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Red Hat joins OpenStack community

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Commercial Linux and middleware distributor and server virtualization and cloud wannabe Red Hat has finally joined the open source OpenStack community, in the wake of the hammering out of the governance rules for a foundation that will control OpenStack.

Since launching the OpenStack project in July 2010 along with NASA, Rackspace Hosting has largely been in control of the development process for OpenStack, and that control has rankled many of the 150 companies that have enthusiastically joined the open source cloud fabric not only in the hopes of making some money, but to control some of the development process for OpenStack.

NASA contributed its compute cloud to OpenStack, known as Nova, and Rackspace contributed its object storage, known as Swift. NASA never wanted to control its own open source project, and handed the ball to Rackspace, which absolutely, as any sane interested party would, wants to control OpenStack as long as it can for its own advantage as well as for the good of the community.

Sooner or later, though, if you want an open source project to grow, you really have to let go. Mark Collier, vice president of business development and marketing at Rackspace Hosting, one of the founders of the OpenStack effort along with NASA, blogged about the progress in forging an OpenStack Foundation.

Collier said that he and Jonathan Bryce, who runs the Rackspace Cloud public cloud, have been working since last October, studying various foundations such as the Apache Software Foundation, the Eclipse Foundation, and the Linux Foundation to figure out how to control the OpenStack development effort and provide it with funding. The main mission, as Collier writes, is to provide an "open development process that is driven by technical meritocracy," as well as investing in the community to build awareness of OpenStack and encouraging the development of an ecosystem of service providers and other companies who make money supporting and using OpenStack.

In March, OpenStack put out a framework and sought sponsors at the platinum and gold levels, and the news today is that Red Hat, along with AT&T, Canonical, HP, IBM, Nebula, Rackspace, and SUSE Linux, has signed a letter of intent to be a top-tier platinum sponsor of OpenStack. The gold-level sponsors, who presumably pay less and have less of a say in OpenStack matters, will include Cisco Systems, Clearpath Networks, Cloudscaling, Dell, DreamHost, ITRI, Mirantis, Morphlabs, NetApp, Piston Cloud Computing, and Yahoo!

Collier says that the OpenStack Foundation is now in the process of creating a drafting committee to transform the framework into the legal documents controlling the foundation.

"I don't think it’s a stretch to suggest that cloud computing will one day power our global economy, and that means there is a lot at stake," Collier conceded in his post. "Seeing the caliber of companies putting serious resources into making OpenStack successful, who all believe deeply in the open development model, I am more optimistic than ever it will be an open future, powered by OpenStack."

One of the names not among those nineteen high-level sponsors, of course, is Citrix Systems, which last week took its rival open source CloudStack cloud controller and submitted it to the Apache Software Foundation as an incubator project in the hopes of getting ahead of OpenStack as the dominant, fully open source cloud fabric. It was a very smart move on the part of Citrix, and it begs the question as to why NASA and Rackspace didn't just do the same thing nearly two years ago – especially considering that OpenStack is distributed under an Apache license.

The only possible answer is that Rackspace wanted to retain control over what OpenStack would and would not do, and this is particularly true when it comes to having and maintaining an API set that is compatible with Amazon's EC2 compute and S3 storage clouds. Rackspace is utterly and completely allergic to this, and perhaps Red Hat is as well.

Citrix, on the other hand, like Eucalyptus Systems (which has a quasi-open source cloud fabric that maintains EC2 compatibility), thinks that adherence to the Amazon APIs is crucial, not just desirable. And that, perhaps more than any other factor, is why Citrix has thrown in the towel with OpenStack.

As for Red Hat, it will be interesting to see how the Linux giant reconciles OpenStack with its OpenShift platform cloud for developers, its CloudForms fabric for private infrastructure clouds, and its "Aeolus" cloud controller (which is designed to span multiple and incompatible clouds).

Red Hat did say in a FAQ document that it signed up to support OpenStack particularly because it was going to be controlled by a foundation, and said further that it also planned to provide a distribution of OpenStack with commercial support.

It would not be at all surprising to see OpenStack slide in underneath OpenShift and CloudForms. For all we know, it was already under there, since Red Hat has never divulged exactly what code underpins those two cloudy offerings.

"In the coming months we will share more details on what this means for our partners and our customers," blogged Brian Stevens, CTO at Red Hat. "We have long believed that open source was the future for enterprise infrastructure and the open cloud, and today, thanks to the pioneering work of Rackspace and NASA, the future just got a whole lot closer." ®

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