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Cisco Launches Own Version Of OpenStack Cloud Software

OpenStack, a notoriously hard-to-deploy, loosely assembled set of code modules that aim to help companies create private clouds, is now available in a customized distribution from Cisco Systems, a contributor to the open source code project. Cisco claims this version is easier to deploy and more reliable once up and running.

That may give OpenStack a better chance of getting adopted by companies that want to build a private cloud. Several options exist, but OpenStack has attracted broad support as the likeliest project to produce an alternative to VMware's vCloud Director and vCloud Suite.

The Cisco move is an attempt to serve its own customers and counteract a critical assessment by Gartner Analyst Lydia Leong, who on Sept. 14, put out a report that said OpenStack "is an early-stage project whose future, though promising, is still uncertain."

Leong cited the lack of compatibility sometimes encountered between modules for different OpenStack release numbers, and lack of compatibility between different vendors' releases. Marketing hype is leading IT managers to believe "that OpenStack is a stable, mature platform ready for widespread adoption, when it is an early-stage project with code stability challenges," Leong wrote.

[Want to learn more about open source code alternatives to VMware? See Great Open Source Cloud Debate Rages]

Cisco would like customers using its most advanced hardware and networking products, the Nexus 1000 virtual switches and Unified Computer System servers, to have an easier time building private clouds. One way to do that is through an easy-to-implement version of OpenStack. To that end, the company is announcing the Cisco Edition of CloudStack this week at the OpenStack Design Summit in San Diego. It will include high availability features, more monitoring and the Quantum networking module, said Lew Tucker, Cisco CTO of cloud computing, in an interview.

"Cisco Edition is particularly targeted to Cisco customers," said Tucker, but it will run on any vendor's hardware. Cisco added Puppet, the open source code engine for automating administrative functions, to OpenStack. It added Nagios, Graphite and Collectd open source systems for monitoring OpenStack operations. Note that Cisco integrated these add-ons so that information from these applications is displayed through the Horizon user interface, which is part of the OpenStack platform.

Quantum was added to the Cisco Edition to give its users the ability to create networks with different operating characteristics atop the same hardware, said Tucker. A multitiered application might need a Web server, connected to a more secure application server and database server. Through the Quantum interface, OpenStack users can set up both kinds from a single console.

The Cisco Edition is accompanied by Cisco's onePK toolkit, which allows data center operators to use Java or the language of their choice to create automation scripts for how the data center should run, then use the onePK toolkit to connect the script to the network through APIs made available by Cisco. The toolkit allows faster set up of new services from the OpenStack cloud as well, Tucker said.

Cisco Intelligent Automation for Cloud or Cisco IAC is an existing Cisco product that runs on top of VMware to provide a self-service orchestration engine that can function across both VMware and OpenStack cloud environments. Cisco IAC is found on the high end vBlocks that Cisco sells with VMware and EMC. Cisco IAC is included with the Cisco Edition OpenStack, but its use is not required.

An implementer can also use the Cisco Edition as a cross-cloud management platform for multiple OpenStack clouds, or use it to connect to Amazon Web Services EC2 or a straight VMware cloud, Tucker said.

Next: Other OpenStack Options

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