NASA, Rackspace Open-Sourcing the Cloud

By Nicole Hemsoth

July 19, 2010

This morning NASA and Rackspace announced their partnership on a project called OpenStack, which is based on donated code from NASA’s Nebula cloud platform and Rackspace’s own Cloud Files and Cloud Server public cloud offerings. Although NASA’s contributions to the project won’t be felt until later in the year, the underlying provisioning engine coupled with Rackspace’s offerings will provide a highly flexible alternative to other cloud possibilities — at least once it catches on and hits critical mass. For now, however, OpenStack is relegated to the growing watchlist for potentially paradigm-shifting possibilities on the horizon and speculation is hurtling about today, as one might imagine.

Outside of it capabilities, the story for many in the community is less about jumping on board for immediate production use and more about what it means for the culture of the cloud, namely in the interoperability and proprietary versus open source sense. The official arrival of OpenStack might change the way many think about vendor lock-in fears and cloud standards, while providing some tangible benefits for Rackspace (not to mention cloud adoption overall) in the process, if only in the way of honor.

As it stands now, when it comes to cloud APIs, Amazon’s is quickly on its way to becoming the de facto standard, if it isn’t already. Whether or not the OpenStack news is going to gather enough momentum to shatter that broad opinion remains to be seen, but in the meantime, there’s a lot of work to be done. This is not production-ready code yet and still requires massive support, however with enough of that (and with the help of the 25 and counting corporate supporters who are aligned with the project’s mission to open the cloud. 

Those “corporate sponsors” of OpenStack who have vowed their support appeared on a roster following a workshop last week on the project to help it build the ecosystem of open cloud environments. Among the firms who have publicly announced cooperation are RightScale, Citrix, Intel, AMD, Dell, Opscode, and Cloud.com, but the details about the involvement of any of these companies have been shadowy at best, which does seem a bit odd.

OpenStack will feature several cloud infrastructure components, including a fully distributed object store based on Rackspace’s Cloud Files, something that is available now. However, there is a second phase of the release, which includes a scalable compute-provisioning engine based on technology pioneered by NASA for its Nebula cloud, which will be integrated later this year and once completed will be available under Apache licensing.

The NASA connection certainly goes rather far in establishing the credibility of this open source push from Rackspace and this, coupled with the fact that Rackspace’s offering to OpenStack is mature and time-tested unlike some other open source projects that lack the backing of a proven track record to speak to their success—even if they are being used in production without issues.

For now, the project is not going to change the lives of those in the small to mid-range market by any means. This news is geared toward those who could actually make the most use out of OpenStack as it stands today–large-scale enterprises and institutions. . According to Fabio Torlini, Rackspace EMEA marketing director in an interview, this is “not a code that many small and medium businesses are likely to run until they are more mature. Instead, it’s aimed at providers, institutions, and enterprises with highly technical operations teams that need to turn physical hardware into large-scale cloud deployments.” This also means that from a development standpoint, users will be able to use their experience in a domain to develop applications on an open platform that will be useful in their niche — and be able to migrate these around as needed rather than facing lock-in once they settle on a particular provider. Application portability has been a noted concern among many in HPC and while this might not solve more general data movement issues, it is a step in the right direction from a development standpoint.

The Interoperability Angle

The big news here outside of the open sourcing of its code more generally is the message it sends about interoperability and standards in the cloud. One of the greatest fears, especially for enterprise and scientific users, is that they face major hurdles if they ever hope to leave the cloud they’ve landed upon. Having an open source cloud means that concerns about moving data from one cloud provider to another might be negated, thus alleviating the often-cited fear of “cloud lock-in” which refers to the roach motel business model — where users can check in anytime they’d like but can never leave.

Torlini stated, “The open source model has been proven to promote the standards and interoperability critical to the success of our industry. The explosive growth of the internet can be attributed to open, universal standards like HTTP and HTML. The early cloud offerings have bucked this trend and are largely proprietary. No one benefits from a fractured landscape of closed, incompatible clouds where migration is difficult and true transparency is impossible…it’s critically important for the cloud to be open and many people in the industry share concern about the proprietary nature of the leading cloud platforms.”

Open Clouds for Developers

One of the other items of interest is what this means for application developers and the niche industries they serve. After all, having one stable, open platform to program to creates a much more hospitable environment for those creating the next app to fit their segment, which means that if OpenStack catches on like many predict it will, especially after NASA’s contribution is fully integrated, it will allow for a richness in application development that could only be possible with an open programming paradigm—great news for developers and very good news for the companies who depend on their innovations to remain competitive. In some senses, OpenStack could be the great equalizer of the cloud services industry—which means, of course, there will be victims. The extent to which this will have an impact on the established players is difficult to analyze at this point but as time wears on and the wide range of possible uses of this software become apparent we may see that this alters the landscape for proprietary cloud software significantly.

