Private Cloud is the same software configuration that Rackspace runs in its Open Cloud service, which we analyzed in "Rackspace Open Cloud Takes on Amazon AWS." While installing Linux and OpenStack isn't difficult--there's a complete set of instructions on OpenStack.org--Rackspace Private Cloud simplifies installation by pre-configuring most common options, reducing some 2,000 variables to 10 installation steps for the controller node and seven steps for the compute node. This allows a company to launch OpenStack faster, and also means Rackspace has a known configuration, which simplifies its commercial support.
The Private Cloud installer preconfigures nearly all OpenStack options. All you need to do is define the networking and users. Manually configuring the server, Chef, Linux KVM and OpenStack software would take hours or days to complete from scratch. It took me longer to find and transfer the ISO image to a USB drive than it took to configure and install. For a simple test environment, the OpenStack controller and compute nodes can be installed on a single server.
Cloudscaling, Piston Cloud Computing and Stackops offer automated OpenStack installation products, as well as features such as security hardening, high-availability and load balancing. Many of the open source Linux distributions, such as Fedora, SUSE and Ubuntu offer streamlined OpenStack installs and readymade ISO images. All three have community support, but SUSE and Canonical, maker of Ubuntu, offer commercial support packages as well.
Rackspace representatives said in an interview that the company will continue to add features to Private Cloud on at least a quarterly basis in the form of free upgrades. Major feature updates will lag behind the OpenStack releases by 45 to 60 days, allowing time for Rackspace to test the distribution in its own service before rolling it out to Private Cloud users. For example, the next OpenStack software is due to be released in September, so Private Cloud users can expect an update by year's end or early 2013. Bug and security fixes will come out more frequently than major releases.
While Private Cloud is freely available, Rackspace isn't pushing it back to the OpenStack foundation; the company is keeping the OpenStack Foundation at a distance and has spun the project into its own foundation. Representatives from Rackspace said they don't want to foster the perception that they're forcing software onto the project. The OpenStack Foundation will make its own decisions about product direction and feature enhancements and is currently holding its initial elections for the board of directors. It's a delicate balance because Rackspace was one of the original developers, along with NASA.
Rackspace now has its OpenStack-based public cloud service, Open Cloud, and private cloud software. Work still needs to be done to achieve a hybrid cloud model that will allow an enterprise to manage public- and private-cloud resources from a single management station and easily move VMs between them. Federated management needs to be developed either within the OpenStack Foundation or by third parties like enStratus or RightScale.