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July 27, 2012

OpenStack Community ARMs the Cloud

Robert Gelber

Last week, the OpenStack community announced a collaborative project to build an ARM-based OpenStack cloud. The energy-efficient hardware would be available as a zone in TryStack, a testing and exploration tool for OpenStack developers. If successful, the program could become a model for cloud providers looking to reduce their power consumption.

OpenStack has been recruiting members of the ARM community in an effort to support the energy-sipping chips, best known for their use in mobile devices. Specifically, supporters of the open source cloud platform would like to see ARM processors work with the OpenStack pluggable architecture. This would increase the availability of the OpenStack platform across multiple virtualization technologies, storage infrastructures and chip architectures.

Mark Collier, vice president of marketing and business development of OpenStack at Rackspace, suggested that typical datacenter upgrades were no longer sufficient for today’s cloud challenges.

“The explosion of cloud apps is creating new problems in datacenters, and OpenStack is attracting the brightest minds in the industry looking for new ways to solve those problems as the old approach of ‘bigger iron and expensive software’ runs out of steam,” said Collier.

The TryStack cloud is a community-run application testing ground. Its infrastructure allows developers to check their software against the multiple architectures supported by OpenStack. In addition to an x86 zone, users will now have access to a new ARM zone. The ARM infrastructure is being hosted by Core NAP and consists of hardware provided by Calxeda, HP and Canonical. The TryStack cloud also receives contributions from Dell, Equinix, HP, NTT and Rackspace.

Karl Freund, vice president of marketing at Calxeda, welcomed the OpenStack and ARM collaboration:

Adding ARM-based servers to the TryStack dev/test cloud will help accelerate the development of the ARM server ecosystem. There is massive demand from end-users, ISVs, and members of the open source community to access this new technology, and TryStack will enable access to both the Calxeda-based servers, and the OpenStack APIs on ARM.

While this is a positive step for both communities, ARM chips are fairly new to cloud application developers and service providers. Currently, Ubuntu’s 12.04 LTS distribution is the only operating system that supports the OpenStack platform with ARM hardware.

The news was revealed at OSCON, where OpenStack celebrated turning two. An entry on the OpenStack blog page explains how to access this testbed for free with the caveat that instances will be returned to the pool after 24 hours.