With Rackspace Cloud, OpenStack Goes Primetime

Rackspace has announced OpenStack as the basis for its Rackspace Cloud service, plus rolled out new networking, monitoring, and database services.
At a time when some critics are saying OpenStack isn't ready, Rackspace has announced that it is implementing OpenStack as the basis for its Rackspace Cloud public infrastructure-as-a-service.

The announcement came as the OpenStack Design Summit convened in San Francisco Monday, a few days after a rival open source project, Citrix Systems' CloudStack, was established with the Apache Software Foundation. Rackspace's announcement comes as no surprise. It is a founder, with NASA, of the OpenStack open source code project and had been expected to adopt the project's output at some point. But its implementation is coming earlier than many expected.

Last week, Sameer Dholakia, VP and general manager of the Cloud Platforms Group at Citrix, said his firm was tired of waiting for OpenStack to become more stable. Citrix "was left with no choice but to pursue an alternative open source project… We can't afford to wait a year or two for the technical maturation process that needs to happen," said Dholakia, explaining Citrix's submission of its CloudStack cloud provisioning software to Apache.

[ Want to learn more about Cisco's networking goals for Quantum and OpenStack? See Four Hot Topics At Cloud Connect. ]

John Engates, CTO of Rackspace, said OpenStack is developing fast and has come far enough to support a commercial implementation. Rackspace will phase it in for a limited number of users through the second quarter and will make its OpenStack-based services generally available in the third quarter.

"I've heard comments that there are no major implementations with OpenStack," he said in an interview. "Well, we have one now."

Engates said Rackspace has complete confidence in OpenStack's Swift Storage system, based on CloudFiles, an object-based file system that Rackspace produced to operate its own service. Swift stores large combinations of text and image in large blobs or binary large objects.

Rackspace Cloud will also implement NASA's Nova server provisioning system for the cloud, the other major component that kick-started OpenStack in July 2010. The Rackspace infrastructure was previously based on compute provisioning systems acquired with Rackspace's purchase of SliceHost in 2008.

"We're moving to Nova next week," said Engates on April 13. "It's more stable, scalable, and performs better than what we have today. In the past, if a customer asked, 'Can I spin up 1,000 machines?' We'd say, 'Don't try it.' With Nova, we'd say, 'Go ahead.'"

Not only is Rackspace moving its basic compute and storage services to OpenStack, it's chosen the period of transition as the right time to launch additional cloud services, which will include:

--Cloud Networks, based on Cisco's contribution of Quantum network management code to the OpenStack project. Cloud Networks will treat network resources as a virtualized resource operating with OpenFlow switches. That means degrees of security, performance, and bandwidth capacity can each be configured to work with an individual virtual machine, according to Engates. In addition, Quantum recognizes the needs of particular workloads as they queue up in the cloud and can automatically provide firewalls, Internet gateways, and other services as needed.

--Cloud Databases, for an automatically provisioned relational database service. Engates quipped, "You can have as many relational databases as you want, as long as they're MySQL." Only the open source system is available initially, but a wider selection will eventually be available. Next up: Microsoft's SQL Server.

--Cloud Block Storage, or short-term storage equivalent to Amazon Web Services Elastic Block Store, to serve the needs of a running virtual machine. Cloud Block Storage would hold the reads and writes of a Cloud Databases system and can be used in either a solid-state disk form for high-speed transactions or in regular disk form.

--Cloud Monitoring can monitor running workloads in OpenStack clouds.

--Cloud Control Panel is a dashboard of workload performance indicators and management options. It serves as a simpler way to manage your cloud activity than interfacing through the management API.

"OpenStack is ready for everybody to use," said Engates. Rackspace is assembling a set of services that indicate OpenStack clouds will be competitive with others in the marketplace.

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