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OpenStack Grizzly Has SDN Teeth

OpenStack forges ahead into software-defined networking, giving the open source project a chance to match or surpass proprietary rivals in a key area.

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The OpenStack Foundation issued its Grizzly release Thursday with 230 new features for running production-level cloud computing, but the most important additions dealt with the new area of software-defined networking.

The OpenStack compute component can now support multiple hypervisors, including VMware ESX Server, open source KVM and Xen and Microsoft's Hyper-V. "With Grizzly, there's no advantage of one hypervisor over another," said John Engates, CTO of Rackspace, the cloud services supplier that first got the OpenStack project going in collaboration with NASA. OpenStack has been known up until the Grizzly release for primarily supporting KVM, the open source hypervisor that's found inside the Linux kernel and often favored by open source developers.

The compute orchestration capability has been given the ability to provision bare metal servers as well as virtual servers.

[ HP is betting big on OpenStack. See HP Cloud Evangelist: We're All About OpenStack. ]

But the key area of development is adding virtual networking to the OpenStack arsenal of capabilities. Networking has lagged servers when it comes to being managed as a virtual resource and in most enterprises, is still tied to a set of hardware resources that are hard to modify.

By implementing software-defined networking in OpenStack, the project's leaders are on the one hand charging forward into territory that established network vendors, such as Cisco and Juniper, have approached carefully. If OpenStack succeeds in making virtualized networks both flexible and manageable, it will have made a major argument for itself as a future architecture inside the enterprise data center as well as among service providers, such as Rackspace and HP.

OpenStack's work on software-defined networking "lets software change the network infrastructure," said Lew Tucker, VP of cloud computing at Cisco and a member of the OpenStack Foundation's board of directors. Tucker made the comments during an interview this week at Cloud Connect 2013, a UBM Tech event in Santa Clara, Calif.

OpenStack's Quantum component in Grizzly allows networking vendors to write applications that will programmatically control the underlying network, based on rules and policies. Quantum represents a big step toward substituting software automation for human administration, said Tucker.

That is, an OpenStack cloud user may designate not only the type of virtual machine being sought, but also its networking characteristics. A network built with OpenFlow protocol devices tied to an OpenStack cloud can take the directions and, on the fly, apply the policies to create the type of network desired.

The Grizzly release has support for Big Switch, PlumGrid, Brocade and Midonet switching equipment to complement existing support for the open-source-code Open vSwitch, Cisco Systems' Unified Computing System/Nexus switch, Linux Bridge, Nicira devices, Ryu OpenFlow and NEC OpenFlow.

OpenStack Networking supports dynamic host configuration protocol (DHCP) across multiple servers, allowing an OpenStack virtual network to have greater scale and higher availability.

A new load-balancing-as-a-service framework and API establishes a base for more innovation by networking companies working with OpenStack.

"As more and more companies embrace OpenStack, my hope is it can drive the entire industry toward more openness," said Margaret Dawson, HP Cloud Services evangelist and marketing VP, in an interview Thursday at Cloud Connect 2013. The OpenStack Foundation lists 850 companies and organizations that now support the project. "That ecosystem is becoming hugely important," she said.

OpenStack implementers who have deployed the open source code as the basis for their future cloud operations include: Best Buy, Comcast, CERN, the National Security Agency, NeCTAR, Samsung, PayPal, HP and Rackspace.

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