The Cloud And OpenStack: Interoperability Issues

In 2008, Reuven Cohen started one of the first Google groups created for those who wished to discuss the cloud, named “The Cloud Computing Interoperability Forum.” People posted discussions on topics like problems with standardization and interoperability, but eventually, conversation fizzled and faded away altogether.  The Cloud And OpenStack: Interoperability Issues

Recently, in a Forbes article, Cohen decided to pick up discussion regarding the cloud. And why not? It is in every aspect of our lives now! He points out that although the early cloud developers have been acquired by other companies and Amazon rules the land of the cloud, there are a variety of other companies who have entered the cloud market to compete.

OpenStack Summit: Interoperability Issues

He discussed the OpenStack Summit which he recently attended, a place for those involved in the cloud computing industry or just interested in OpenStack, the open source cloud infrastructure project created by NASA and Rackspace, to discuss the cloud.

The hottest topic of the summit: bringing to the forefront those companies not yet fully compatible with OpenStack. OpenStack developers spent a portion of time pointing out those companies who are big players within the OpenStack project, like HP and Rackspace, as being some of those companies who are “interoperable.” The vice president and general manager of HP Cloud Services, Roger Levy, took offense to this, stating the claim was “categorically false,” and that HP in fact provides the project with those tools necessary in determining whether a company is actually complying with OpenStack API.

The Truth About Operability

Cohen was able to sit down and chat with higher-ups within a host of OpenStack companies like Red Hat, Cisco, HP, Rackspace, and Citrix about cloud interoperability.

At one time, OpenStack was just about completely controlled by Rackspace, one of its founders. Today, however, Red Hat beats them in regards to the amount of code contributed to the project. Other major contributors: Canonical, Rackspace, IBM, Nebula, Suse, Piston Cloud, HP, and Cloudscaling. Other technology companies have a stake in OpenStack, too: Comcast, Best Buy, HubSpot, and Bloomberg. All of these companies rely on OpenStack within their cloud infrastructures.

Brian Stevens, Red Hat CTO, said that they now have over 39 developers focused on OpenStack, making OpenStack part of its cloud solution. Similar to Red Hat, other companies are attempting distributions that work with a Linux OS: Nebula, Piston Cloud, Cloudscaling, Suse, and Metacloud. What's interesting about this is that the majority of them are attempting to, in Cohen's words, “position themselves as the ‘Red Hat' of OpenStack.” Stevens finds this interesting, pointing out, “We actually are Red Hat.” He adds that they are the leader when it comes to “supporting its customers among a range of enterprise products, services, and environments, internal or externally.”

OpenStack vice chairman and cloud CTO for Cisco, Lew Tucker, talks with Cohen about the differences in the cloud today from the cloud in its infancy. “One thing that was missing was a large number of private and public clouds running the same platform. Today, in part because of projects like OpenStack, you can take an application and run it uniformly on one cloud or another with little or no transformation required. This is a big part of the driving factor of OpenStack. Like Linux you have a high degree of portability between multiple independent environments.”

What About VMware?

Logically, Cohen inquired about Cisco's partnership with VMware, and how their new focus on OpenStack affects this. “VMware is strong in virtualization, specifically in the enterprise. They've done a great job of enterprise class data management. They have a tremendous market position.” He adds that “OpenStack is a better option for anyone who wants to build their own Amazon, on the inside. You can run legacy on VMware but OpenStack is about new, scale-out, web-scale applications.”

What is driving this trend? Tucker says it's the white paper Systems of Engagement and The Future of Enterprise IT by Jeffery Moore, adding “Systems of record are complete. It's been done. Systems of engagement are about the engagement of customers. It's about broadening the level of interaction between customers, suppliers and providers. IT is being asked to get involved in engaging with the customers, collecting information, analyzing information and, most importantly, acting on it. These are all new applications.” And what better than OpenStack, says Tucker, to develop these new applications on?

CTO of Rackspace, John Engates, said the interoperability discussion centers around “using real code, not standards created in a vacuum.” This has, he said, “been a problem with the traditional standards tactics. Adoption is key and functional code is a must. The risk is it won't happen or becomes fragmented, but I don't think this is going to happen. We want a milestone reference that all OpenStack clouds use as a basis of comparison.”

It Starts With RefStack

The API for registration of interoperability compliance endpoints and testing within OpenStack, called RefStack, is how it should all be done according to Engates. “Essentially it's an automated test for compatibility and interoperability. It's like the Dolby standard for the cloud.”

He knows that Rackspace is valuable beyond the stack, and said that the company has no desire to lock in their customers. “The challenge is moving fast and at scale. Early on we had to push things out that weren't fully ready, which led to us playing a bit of catch-up, but our goal remains the same. Early on in OpenStack, we had a lot of proving that the code could run at scale. We had to prove it was real. Today our cloud runs on code less than two weeks off trunk, which is itself a sign of the commitment to our use of the community's code. You can't fork if you want to use a community contributed code base.”

Cisco's Tucker assures that “Interop is happening. We've always had true interoperability among TCP/IP. At the end of the day, the Internet is the interop layer and it is the foundation of any true cloud interoperability…we're in a much better position than ever before. New open source, more mature software and cloud brokerages that are on the horizon are opening up a world of new opportunity not possible before.”

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