OpenStack: Open Source Cloud Computing Infrastructure as a Service

I’ve worked for MySQL and JBoss as a consultant and understand how open source works. After MySQL and JBoss were acquired, I stayed away from the open source area because I was not excited about it anymore with the two giants gone. I heard about OpenStack from time to time but did not take the time to really understand what it is and how it is doing. Like most people, I am interested in what’s happening with cloud computing. Many aspects of cloud computing are related to energy. One such aspect is energy efficiency because of economies of scale. Now combining open source and cloud computing has made me want to revisit open source.

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Recently, I had a chance to attend a Cloud SIG meeting held in the heart of Silicon Valley. The following information is not very technical but includes some history and an overview of what OpenStack is doing now. Specifically, I wanted to show who is behind OpenStack’s efforts. Although there are many more people involved besides the speakers, their pictures may bring it closer to you. The whole session was videotaped by the Cloud SIG of SVForum and may become available later, along with the presentation slides.

As reported elsewhere, Rackspace and NASA got together and developed a set of open source infrastructure as a service (IaaS) software packages.

Six people heavily involved in OpenStack gave short presentations:

As expected, people move around from company to company, and without knowing a little bit about each speaker’s background, it is a bit confusing.

A Short Summary of OpenStack

Before getting into the meat of the discussion, let me summarize what constitutes OpenStack. There are three major components, but there are several more cooking. These are the three major pieces now:

  • Compute (Nova), which manages things like provisioning to set up the computing environment.
  • Object Storage (Swift), which provides something similar to AWS’ S3.
  • Image Service (Glance), which manages virtual machine images.

Other projects are listed here.

They are written in Python, and several people asked why Python instead of Ruby or something else. Joshua referred to a classified report submitted to the White House and defended his language choice but did not elaborate.

OpenStack is gaining popularity, and the community, including companies, is growing:

The list is growing, so you may want to check the OpenStack website for the latest.

Two Japanese companies, NTT Data and Midokura, were listed as code contributors. I was surprised, because it is rare that Japanese companies get recognition for their contributions to open source efforts.


Rick Clark, now with Cisco, was one of the guys at Rackspace who conceived the idea of OpenStack and initiated the work with NASA.

Rick Clark

Vish Ishaya was with NASA Ames (hired by Joshua McKenty) but is now with Rackspace.

Vish Ishaya

Vish is in charge of the compute piece. He joined NASA to work on OpenStack and was with NASA at the time of the project start. He described what it was like at the beginning working with Rackspace. As he said, it is a bit strange now that he works for Rackspace.

Joe Arnold is with Cloud Scaling and is working on object storage for OpenStack.

Joe Arnold

James Urquhart is with Cisco and speaks at many cloud computing conferences. He discussed how OpenStack relates to Cisco’s business.

James Urquhart

In short, service providers are their customers and by arming them with more comprehensive portfolios of services (supported by Cisco’s software and hardware), they sell more services to end users. So the key is to support the service providers. James also said that the current version of clouds does not have specific support for networking, i.e., network as a service (NaaS). NaaS is being developed as part of OpenStack; the project name is Quantum. He also referred to another project called Donabe (a Japanese word meaning earthenware pot), which is a container service, a group of resources created and/or managed as one unit, with an initial focus on network containers. This project is headed by Rick Clark.

Christian Reilly is with Citrix and discussed the company’s perspective on OpenStack.

Christian Reilly

His main topic was a Citrix project called Olympus, which is OpenStack on steroids, intended to bridge a gap between OpenStack and public and private clouds. See the following feature comparison chart:

Last but not least, Joshua McKenty took the stage. He was at NASA and played a major role in conceiving OpenStack. He denied being the father of OpenStack but admitted some blood relationship to it, like grandfather, uncle, or cousin. But the energy emanating from him when he talked about OpenStack convinced me that he must be its father.

Joshua McKenty

He showed us the number of developers working on different open source projects:

He and the rest of the speakers seemed to be genuinely excited with the OpenStack movement. This is something I felt when I was working with MySQL and JBoss. There are many more things for them to do to make OpenStack a viable solution for cloud computing, but the momentum seems to be working in their favor.

Zen Kishimoto

About Zen Kishimoto

Seasoned research and technology executive with various functional expertise, including roles in analyst, writer, CTO, VP Engineering, general management, sales, and marketing in diverse high-tech and cleantech industry segments, including software, mobile embedded systems, Web technologies, and networking. Current focus and expertise are in the area of the IT application to energy, such as smart grid, green IT, building/data center energy efficiency, and cloud computing.

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