The Big Boys Are Rocking The OpenStack Bandwagon

chris preimesberger crop

HP and IBM have picked up on OpenStack quickly, says Chris Preimesberger. But the real kudos should go to the inventors of the open source cloud platform

Let the positioning begin. The big, all-purpose IT vendors are beginning to confront each other about how best to use and support OpenStack cloud computing software within their own environments, even though they are hardly experts on the topic.

These guys had little or nothing to do with the development of the fast-rising data center system, yet they are quickly jumping aboard a train that appears to be built for the long haul.

OpenStackOpenStack innovation or adoption?

Remember the oft-used line about how innovation usually happens elsewhere? Well, that’s OpenStack. It was born and raised partly in some old military buildings on the site of a former federal airfield and not in some gleaming, new Silicon Valley campus.

IBM, Hewlett-Packard, Dell, Oracle, EMC, Red Hat, VMware, Cisco Systems—they’re all adopters, not co-creators, of this groundbreaking open-source/standards cloud operating system, which was hatched four years ago from a research partnership between NASA’s open-source IT group at Moffett Field in Mountain View, and San Francisco-based Rackspace Hosting.

In the last two to three years, after waiting for the market to speak up—and it practically shouted its approval of OpenStack—all these top-tier IT hardware and/or software providers have incorporated the cloud system into their own offerings as an option. OpenStack is now widely available through all of the above vendors, even if it does cannibalise some of their proprietary systems, and there are quite a few that are endangered. Anything Windows- or Solaris-based are two examples.

“What we’re seeing is that a lot of customers approach the cloud as a different and more efficient way to power applications,” Nebula founder and CEO Chris Kemp told eWEEK at VMworld last fall. “This is making it possible for customers to continue to make use of a lot of their existing infrastructure—storage, networking and computing—and consolidating it to provide a 10X reduction in the cost of compute and storage.”

Kemp led the NASA OpenStack research team, got the product launched and then moved to start up Nebula, which offers an infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) OpenStack-based cloud operating system and is getting significant traction in its second year in business.

“This is like what VMware offered with the hypervisor. Whereas enterprises used to run 10 old applications that each were using one-tenth of one server, VMware now takes 10 servers and packs them into one server. What Nebula [and OpenStack] is doing is allowing people to use tens or hundreds of servers to power one application. So it’s exactly the opposite, actually,” Kemp said.

cloud tool mirantis fuelWhat’s so special about your OpenStack?

No one’s saying that just because the old-line companies didn’t participate corporately in the original development of OpenStack, they cannot talk about why each of their implementations has better value-adds. In fact, they need to explain to potential customers why theirs is the best way to go – and give examples. This is finally starting to happen, and along with that, will come the inevitable put-downs of competitors.

IBM, which launched its first OpenStack-based product, SmartCloud Orchestrator, in March 2013, helped start the OpenStack Foundation in 2012. It’s been talking more and more about OpenStack ever since. Now Big Blue has taken a seat on the OpenStack board of directors.

All of the other companies above are pretty much espousing the magic of OpenStack in their own ways.

With the commercial value of OpenStack now clearly identified, corporate swords are being brandished. In an article in the HP corporate blog, Saar Gillai, senior vice president and general manager of converged cloud for Hewlett-Packard, said he was “amused” that IBM appears to be claiming OpenStack leadership when HP has been there and done that much earlier (in 2012).

This is where positioning marketing comes into play. We will be seeing more of this as OpenStack continues to grow in both stature and deployments.

“As they say, imitation is the greatest form of flattery,” Gillai wrote. “It’s great to see other large IT companies follow HP’s lead, and the more companies that put their support behind OpenStack, the better.

“In terms of contribution, we are the largest employee contributor, with hundreds of engineers working on OpenStack. As a company, we are a top five contributor to both Folsom and Grizzly [versions of OpenStack], based on the number of lines of code contributed.”

Gillai said that he was “especially proud of [HP’s] leadership in OpenStack infrastructure, as we lead and provide the majority of staff for the continuous integration and automation project, and we are the only group, outside of the foundation, with full-time staff dedicated to OpenStack infrastructure.”

Well, OK. Kudos to both HP and IBM for moving as quickly as they have on this. The others also deserve respect for offering more choice to customers.

But the real kudos should go to the innovators, such as Kemp and his NASA/Rackspace team, who came up with the idea in the first place.

They are the real disruptors.

Are you an open source guru? Try our quiz!

Originally published on eWeek.