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!

DoE Launches Chicago Quantum Exchange

June 26, 2017

While many of us were preoccupied with ISC 2017 last week, the launch of the Chicago Quantum Exchange went largely unnoticed. So what is such a thing? It is a Department of Energy sponsored collaboration between the Univ Read more…

By John Russell

UMass Dartmouth Reports on HPC Day 2017 Activities

June 26, 2017

UMass Dartmouth's Center for Scientific Computing & Visualization Research (CSCVR) organized and hosted the third annual "HPC Day 2017" on May 25th. This annual event showcases on-going scientific research in Massach Read more…

By Gaurav Khanna

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 “pre-exascale” award), parsed out additional information ab Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Tsinghua Crowned Eight-Time Student Cluster Champions at ISC

June 22, 2017

Always a hard-fought competition, the Student Cluster Competition awards were announced Wednesday, June 21, at the ISC High Performance Conference 2017. Amid whoops and hollers from the crowd, Thomas Sterling presented t Read more…

By Kim McMahon

HPE Extreme Performance Solutions

Creating a Roadmap for HPC Innovation at ISC 2017

In an era where technological advancements are driving innovation to every sector, and powering major economic and scientific breakthroughs, high performance computing (HPC) is crucial to tackle the challenges of today and tomorrow. Read more…

GPUs, Power9, Figure Prominently in IBM’s Bet on Weather Forecasting

June 22, 2017

IBM jumped into the weather forecasting business roughly a year and a half ago by purchasing The Weather Company. This week at ISC 2017, Big Blue rolled out plans to push deeper into climate science and develop more gran Read more…

By John Russell

Intersect 360 at ISC: HPC Industry at $44B by 2021

June 22, 2017

The care, feeding and sustained growth of the HPC industry increasingly is in the hands of the commercial market sector – in particular, it’s the hyperscale companies and their embrace of AI and deep learning – tha Read more…

By Doug Black

At ISC – Goh on Go: Humans Can’t Scale, the Data-Centric Learning Machine Can

June 22, 2017

I've seen the future this week at ISC, it’s on display in prototype or Powerpoint form, and it’s going to dumbfound you. The future is an AI neural network designed to emulate and compete with the human brain. In thi Read more…

By Doug Black

Cray Brings AI and HPC Together on Flagship Supers

June 20, 2017

Cray took one more step toward the convergence of big data and high performance computing (HPC) today when it announced that it’s adding a full suite of big data and artificial intelligence software to its top-of-the-l Read more…

By Alex Woodie

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

Tsinghua Crowned Eight-Time Student Cluster Champions at ISC

June 22, 2017

Always a hard-fought competition, the Student Cluster Competition awards were announced Wednesday, June 21, at the ISC High Performance Conference 2017. Amid wh Read more…

By Kim McMahon

GPUs, Power9, Figure Prominently in IBM’s Bet on Weather Forecasting

June 22, 2017

IBM jumped into the weather forecasting business roughly a year and a half ago by purchasing The Weather Company. This week at ISC 2017, Big Blue rolled out pla Read more…

By John Russell

Intersect 360 at ISC: HPC Industry at $44B by 2021

June 22, 2017

The care, feeding and sustained growth of the HPC industry increasingly is in the hands of the commercial market sector – in particular, it’s the hyperscale Read more…

By Doug Black

At ISC – Goh on Go: Humans Can’t Scale, the Data-Centric Learning Machine Can

June 22, 2017

I've seen the future this week at ISC, it’s on display in prototype or Powerpoint form, and it’s going to dumbfound you. The future is an AI neural network Read more…

By Doug Black

Cray Brings AI and HPC Together on Flagship Supers

June 20, 2017

Cray took one more step toward the convergence of big data and high performance computing (HPC) today when it announced that it’s adding a full suite of big d Read more…

By Alex Woodie

AMD Charges Back into the Datacenter and HPC Workflows with EPYC Processor

June 20, 2017

AMD is charging back into the enterprise datacenter and select HPC workflows with its new EPYC 7000 processor line, code-named Naples, announced today at a “g Read more…

By John Russell

Hyperion: Deep Learning, AI Helping Drive Healthy HPC Industry Growth

June 20, 2017

To be at the ISC conference in Frankfurt this week is to experience deep immersion in deep learning. Users want to learn about it, vendors want to talk about it Read more…

By Doug Black

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

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

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

Google Pulls Back the Covers on Its First Machine Learning Chip

April 6, 2017

This week Google released a report detailing the design and performance characteristics of the Tensor Processing Unit (TPU), its custom ASIC for the inference Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

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

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

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

Facebook Open Sources Caffe2; Nvidia, Intel Rush to Optimize

April 18, 2017

From its F8 developer conference in San Jose, Calif., today, Facebook announced Caffe2, a new open-source, cross-platform framework for deep learning. Caffe2 is the successor to Caffe, the deep learning framework developed by Berkeley AI Research and community contributors. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Leading Solution Providers

MIT Mathematician Spins Up 220,000-Core Google Compute Cluster

April 21, 2017

On Thursday, Google announced that MIT math professor and computational number theorist Andrew V. Sutherland had set a record for the largest Google Compute Engine (GCE) job. Sutherland ran the massive mathematics workload on 220,000 GCE cores using preemptible virtual machine instances. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

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

US Supercomputing Leaders Tackle the China Question

March 15, 2017

Joint DOE-NSA report responds to the increased global pressures impacting the competitiveness of U.S. supercomputing. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

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

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

DOE Supercomputer Achieves Record 45-Qubit Quantum Simulation

April 13, 2017

In order to simulate larger and larger quantum systems and usher in an age of “quantum supremacy,” researchers are stretching the limits of today’s most advanced supercomputers. 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

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

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