Aeolus look more than a little like OpenStack. The impression is not helped by the fact Aeolus is being billed by Red Hat as the free, community edition of CloudForms . CloudForms was released to a beta program – now closed – in May this year. CloudForms is Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS).
The analogy being made at Red Hat is that Aeolus is like Fedora, the Linux project led by Red Hat whose work feeds into Red Hat Linux, and whose features can often foreshadow what is coming in the next version of Red Hat's Linux disro.
Crenshaw reckoned it is natural for such a project to be led by one company while it is still spinning up. He also pointed to Red Hat's experience in running the Fedora and JBoss communities as proof of its credentials and good intentions.
"Our goal here is to build a really strong community," Crenshaw told The Reg. "It's not about Red Hat owning the leadership of every [Aeolus] project."
IBM is a key partner of Red Hat on servers and is involved in the Open Virtualization Alliance. Will IBM – not a member of OpenStack but offering to set up clouds for its customers – also participate in Aeolus? Crenshaw would not comment on IBM's participation, but said only that Red Hat is "building the community."
Crenshaw added that Aeolus is not being built in isolation from other cloud projects. He said that Red Hat is taking a best-of-breed approach, and noted that Aeolus is being built on some of OpenStack's code. The project is using code from the OpenStack cloud files to manage the indexing of applications' meta data, federate the archival storage of images and artifacts, and to federate to clouds.
There are 65 projects in Red Hat's CloudForm, on which Aeolus is based. You can see the projects that comprise Aeolus here . They cover: the configuration and running of cloud instances; a web-based UI to setup and manage clouds; the ability to install and configure Aeolus components; the ability to build images for different cloud providers; the ability to store images; and the ability to automatically install guest operating systems. There is also a light-weight Ruby wrapper so that Aeolus can talk to the VMware APIs; Aeolus is partly written in Ruby.
Crenshaw explained how he hoped Aeolus would eventually work. "You create an application description, include the policies about where it should run, how it should be optimized for cost and security, then you go to a self service portal and the application is deployed to the best infrastructure – given the other policies and load on the system."
The Red Hat engineers working on Aeolus told The Reg the system is basic at the moment: composition of applications is done using a simple command line, but the UI is up for stopping and starting modules and for managing users.
The hope is that by next February, Aeolus will deliver something more like a finished product. This will mean the ability to define, run and manage an application – including sign-in, security and patch management – across multiple rather than single instances. ®
OpenStack community manager Stephen Spector has stepped down after less than a year . Spector, previously with Citrix, joined OpenStack to build the OpenStack community organization. He has now handed the reins over to Stefano Maffulli. Maffulli's background includes  working at the Free Software Foundation, Funambol, Twitter and the FreedomBox Foundation. Spector said of his exit : "With this [OpenStack's] enormous growth comes a broad array of possible work opportunities that are unique in challenge and scope, and I have decided to move on from being your Community Manager to take up new projects within OpenStack."