In an interview with CNET, Mark Collier, Rackspace VP of Business Development noted that “part of the reason this project is open source is that enterprise developers have more specific domain knowledge than service providers might and that open source provides a way for interested users to collaborate to create a better product.” Others commented on the relevance of this story for developers, including Rackspace’s Torlini, who noted that, “Software developers will also be able to program to one stable platform. Openstack will become the cloud platform of choice in the same way that Android has rapidly become the platform of choice for mobile providers”

A Changing Cloud Landscape?

If the cloud starts moving toward the open source approach, it could mean a pole shift for the entire industry. As analyst Steve Hilton noted, “large cloud companies such as HP, Amazon and Oracle were not on the list of participating companies. This could become an issue if someone in the industry builds an open source cloud, there are lots of forces — enterprise control, vendor lock-in, channel partner business models — keeping it from being adopted.”

RightScale’s CEO Thorsten von Eicken blogged about the company’s involvement with OpenStack in non-technical terms, stating “having many fragmented cloud efforts doesn’t really help build a compelling alternative to Amazon, who keeps adding incredible new features at a blazing pace. And the industry needs an alternative to Amazon, not because of some problem with AWS, but because in the long run cloud computing cannot fulfill its promise to revolutionizing the way computing is consumed if there aren’t a multitude of vendors with offerings targeting different use cases, different needs, different budgets, different customer segments, etc.”

From a distance, it’s hard to find any drawbacks to the Rackspace announcement from an eventual user perspective as it has very broad appeal, especially to the growing number of voices concerned about interoperability. Furthermore, it’s open source and to one-up that, it’s well-tested open sources versus a kind of public trial and error process since Rackspace has been divvying out this same software without complaint to a number of big name clients, including several in research and academia, for some time. Secondly, the uses for such capability are nearly limitless and are creating a new playing field for the entire cloud industry — from the massive needs of the HPC community on down to eventually have an impact on small startups.

Whether or not OpenStack becomes the great cloud equalizer or languishes over the course of the next year in development and refinement remains to be seen, but for the goals of interoperability and a truly open cloud, this is certainly compelling news.

Subscribe to HPCwire's Weekly Update!

Be the most informed person in the room! Stay ahead of the tech trends with industy updates delivered to you every week!

Study Identifies Best Practices for Public-Private HPC Engagement

August 22, 2017

What's the best way for HPC centers in the public sphere to engage with private industry partners to boost the competitiveness of the companies and the larger communities? That question is at the heart of a new study pub Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Google Launches Site to Share its NYC-based Algorithm Research

August 22, 2017

Much of Google’s algorithm development occurs in groups scattered throughout New York City. Yesterday, Google launched a single website - NYC Algorithms and Optimization Team page - to provide a deeper view into all of Read more…

By John Russell

Dell Strikes Reseller Deal with Atos; Supplants SGI

August 22, 2017

Dell EMC and Atos announced a reseller deal today in which Dell will offer Atos’ high-end 8- and 16-socket Bullion servers. Some move from Dell had been expected following Hewlett Packard Enterprise’s purchase of SGI Read more…

By John Russell

HPE Extreme Performance Solutions

Leveraging Deep Learning for Fraud Detection

Advancements in computing technologies and the expanding use of e-commerce platforms have dramatically increased the risk of fraud for financial services companies and their customers. Read more…

Glimpses of Today’s Total Solar Eclipse

August 21, 2017

Here are a few arresting images posted by NASA of today’s total solar eclipse. Such astronomical events have always captured our imagination and it’s not hard to understand why such occurrences were often greeted wit Read more…

By John Russell

Study Identifies Best Practices for Public-Private HPC Engagement

August 22, 2017

What's the best way for HPC centers in the public sphere to engage with private industry partners to boost the competitiveness of the companies and the larger c Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Tech Giants Outline Battle Plans for Future HPC Market

August 21, 2017

Four companies engaged in a cage fight for leadership in the emerging HPC market of the 2020s are, despite deep differences in some areas, in violent agreement Read more…

By Doug Black

Microsoft Bolsters Azure With Cloud HPC Deal

August 15, 2017

Microsoft has acquired cloud computing software vendor Cycle Computing in a move designed to bring orchestration tools along with high-end computing access capabilities to the cloud. Terms of the acquisition were not disclosed. Read more…

By George Leopold

HPE Ships Supercomputer to Space Station, Final Destination Mars

August 14, 2017

With a manned mission to Mars on the horizon, the demand for space-based supercomputing is at hand. Today HPE and NASA sent the first off-the-shelf HPC system i Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

AMD EPYC Video Takes Aim at Intel’s Broadwell

August 14, 2017

Let the benchmarking begin. Last week, AMD posted a YouTube video in which one of its EPYC-based systems outperformed a ‘comparable’ Intel Broadwell-based s Read more…

