Opening The Rackspace Cloud

Imagine a world where code used by the biggest clouds is freely available to any developer, anywhere.  A world where that code was a standard used to build private clouds as well as a variety of new service offers.  In this world, workloads could be moved around these clouds easily – you could fire your cloud provider for bad service or lack of features, but not have to rewrite the software to do it.  Imagine an open source cloud operating system that lifts IT to the next level of innovation, just as Linux drove the web to new heights.

Today, we at Rackspace launched an ambitious project called OpenStack that aims to make this new world a reality.

I want to lay out the thinking that got us here and why we think this moment will change computing forever.

“The cloud” at its most fundamental level is all about a massive supply increase in computing power.  The PC era was all about putting a computer on every desk.  The cloud era goes a step further, putting the power of supercomputing at the literal fingertips of every individual at anytime.   Whether it’s enabling a youth soccer coach to schedule practice across the online calendars of 18 families, or helping a scientist fold proteins to design new cancer drugs, or encouraging a frontline employee to instantly and cheaply test a new marketing campaign, the exponential growth in computing power and applications is changing every corner of our economy and society.  And, this era is truly just beginning.  We have seen only a tiny fraction of the potential gains that arise from cheap, ubiquitous computing power.

As this landscape has evolved, some have dismissed cloud computing as just a return to the mainframe era. This view is fundamentally wrong.  Mainframes were available to only the smartest employees at the richest companies.  The cloud is accessible to all, and usable by anyone, at low cost.  Its ubiquity is the source of its power.

However, there is one area where mainframe concepts are intruding into the cloud – the vertically integrated technology stack.  As hardware and software merge into services, the danger of locked down proprietary software stacks are emerging in the cloud space.  The cloud world changes everything, and that is not good to many entrenched interests of the old guard.  Core technologies from operating systems to hypervisors to databases are being used to tie cloud customers into an integrated view of the world.

If the web has taught us anything, it is that open systems, portability, and choice drive innovation.  The open Linux system brought us a mountain of software and tools to help accomplish almost any task.  And, each component, whether a database or a widget could be moved in and out freely based on the job getting done.

We at Rackspace have long talked about an “open” cloud.  And as a service provider built on our Fanatical Support difference, we have never had an interest in creating technical walls around our service.  But, given that no standards tools have emerged to build massively scalable clouds, we too have had to build custom software that creates some level of wall around our cloud offerings.  For months we have debated how to drive greater standards and increase the velocity of cloud technologies in general.  We finally converged on the obvious answer:  open source our cloud technology.

Today, we announced a new open source project that includes those core technologies: OpenStack.  And, we are not alone.  As we looked at all the projects that already existed to drive standards we saw that other efforts were underway that complemented what we have done.  We saw a ton of promise in the Nebula computing project built by NASA and are making it a core part of the project.   Taking the contributions of Rackspace and NASA as a starting point, OpenStack forms a powerful foundation of technologies including, a scalable compute provisioning engine – OpenStack Compute – and a fully distributed storage engine – OpenStack Object Storage.

The community, which we plan to actively support and drive, is live today at openstack.org with code available for download.

Last week we assembled a strong group of cloud community leaders and developers to meet and review the architecture, engage on technology direction and contribute code.  The effort attracted more than 100 participants from 25 companies including hosting companies, telecom providers, hardware manufacturers, cloud ecosystem companies and beyond.  This enthusiasm and collaboration around OpenStack has laid the foundation for a vibrant and innovative approach to building the core software to power the future cloud world.

What do we expect OpenStack to mean for the cloud community?  Some pretty major things.  One, anyone will be able to run this cloud and do it anywhere.  Enterprises and governments will be able to build private clouds.  Service providers will have the same technology used by Rackspace and NASA to build new offers.  Choice and portability are inevitable in this world.  Two, the whole tech ecosystem can build around this foundation.  With wide adoption, there will be a market for new services all around this core engine.  From storage systems to monitoring tools to management systems, there is no end to what can be attached to the core project.  Three, the cloud will advance faster than ever.  Between just NASA and Rackspace, an army of developers are committed to the continued advancement of OpenStack.  With our emerging supporters in the project, we expect to dramatically expand that army.  Finally, a core set of standards will be freely available and totally open.  New technologies can be attached.  Better solutions will be driven into the product.  And, the use of this powerful technology will not tie you to the use of any other technologies.

For our customers, we think there are many benefits that flow from these community gains.  Not only will this help our offers develop faster and more transparently, but our customers can run private editions of our core systems in house or in our managed hosting operation.

We could not be more excited about the launch of this project and the enthusiasm around it.  As a company that has invested a great deal in the development of cloud technologies, we did not take the decision to open source lightly.  We think this decision will serve our interests and those of our customers.  While we at Rackspace hire top developers and engineers to make sure our technology is second to none, seeking a technology advantage has never been our approach.    We have our own vision about how to deploy this technology and serve customers – by giving them seamless access to scalable computing with the trusting partnership that comes through Fanatical Support.  But, there will be many approaches and winning formulas.  We think by welcoming those approaches and driving standards and more rapid innovation we will all win.

We hope you join us in this cause.  We know there are many parties who might want to join us in the effort, please reach out to us on this blog or through openstack.org.

We look forward to updating you as we make progress. Stay updated by following OpenStack on Twitter, joining the IRC channel #openstack, joining the OpenStack mailing list or following the OpenStack blog.

26 COMMENTS

  1. This is awesome news guys and even more proof that I chose correctly when I recently started up my business using RackspaceCloud Servers. Am really looking forward to seeing what comes out in the future.

    May I make a suggestion of future services, such as:

    * a queuing service
    * a notification system
    * maybe a distributed key/value store

    … you see where I’m coming from? 😉

  2. Etudiant,je fait la 1ere année Droit en université au Mali.je souhaite vivre ma vie avec des meilleurs compagnons.la vie est pleine de surprise et j’ai le sentiment recipropre de les accuellir.Merci

  3. Andy, thanks for your feedback. Keep it coming and join the community over at openstack.org. The roadmap will come from the community so we need your input.

  4. This is a great explanation of the value of bringing this technology in the Open Source space. Rackspace is the perfect company to push this to the next level. GO RACKSPACE!

  5. hey cool, the Object Storage part sounds like an ideal match for the petascale opensource storage hardware we are developing at openstoragepod.org — looking forward to collaborating with you on this in the future!

  6. […] Opening The Rackspace Cloud The thinking behind the launch of open source cloud software at OpenStack is classic – grow the market by being truly open and everybody wins. This is exactly the opposite of the thinking behind dual license and open core approaches. (tags: OpenStack) […]

  7. […] Opening The Rackspace Cloud Lew Moorman on July 19, 2010 Imagine a world where code used by the biggest clouds is freely available to any developer, anywhere.  A world where that code was a standard used to build private clouds as well as a variety of new service offers.  In this world, workloads could be moved around these clouds easily – you could fire your cloud provider for bad service or lack of features, but not have to rewrite the software to do it.  Imagine an open source cloud operating system that lifts IT to the next level of innovation, just as Linux drove the web to new heights. Today, we at Rackspace launched an ambitious … […]

  8. […] We are excited to celebrate the six-month anniversary of OpenStack this week. Six months ago we decided to open source the software behind our Cloud Computing technology, because we believe a widely adopted, open platform will drive standards. I talked at length about why we did this and the vision we have when it comes to OpenStack, which you can read on our blog. […]

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