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OpenStack Open Source Cloud Distributions Take Shape

By Sean Michael Kerner (Send Email)
Posted October 17, 2012


SAN DIEGO. The OpenStack open source cloud project is a lot like Linux. While there is a core upstream base, there's also a community of distributions that packages the technology together in a way to make it easier to use and deploy.

During a panel event today at the OpenStack Summit, OpenStack distribution vendors explained what it is that they do, how they differentiate and why fragmentation is not a risk.

Pete Chadwick, Senior Product Manager of Cloud Infrastructure solutions at SUSE, explained that a distribution is like a museum, where a curator decides what makes sense for a collection. He noted that Linux vendors have long bundled open source components together for Linux in different ways.

"Our job is to look at the world of packages and figure out what works for our customers," Chadwick said.

Red Hat developer Perry Myers stressed that building a distribution is not just about the sum of the component parts, it's also about tuning and performance.

OpenStack RoundedFundamentally, whether it's for Linux or for OpenStack, it's all about choice. Choice for users and choices vendors make in what they pull in.

Nick Barcet, Ubuntu Cloud Product Manager, noted that in OpenStack a user could potentially use KVM, Xen or even Hyper-V as a hypervisor. It is the role of the distribution to test a subset of choices, package it and then deliver it in a way that can be consumed as easily as possible.

Going a step further, Barcet stressed that vendor involvement in the development process is also key.

"Each of us here not only consumes the technology, but we also help to shape the future of OpenStack," Barcet said. "For customers, we are their advocate in the community and will build solutions that customers need."

Fragmentation

While SUSE, Red Hat and Ubuntu all have their own respective OpenStack distributions, the vendors argued there is little risk of fragmentation.

Christopher Aedo, Director of Technical Operations at Morphlabs, which has its own OpenStack appliance, commented that the OpenStack APIs are solid and this core foundation is what prevents fragmentation.

"People that want to do their own thing can build their own plugins," Aedo said. "But the core foundation will always be OpenStack. I don't think there will ever be some weird fork."

Chadwick added that a distribution doesn't necessarily equal a fork. In his view, there are plenty of ways to add value without changing the underling code.

Barcet chimed in that fundamentally as long as the distribution is still talking to and compatible with the core OpenStack APIs, there really is little risk of fragmentation.

The Future

OpenStack distribution vendors also agree that the future of the open source cloud is a bright one.

"I figure it will be the standard layer on which all apps are run," Barcet said. "This will become our common kernel -- every operation that is your information system will be completely virtualized."

From a Red Hat perspective, the future is all about long-term stability. OpenStack currently iterates every six months, making it difficult to offer long-term support on a given release to customers.

Myers noted that today customers can't stay on a particular release of OpenStack for a long period of time. That is, however, a point that Red Hat wants to get to.

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at InternetNews.com, the news service of the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist.

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