Is the Rackspace OpenStack cloud really open?

I read an article over on GigaOm about Rackspace announcing a private/hybrid cloud based on their OpenStack offering.  This got me to thinking and asking the question, “Is Rackspace

cloud really open?”  Yes, it’s built on OpenStack but what does that mean today for enterprise customers looking for an open solution.  One of the main arguments with going with an open solution is to avoid vendor lock in.  This is the promise of OpenStack.  If my relationship with my Cloud provider no longer meets my needs I can take my workloads and go somewhere else.  It also means that I can supplement one cloud provider with another or even my own.

There are questions as to if OpenStack will have this type of portability.  So, far both Rackspace and HP have launched public Clouds based on OpenStack.  Ideally, I would be able to have my own OpenStack control panel and have workloads running on either cloud.  I don’t keep daily update with the progress of the OpenStack project but, I believe there still isn’t a fully baked control panel yet so both Rackspace and HP have had to create their own.  Will they converge at some point?

According to the above GigaOm article Rackspace has introduced a hybrid cloud option based on their current offering.  I believe this is still a private cloud hosted in a Rackspace datacenter that allows you to extend out to their public cloud.   If you have or want an all Rackspace solution this is a great product.  However, how is this any different than being locked in to any other existing cloud provider if there isn’t interoperability between OpenStack providers and a control panel hosted by the customer?

Do any of the existing Openstack Clouds meet your functional open cloud requirements?

Update 4:45 PM EST 8/15/2012

So, thanks to the comments below, I have a clearer perspective of what OpenStack is and isn’t.  I always expected OpenStack to be a complete solution from Orchestration to Cloud Infrastructure.  I originally envisioned OpenStack as modules that included a Cloud Manager.  As a virtual data center manager, I could choose to install all of the OpenStack platform and build my own private cloud or just the Cloud Management component.  This would be a standard interface that anyone with OpenStack cloud management experience could use from organization to organization or from provider to provider.

But this isn’t what OpenStack provides.  OpenStack provides a common set of API’s for cloud providers (private or public) on which I could role my own Cloud Management or use a solution like Rightscale.  So, as a virtual data center provider, I still have the challenge of selecting both a management and cloud platform.  OpenStack may make more provider’s available to me given my selected management platform but it doesn’t solve my management platform problem by itself.

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Published by Keith Townsend

Now I'm @CTOAdvisor

9 thoughts on “Is the Rackspace OpenStack cloud really open?

  1. The software is definately open. Not only is the installer using the community openstack bits, but the installer has been open sourced as well.

    1. Thanks Mike. OpenStack itself is open but, the question is when can I have a control panel that allows me to move my workloads from one provider to another and extend my on premise cloud?

      It’s an open solution but I don’t have portability without a control panel and some interoperability between providers.

  2. Is it really a control panel issue? Rather, aren’t you looking for API compatibility across private and public providers (openstack)? That way you can have your own (or someone else’s) control panel. No?

    1. I think that’s my hang up. If my developers create an application I want them to make calls to my virtual data center which as a “Virtual DataCenter” administrator I can create rules on how the load is distributed across multiple clouds. As a virtual data center guy or infrastructure team I have no desire to build this myself. Enterprise Infrastructure teams don’t do API’s they interact with control panels, configuration files and OS’s.

  3. You assume wrongly that this is a solution that runs in Rackspace’s DC. Their private edition offering gives you OpenStack without the hassle of apt-get and editing config files. It is OpenStack with some config options pre-configured based on your input during installation.

    In response to requiring to use Rackspace end to end, no that is definitely not the case. There are obvious and immediate benefits to this though, but if you assume you need to match an OpenStack installation on-premise to that externally then you have hybrid cloud all wrong. What enables a public/private cloud is orchestration, like enStratus. You don’t export images and load them from one cloud or another, you just issue commands to the orchestration software which instructs the cloud endpoint (ec2, Rackspace, OpenStack, etc) to create that instance.

    1. Cloud Management/Orchestration is my point with the Control Panel. My assumption is that the Control Panel is Rackspaces Orchestration interface. I’m not familiar with many on premise Orchestration solutions that integrate with OpenStack. I’ll take a look at enStratus.

      Orchestration is the area of the OpenStack project that I’m the most grey. From a data center manager’s perspective how do I interface and manage my workloads whereever they live.

      1. Then Orchestration software is what you want. EnStratus, Scalr, RightScale etc. IaaS software (OpenStack, CloudStack, Eucalyptus) and public clouds (Rackspace, Amazon, HP Cloud, etc) is what you can control with it as an entity that resembles multiple datacenters. The Orchestration software does the magic of talking the right language to the disparate technology. Eg, we know HPCS and Rackspace run OpenStack, but you don’t need to know. Just like you don’t know or care what AWS uses behind the tightly closed doors.

    2. I guess I still look at all of this from an enterprise data center prospective and not an application. If I give my developer’s API’s into RightScale, EnStratus and Scalr, etc. why do I need open standards clouds. From an Enterprise Lens (mine) why do I care about open standards if my Orchestration does the translations/proxy for me. (Hopefully this is a “softball” question and your chance to plug OpenStack)

      1. I don’t need to plug OpenStack, it speaks for itself;-)
        So an open API means that standards can be formed around it rather being dictated and driven behind close doors. This is obviously advantageous to anyone developing tools or managers of these environments. With an open API there isn’t a need for the complexity that happens within orchestration software, but you still need orchestration.
        An open API from an Openstack point of view means that greater innovation can happen within Openstack than just following what someone else is doing, like Eucalyptus.

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