Rackspace, Dell push OpenStack cloud OS

Rackspace will help enterprises build private clouds using the OpenStack cloud operating system, while Dell is seeking enterprises and service providers for proof-of-concept OpenStack trials with its Dell PowerEdge C family of servers.

Rackspace will help enterprises build private clouds using the OpenStack cloud operating system, the company announced Tuesday. Meanwhile, Dell is seeking enterprises and service providers for proof-of-concept OpenStack trials with its Dell PowerEdge C family of servers.

"Last year was a year of big companies backing OpenStack, and this is the year of deployments and production, where we have multiple enterprises and service providers in tests," says Mark Collier, vice president of marketing and business development for the new Rackspace division called Cloud Builders. "For instance, we're helping the Canadian Government deploy right now. In eight months we've seen OpenStack go from support to active engagements."

STRONG START: Is OpenStack Taking Over the Cloud? 

OpenStack now boasts 53 companies that have either formally joined the organization or have generally pledged support. "What LAMP was to the data center, Open Stack will be to the cloud," said Alan Shimel, managing partner at The CISO Group and a Network World blogger. There is one big difference. OpenStack's early supporters are technology vendors that are already lining up their for-profit strategies.

Dell's involvement with OpenStack should not be confused with Dell's own cloud services, Dell Virtual Services. These range from applications as a service, such as e-mail, to a full-fledged virtual data center (infrastructure as a service).

Rather, Dell is building reference architecture for running OpenStack on its PowerEdge C servers. To that end, Dell will also be making its first open source contribution to OpenStack. It has created an "OpenStack installer" that takes a server to its bare-metal state, automatically configures it, installs OpenStack and can then lay an operating system on top.

READ MORE: Servers preloaded with Amazon-friendly cloud software 

"Dell is making it easy to turn bare-metal servers into OpenStack Clouds with a new software installer, which the company expects to contribute to the OpenStack community after field tests," says Barton George, Dell cloud computing and scale-out evangelist.

Rackspace's Collier made it clear that customers deploying OpenStack can use their choice of hardware. But Dell's early involvement with OpenStack, and its work to fine-tune servers for the cloud OS, make the PowerEdge C a good choice, he said.

RackSpace's services will include the whole shebang: deployment help, long-term support, even an OpenStack training certification program for enterprises. Collier didn't reveal costs on long-term support, but said certification programs will cost on par with others in the industry, such as Red Hat's Certified Engineer.

Dell is gearing its services at those building large green-field data centers, particularly hosting providers rolling out thousands of new servers at once. Enterprises or service providers interested in learning more about the call for proof-of-concept sites can e-mail Dell.

"The time is right for people to try this out. We've been working on OpenStack for the last eight months, since July 2010, building reference architectures," says Joseph George, senior strategist at Dell.

As for how much Dell will charge those involved in a proof-of-concept test, that appears to be negotiable. "We want to work with customers to figure out how to get that equipment in their environment," he says.

Because OpenStack can be used for both large-scale hosted clouds, and internal private clouds, it poses an interesting competitive dilemma for established providers of private cloud software such as Eucalyptus Systems. Eucalyptus has billed itself as an "open core" project, in which part of its code is open source and part isn't. Open core has been a hotly debated concept among open source advocates.

PRODUCT TEST: Private clouds: Not for the faint of heart 

Additionally, Eucalyptus has married itself closely to Amazon EC2's APIs, which means that users are guided to Amazon should they want to move workloads from their own data center to a cloud-for-hire. Eucalyptus' CEO Marten Mikos (formerly of mySQL), even once argued that Amazon APIs are the cloud's de facto standard.

Those running competitive clouds, like Rackspace and Dell, didn't agree.

Until OpenStack, Eucalyptus was the entire basis of Canonical's cloud functionality in Ubuntu, known as the Ubuntu Enterprise Cloud (UEC). When Canonical's latest long-term support version of Ubuntu shipped in October, version 10.10 (also known as Maverick Meerkat), it was noted that through UEC, Ubuntu had tied itself pretty closely to a single vendor's proprietary cloud, Amazon's EC2.

Dell and Canonical are also close partners. So, last month, Dell rolled out servers pre-configured with UEC, and at the time it was asked if Dell would soon have servers pre-configured with OpenStack. The answer appears to be that Dell is working on it.

Announced in January 2010, OpenStack grew from a project developed jointly by NASA and RackSpace, and Dell has been an inaugural supporter. But in the past few months, vendor support has taken a massive upswing with companies like Canonical and Cisco signing on.

Other open source cloud operating systems are also participating, including Cloud.com. So is Microsoft. OpenStack's Compute operating system already supports Hyper-V and the Linux virtualization hypervisors Xen and KVM. VMware support is promised in the next release, code-named "Cactus." The consortium is also building an OpenStack Object Storage project.

Julie Bort is the editor of Network World's Open Source community site. She also writes the Source Seeker, Microsoft Update and Cisco Odds and Ends blogs. Follow Bort on Twitter @Julie188.

Read more about data center in Network World's Data Center section.

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