By John Russell

Deep Learning Thrives in Cancer Moonshot

August 8, 2017

The U.S. War on Cancer, certainly a worthy cause, is a collection of programs stretching back more than 40 years and abiding under many banners. The latest is t Read more…

By John Russell

IBM Raises the Bar for Distributed Deep Learning

August 8, 2017

IBM is announcing today an enhancement to its PowerAI software platform aimed at facilitating the practical scaling of AI models on today’s fastest GPUs. Scal Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

IBM Storage Breakthrough Paves Way for 330TB Tape Cartridges

August 3, 2017

IBM announced yesterday a new record for magnetic tape storage that it says will keep tape storage density on a Moore's law-like path far into the next decade. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

How ‘Knights Mill’ Gets Its Deep Learning Flops

June 22, 2017

Intel, the subject of much speculation regarding the delayed, rewritten or potentially canceled “Aurora” contract (the Argonne Lab part of the CORAL “ Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Nvidia’s Mammoth Volta GPU Aims High for AI, HPC

May 10, 2017

At Nvidia's GPU Technology Conference (GTC17) in San Jose, Calif., this morning, CEO Jensen Huang announced the company's much-anticipated Volta architecture a Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Reinders: “AVX-512 May Be a Hidden Gem” in Intel Xeon Scalable Processors

June 29, 2017

Imagine if we could use vector processing on something other than just floating point problems.  Today, GPUs and CPUs work tirelessly to accelerate algorithms Read more…

By James Reinders

Russian Researchers Claim First Quantum-Safe Blockchain

May 25, 2017

The Russian Quantum Center today announced it has overcome the threat of quantum cryptography by creating the first quantum-safe blockchain, securing cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, along with classified government communications and other sensitive digital transfers. Read more…

By Doug Black

Nvidia Responds to Google TPU Benchmarking

April 10, 2017

Nvidia highlights strengths of its newest GPU silicon in response to Google's report on the performance and energy advantages of its custom tensor processor. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Quantum Bits: D-Wave and VW; Google Quantum Lab; IBM Expands Access

March 21, 2017

For a technology that’s usually characterized as far off and in a distant galaxy, quantum computing has been steadily picking up steam. Just how close real-wo Read more…

By John Russell

Groq This: New AI Chips to Give GPUs a Run for Deep Learning Money

April 24, 2017

CPUs and GPUs, move over. Thanks to recent revelations surrounding Google’s new Tensor Processing Unit (TPU), the computing world appears to be on the cusp of Read more…

By Alex Woodie

HPC Compiler Company PathScale Seeks Life Raft

March 23, 2017

HPCwire has learned that HPC compiler company PathScale has fallen on difficult times and is asking the community for help or actively seeking a buyer for its a Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Leading Solution Providers

Google Debuts TPU v2 and will Add to Google Cloud

May 25, 2017

Not long after stirring attention in the deep learning/AI community by revealing the details of its Tensor Processing Unit (TPU), Google last week announced the Read more…

By John Russell

Trump Budget Targets NIH, DOE, and EPA; No Mention of NSF

March 16, 2017

President Trump’s proposed U.S. fiscal 2018 budget issued today sharply cuts science spending while bolstering military spending as he promised during the cam Read more…

By John Russell

CPU-based Visualization Positions for Exascale Supercomputing

March 16, 2017

In this contributed perspective piece, Intel’s Jim Jeffers makes the case that CPU-based visualization is now widely adopted and as such is no longer a contrarian view, but is rather an exascale requirement. Read more…

By Jim Jeffers, Principal Engineer and Engineering Leader, Intel

Six Exascale PathForward Vendors Selected; DoE Providing $258M

June 15, 2017

The much-anticipated PathForward awards for hardware R&D in support of the Exascale Computing Project were announced today with six vendors selected – AMD Read more…

By John Russell

Top500 Results: Latest List Trends and What’s in Store

June 19, 2017

Greetings from Frankfurt and the 2017 International Supercomputing Conference where the latest Top500 list has just been revealed. Although there were no major Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

IBM Clears Path to 5nm with Silicon Nanosheets

June 5, 2017

Two years since announcing the industry’s first 7nm node test chip, IBM and its research alliance partners GlobalFoundries and Samsung have developed a proces Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Messina Update: The US Path to Exascale in 16 Slides

April 26, 2017

Paul Messina, director of the U.S. Exascale Computing Project, provided a wide-ranging review of ECP’s evolving plans last week at the HPC User Forum. Read more…

By John Russell

Graphcore Readies Launch of 16nm Colossus-IPU Chip

July 20, 2017

A second $30 million funding round for U.K. AI chip developer Graphcore sets up the company to go to market with its “intelligent processing unit” (IPU) in Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

  • arrow
  • Click Here for More Headlines
  • arrow
Share This