What Does it Mean to be the OpenStack Standard-Bearer?


The OpenStack project originated in 2010 with a short e-mail from Jim Curry, then VP of Corporate Development at Rackspace, to Chris Kemp, CTO of NASA.

NASA email

From this humble beginning, an open source project was born that is today the dominant private cloud platform and the foundation for a growing number of public clouds.

In those early days, Rackspace made a conscious decision to step back and allow OpenStack to become a community driven project. We succeeded wildly — today, no one would consider OpenStack to be a project controlled by, or existing solely, to benefit Rackspace.

That doesn’t mean, however, that we simply withdrew from the project; Rackspace has been contributing all along, with code and expertise gained from years running the largest OpenStack public cloud and some of the largest OpenStack powered private clouds in the world.

As OpenStack moves into its next stage of maturation, we are stepping back in as its standard-bearer, to help move the project and the great community around it forward. To be clear, this doesn’t mean Rackspace sees itself as the benevolent dictator of OpenStack. We do believe, however, that there is much more we can contribute to help OpenStack reach the potential we saw in it when we partnered with NASA to found the project six years ago.

In particular, we’re focused on three areas where we can contribute and work with the community as the OpenStack standard-bearer:

Operational expertise

As the recent OpenStack Summit highlighted, achieving private cloud success has mostly to do with people and processes, rather than technology. The least interesting part of Rackspace’s OpenStack powered public and private cloud offerings is the packaging of the OpenStack software. Our customers are successful because they focus on consuming cloud services and building applications while Rackspace focuses on operating the cloud layer.

Our unmatched experience as OpenStack cloud operators has allowed us to stockpile a trove of lessons learned about operating clouds at scale, which has led to these best practices:

  • Creating and contributing code back upstream to fix bugs and make OpenStack more stable;
  • knowing the scalability limits of each component of a cloud and how to work around those limits;
  • knowing the best settings for tuning various internal OpenStack components to achieve scalability and stability;
  • understanding what it takes to be a cloud provider and to offer resources to users as a managed service.

These practices come not from merely knowing how to run a piece of software, but from operating a service at scale. Our intent is to share our trove of knowledge with the community through training, workshops, books and engagement with customers. We do this through the many books written by OpenStack experts at Rackspace and the talks we give at each Summit, sharing our lessons learned.

OpenStack Innovation Center

Last year, Rackspace collaborated with Intel to launch the OpenStack Innovation Center, deploying two 1,000 node developer clouds to accelerate the enterprise capabilities of OpenStack. OSIC is open to anyone in the community, and has a two-pronged focus:

  • To provide a facility for hands-on training to raise up the next generation of OpenStack developers. Rackspace holds classes at OSIC, based in our headquarters in San Antonio, to teach developers the internals of the OpenStack platform and show them how to contribute code to the project.
  • To offer a large-scale development cloud for the OpenStack community’s use. Now any developer can have access to a large scale cloud where they can test new ideas, test for bugs, confirm that their code can run at scale and measure for performance.

We believe OSIC can be an enabler for creating a more scalable and stable OpenStack and we invite the community to make use of this incredible resource.

Expanding OpenStack Everywhere

Our mission is to make OpenStack so simple but so valuable to use that we create a movement of ever-expanding public and private clouds. OpenStack has become the dominant platform for building clouds; we believe the next phase is helping users successfully consume OpenStack resources to build great applications, and we aim to help the community and our users in a number of ways.

We believe the best way to increase OpenStack adoption is by offering it as a managed service — anywhere in the world.

Already the leader in this space, with both our Public Cloud and our Rackspace Private Cloud offerings, we intend to lead the way by demonstrating the value of OpenStack-as-a-service.

The more quickly we can onboard users and remove complexity, so that they can have a fulfilling and productive cloud experience, the more OpenStack adoption will grow. OpenStack-as-a-service is the best way to achieve that goal.

Rackspace recognizes, of course, that we can’t do this alone. And we know that some will choose the DIY or distribution route. So we invite others to come along — developers, operators, and users alike — to learn from our experience so that together we can make OpenStack the planet-scale cloud platform.

The progress we have already made together as a community is inspiring and the future looks bright for OpenStack. We invite the community to join with us, in the words of our former CEO and Board Chairman Graham Weston, “to be valued members of a winning team on an inspiring mission.”

Kenneth Hui was a Senior Technical Marketing Engineer and Cloud Solutions Architect at Rackspace. Ken has 20+ years of experience in the IT industry and is passionate about helping customers with their cloud computing journey. He lives in New York City where he can indulge in his love of great food from all around the world. You can follow Ken on Twitter @kenhuiny.


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