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IBM opens 'JumpGate' code to help devs navigate among clouds

Big Blue tackles big cloud compatibility problem

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IBM has developed a tool to tackle fragmentation in the cloud management ecosystem, and hopes its approach will encourage more providers to support OpenStack-based applications without having to run OpenStack.

The "JumpGate" technology was announced by SoftLayer engineer Nathan Beittenmiller in a blog post on Thursday, and sees the engineers at the recent IBM acquisition work to prevent fragmentation among cloud providers from damaging the prospects of OpenStack.

IBM has spent the past two years pouring resources into OpenStack and has developed lots of software under the "SmartCloud" moniker that expands the capabilities of the stock open source project.

But when IBM acquired SoftLayer in June 2013, it was faced with a problem that neatly illustrates the adoption problems that OpenStack faces: SoftLayer didn't use the technology and had spent years developing its own cloud control layer.

If your recent acquisition doesn't want to support OpenStack, but you yourself are pouring resources into it, what do you do? The answer is JumpGate.

JumpGate works by implementing API compatibility for modern OpenStack modules, and piping commands to pluggable libraries that translate them into the API semantics of other, non-OpenStack or fragmented OpenStack clouds.

By providing a lightweight translation layer, the SoftLayer engineers hope they can give service providers a convenient way to support applications built to deal with OpenStack infrastructure underlays, without having to actually implement OpenStack.

This can save service providers large amounts of money, and can broaden support for the community-developed software without costing them a large investment.

"Jumpgate is currently in an early alpha stage," SoftLayer wrote. "We've built the compatibility framework itself and started on the SoftLayer drivers as a reference. So far, we've implemented key endpoints within Nova (computing instances), Keystone (identification and authorization), and Glance (image management) to get most of the basic functionality within Horizon (the web dashboard) working. We've heard that several groups outside SoftLayer are successfully using Jumpgate to drive products like Trove and Heat directly on SoftLayer, which is exciting and shows that we're well beyond the 'proof of concept' stage. That being said, there's still a lot of work to be done."

Indeed – for JumpGate to work, providers will need to create their own drivers for the system, which will require mapping OpenStack API semantics to their own ones. This is far less work than implementing OpenStack internally, but still significant.

Further information on JumpGate can be found on the project's GitHub page. ®

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