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Internap joins OpenStack cloud race for 'first'

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OpenStack's produced its second "first" of the year, with managed service provider Internap claiming commercial availability of the first OpenStack cloud compute service.

Internap has launched its Open Public Cloud compute service, which beefs up the core OpenStack compute code – Nova – with networking and high-availability additions plus bug fixes, intended to make its offering carrier grade.

Internap had started selling a service based on the Swift storage component of OpenStack in July.

Open Public Cloud follows Internap's VMware-based Custom Public Cloud last month, which targets enterprises on VMware virtualisation and who also want to burst to a cloud.

It is not entirely clear at whom Internap is targeting its clouds and the company expects overlap. Open Public Cloud pricing is not being released and is only available upon request as part of an enterprise sale. Custom Public Cloud is a pay-as-you go service for those running VMware. Both are multi-tenant.

This, however, is not the only OpenStack "first" to which I refer as it was PC maker Dell that, in July, claimed the first OpenStack Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS).

The word "solution" should help separate Dell and Internap. Dell has delivered an IBM-like, build-it-yourself bundle consisting of all-important reference architecture to throw up an OpenStack cloud using brand Dell. That means Dell PowerEdge C servers, the Dell's Crowbar OpenStack installer, and services from Dell and the Rackspace Cloud Builders.

Other OpenStackers are still waiting for their moment to shine, it seems. Citrix's Project Olympus, announced in May and described as an "infrastructure", is still in private beta while Citrix in the meantime bought Cloud.com to help pool virtual machine hypervisors for spinning-up clouds and which it has open-sourced. Hewlett-Packard's Cloud Services, which it claims will be all things to all people – infrastructure, platform and "solutions" for developers, ISVs and businesses – was announced in September and is still in beta. Rackspace – a prime OpenSack mover – is in the process of rolling out the OpenStack software on its servers, we understand.

What hope does an Internap, known among customers and those who know the industry, have though against one well-known ISV (Citrix); two of the world's largest PC makers; and Rackspace, which helped found OpenStack in 2010 and which – with Citrix – has helped lead the top of the project for ages?

Internap is going big on the knowledge it has acquired through years or running a managed service business, knowledge that has helped it make carrier-grade networking changes to Nova. Internap's business includes content streaming, optimised routing, and co-location. It has been in business since 1996 and claims 2,700 enterprise customers. Internap says it has done a lot to make Nova enterprise-ready around availability and scaling.

Recently recruited Josh Crow, senior vice president of product engineering, told The Reg: "There are some challenges in server sizing in an open-source project like this, there's quite a bit to be done in tuning the cloud platform into product offerings and making them carrier grade.

"We have worked though quite a bit of that. With the [recent] Diablo and [upcoming] Essex [OpenStack] releases... there's room to grow and improve there. The critical thing is players in this space understand what it is to produce a carrier grade service as opposed to standing up some infrastructure."

Internap says it has removed "several key points of failure" in database, messaging and networking in OpenStack; and firewalling and IP addressing has been changed so jobs and workloads can be more easily passed around a network and across multiple machines. Also, Internap claims to have applied high-availability to storage of state in the cloud and message queuing.

Internap says it plans on contributing code changes back to OpenStack under the project's Apache licence, which would see it relinquish control over the IP and give all those bigger companies access to the APIs that are helping bulletproof its service. Crow said changes will be returned to the OpenStack Quantum networking project "where it makes sense".

Won't that mean Internap loses its edge? Crow plays the open-source up-side card. "We do gain competitive advantage through IP we develop, but also gain advantage by having a large dev community working on this platform, so we all get the benefits of the baseline improvements."

Differentiation against other OpenStackers using its APIs will come on the service: support, client management and infrastructure, he said. Internap also wants to see plug-ins develop on and around its service, Crow said. ®

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