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Rackspace touts OpenStack private cloud prowess

When will OpenStack split into enterprise and development releases?

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The OpenStack Design Summit kicked off today in San Diego, California, and Jim Curry, who had been managing the development effort for the OpenStack cloud control freak for the past two years, tells El Reg that he is enjoying not frantically running around running the show, and instead participating, along with the entire OpenStack development team at the hoster, as a user of the technology.

That is not to say that Rackspace itself is not making announcements, it is just speaking as a member of the community contributing things, and also talking about the rollout and uptake for various OpenStack-based services it is peddling.

Curry is now general manager of the Rackspace private cloud biz, which is peddling a certified version of the OpenStack software, code-named "Alamo," that is designed to go into your data centers free of charge, and – if you want – be supported remotely by fanatical Rackers for a fee. The Alamo code and remote support for it came out in August as the Private Cloud stack, and V1 is based on the prior "Essex" release of OpenStack, which came out in April of this year.

Curry tells El Reg that there have been thousands of downloads of the Alamo code in the past two months, and that the software has been installed in 125 countries, including Antarctica – by penguins running a Linux cloud, no doubt. The software is in use at more than 100 colleges, universities, and research centers, and Curry adds that about a quarter of the Fortune 100 uses it to run a private cloud.

The current "Folsom" release of OpenStack, which came out three weeks ago, has the Quantum virtual networking and Cinder block storage services added to OpenStack.

Rackspace runs its OpenStack Private Cloud – which it does not like to call a distro even though it sorta is one – on top of Canonical's Ubuntu Server 12.04 LTS operating system and uses the KVM hypervisor to abstract compute and memory for the Nova compute cloud controller. The stack also uses Chef to manage the installation of OpenStack components and other open source add-ons

Rackspace itself uses the Folsom release of OpenStack internally to run its Rackspace Cloud, and is in the process of firing up the Quantum features for its Cloud Networking service and the Cinder service for its Cloud Block Storage. Both of these services were in beta in April but have not yet been put into production.

Curry says that before the fourth quarter ends, Rackspace will roll up a Folsom variant of OpenStack to create Private Cloud V2, and then it will do quarterly releases of the private cloud software. This software is continuously updated and patched as necessary if you pay Rackspace to manage it inside your own data center, and you can do quarterly updates if you want to DIY.

Rackspace is also rolling out software development kits for Java and PHP coders so they can take control of Rackspace Cloud capacity running inside of the Rackspace data centers or on private clouds installed running the Private Cloud variant.

As the company explains in a blog post, the SDKs make it easier for coders working from Java or PHP to interface with all of the OpenStack APIs and have a set of API bindings that mean programmers don't have to use the REST APIs in OpenStack directly.

The SDKs come with documentation and sample code, as well, which can be hard to come by in open source software projects. The Cloud SDK for Java is based on the jclouds library, and the Cloud SDK for PHP is based on php-opencloud, which was created by Rackspace itself.

Because OpenStack is something of an über-operating system just like a hypervisor is a kind of operating system, applications will need to be certified against it. To that end, Rackspace is working with software suppliers to get their applications certified to run on the Private Cloud variant of OpenStack that Rackspace has packaged up.

This type of certification, which will slap a "Built for Rackspace Private Cloud" label on validated and tested systems and application software running on the Racker version of OpenStack, is done using a testing suite provided by Rackspace that reviews the results of the testing, but does not actually do the testing.

Rackspace is also working to get its code certified to work on specific bits of hardware as well; this is being done through a technology alliance program. Servers, storage arrays, switches, operating systems, and add-on management tools will be certified as running on or with the Private Cloud variant of OpenStack.

With a foundation managing the OpenStack software development, funding to ensure its future, lots of excitement around the product, and an expectation that, like Linux, OpenStack will at some point get most of the key features and settle down a bit, it is reasonable to ask when OpenStack will split into a bleeding-edge development release, like Fedora or openSUSE, and hardened commercial releases based on them, like Red Hat Enterprise Linux and SUSE Linux Enterprise Server.

In the past, Curry told El Reg that he believes OpenStack will need to slow down a bit and work on polish and ease-of-use. This is certainly correct if OpenStack enthusiasts want serious uptake among commercial enterprises aside from service providers desperate to slap together a cheap and usable cloud to compete against other service providers who have done likewise.

"We feel all of the pleasure and pain of an OpenStack user," says Curry. "The question is, 'How do we trade off faster development for stability?'"

Red Hat provided that answer many years ago when it created the Enterprise Linux version, and ticked off its user base and community. Paul Cormier, who was vice president of engineering at the time, told us earlier this year when RHEL turned ten, that if he had it to do all over again, he would have created the Fedora community and development release first and then RHEL afterward. As it was, Fedora was a reaction by the community to the destruction of Red Hat Linux and the replacement of it by RHEL. So the OpenStack community knows what not to do by this example.

"I 100 per cent agree that we need to develop an enterprise version of OpenStack," says Curry. "But we want to make sure it is free. We want to have a way to deploy a runnable, production environment." ®

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