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Rackspace, Nicira Extend OpenStack Cloud

As the OpenStack organization gathers this week for its second annual conference, the open source initiative for developing cloud computing resources is gaining traction. Rackspace, the cloud service provider and a top corporate co-founder of the organization, is introducing a number of new products based on OpenStack, including Rackspace Cloud Networks for delivering software-defined networking (SDN). Also on hand will be Nicira, which entered the SDN market in February with its own Network Virtualization Platform. Nicira will be partnering with Rackspace to deliver "networking as a service" based on the OpenStack Networking project code-named Quantum.

The OpenStack organization uses open source software and development practices to bring together ideas from the open source community to create software and other products for cloud computing. Initially, OpenStack introduced a new project every quarter, as new ideas for cloud computing came from the community. The fifth iteration of OpenStack, Essex (each new name starts with the next letter in the alphabet), was introduced April 5. The next iteration, code-named Folsom, is due out about six months from now.

The community input is key to accelerating innovation in the OpenStack platform, says Mark Interrante, VP of Rackspace products. "We’re getting many more features built into the product. We’re getting some great contributions from just across the board--companies that are are all contributing into this wealth of this OpenStack community."

OpenStack is just one of the initiatives for SDN, including proprietary ones developed by network vendors. For instance, Cisco Systems, while a member of OpenStack, hinted that it may develop its own SDN protocol.

Also part of the Rackspace rollout is a next-generation edition of Rackspace Cloud Servers, based on the OpenStack Nova project, for provisioning compute services in the cloud. Already, Cloud Servers runs on 80,000 Rackspace physical servers and has 170,000 business customers globally, says Interrante.

Cloud Servers will have "limited availability" at first to ensure "a smooth ramp-up," Rackspace said in a news release, with access commencing on May 1. Also available with the new Cloud Servers option is a new Cloud Control Panel with several enhancements for managing the cloud environment.

Another group of Rackspace services are in "early access" availability, which means that they are production workload-ready but have limited support available, no service commitments and no billing, the company says. The early access features include Cloud Databases, a high-availability MySQL database that is based on SAN storage, and Cloud Monitoring, which enables customers to monitor and manage their cloud infrastructure and software applications.

Cloud Networks and Cloud Block Storage fall under the category of "preview' mode services, which means Rackspace is inviting customers to test the early version of these products. Cloud Block Storage offers highly elastic raw storage, and a choice between a high-performance solid state disk flash storage and lower-cost traditional disk storage.

The OpenStack Design Summit and Conference is divided into two parts. The first three days are the design summit, with detailed training and tutorials on the intricacies of OpenStack. The conference is Thursday and Friday, and features keynotes, panel discussions and other presentations. The OpenStack Community now boasts 2,685 individual members and 166 member companies, including Citrix, Dell, AMD, Intel, Cisco Systems and Brocade.

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