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!

CMU’s Latest “Card Shark” – Libratus – is Beating the Poker Pros (Again)

January 20, 2017

It’s starting to look like Carnegie Mellon University has a gambling problem – can’t stay away from the poker table. Read more…

By John Russell

IDG to Be Bought by Chinese Investors; IDC to Spin Out HPC Group

January 19, 2017

US-based publishing and investment firm International Data Group, Inc. (IDG) will be acquired by a pair of Chinese investors, China Oceanwide Holdings Group Co., Ltd. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Weekly Twitter Roundup (Jan. 19, 2017)

January 19, 2017

Here at HPCwire, we aim to keep the HPC community apprised of the most relevant and interesting news items that get tweeted throughout the week. Read more…

By Thomas Ayres

France’s CEA and Japan’s RIKEN to Partner on ARM and Exascale

January 19, 2017

France’s CEA and Japan’s RIKEN institute announced a multi-faceted five-year collaboration to advance HPC generally and prepare for exascale computing. Among the particulars are efforts to: build out the ARM ecosystem; work on code development and code sharing on the existing and future platforms; share expertise in specific application areas (material and seismic sciences for example); improve techniques for using numerical simulation with big data; and expand HPC workforce training. It seems to be a very full agenda. Read more…

By Nishi Katsuya and John Russell

HPE Extreme Performance Solutions

Remote Visualization: An Integral Technology for Upstream Oil & Gas

As the exploration and production (E&P) of natural resources evolves into an even more complex and vital task, visualization technology has become integral for the upstream oil and gas industry. Read more…

ARM Waving: Attention, Deployments, and Development

January 18, 2017

It’s been a heady two weeks for the ARM HPC advocacy camp. At this week’s Mont-Blanc Project meeting held at the Barcelona Supercomputer Center, Cray announced plans to build an ARM-based supercomputer in the U.K. while Mont-Blanc selected Cavium’s ThunderX2 ARM chip for its third phase of development. Last week, France’s CEA and Japan’s Riken announced a deep collaboration aimed largely at fostering the ARM ecosystem. This activity follows a busy 2016 when SoftBank acquired ARM, OpenHPC announced ARM support, ARM released its SVE spec, Fujistu chose ARM for the post K machine, and ARM acquired HPC tool provider Allinea in December. Read more…

By John Russell

Women Coders from Russia, Italy, and Poland Top Study

January 17, 2017

According to a study posted on HackerRank today the best women coders as judged by performance on HackerRank challenges come from Russia, Italy, and Poland. Read more…

By John Russell

Spurred by Global Ambitions, Inspur in Joint HPC Deal with DDN

January 17, 2017

Inspur, the fast-growth cloud computing and server vendor from China that has several systems on the current Top500 list, and DDN, a leader in high-end storage, have announced a joint sales and marketing agreement to produce solutions based on DDN storage platforms integrated with servers, networking, software and services from Inspur. Read more…

By Doug Black

Weekly Twitter Roundup (Jan. 12, 2017)

January 12, 2017

Here at HPCwire, we aim to keep the HPC community apprised of the most relevant and interesting news items that get tweeted throughout the week. Read more…

By Thomas Ayres

IDG to Be Bought by Chinese Investors; IDC to Spin Out HPC Group

January 19, 2017

US-based publishing and investment firm International Data Group, Inc. (IDG) will be acquired by a pair of Chinese investors, China Oceanwide Holdings Group Co., Ltd. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

France’s CEA and Japan’s RIKEN to Partner on ARM and Exascale

January 19, 2017

France’s CEA and Japan’s RIKEN institute announced a multi-faceted five-year collaboration to advance HPC generally and prepare for exascale computing. Among the particulars are efforts to: build out the ARM ecosystem; work on code development and code sharing on the existing and future platforms; share expertise in specific application areas (material and seismic sciences for example); improve techniques for using numerical simulation with big data; and expand HPC workforce training. It seems to be a very full agenda. Read more…

By Nishi Katsuya and John Russell

ARM Waving: Attention, Deployments, and Development

January 18, 2017

It’s been a heady two weeks for the ARM HPC advocacy camp. At this week’s Mont-Blanc Project meeting held at the Barcelona Supercomputer Center, Cray announced plans to build an ARM-based supercomputer in the U.K. while Mont-Blanc selected Cavium’s ThunderX2 ARM chip for its third phase of development. Last week, France’s CEA and Japan’s Riken announced a deep collaboration aimed largely at fostering the ARM ecosystem. This activity follows a busy 2016 when SoftBank acquired ARM, OpenHPC announced ARM support, ARM released its SVE spec, Fujistu chose ARM for the post K machine, and ARM acquired HPC tool provider Allinea in December. Read more…

By John Russell

Spurred by Global Ambitions, Inspur in Joint HPC Deal with DDN

January 17, 2017

Inspur, the fast-growth cloud computing and server vendor from China that has several systems on the current Top500 list, and DDN, a leader in high-end storage, have announced a joint sales and marketing agreement to produce solutions based on DDN storage platforms integrated with servers, networking, software and services from Inspur. Read more…

By Doug Black

For IBM/OpenPOWER: Success in 2017 = (Volume) Sales

January 11, 2017

To a large degree IBM and the OpenPOWER Foundation have done what they said they would – assembling a substantial and growing ecosystem and bringing Power-based products to market, all in about three years. Read more…

By John Russell

UberCloud Cites Progress in HPC Cloud Computing

January 10, 2017

200 HPC cloud experiments, 80 case studies, and a ton of hands-on experience gained, that’s the harvest of four years of UberCloud HPC Experiments. Read more…

By Wolfgang Gentzsch and Burak Yenier

A Conversation with Women in HPC Director Toni Collis

January 6, 2017

In this SC16 video interview, HPCwire Managing Editor Tiffany Trader sits down with Toni Collis, the director and founder of the Women in HPC (WHPC) network, to discuss the strides made since the organization’s debut in 2014. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

BioTeam’s Berman Charts 2017 HPC Trends in Life Sciences

January 4, 2017

Twenty years ago high performance computing was nearly absent from life sciences. Today it’s used throughout life sciences and biomedical research. Genomics and the data deluge from modern lab instruments are the main drivers, but so is the longer-term desire to perform predictive simulation in support of Precision Medicine (PM). There’s even a specialized life sciences supercomputer, ‘Anton’ from D.E. Shaw Research, and the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center is standing up its second Anton 2 and actively soliciting project proposals. There’s a lot going on. Read more…

By John Russell

AWS Beats Azure to K80 General Availability

September 30, 2016

Amazon Web Services has seeded its cloud with Nvidia Tesla K80 GPUs to meet the growing demand for accelerated computing across an increasingly-diverse range of workloads. The P2 instance family is a welcome addition for compute- and data-focused users who were growing frustrated with the performance limitations of Amazon's G2 instances, which are backed by three-year-old Nvidia GRID K520 graphics cards. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

US, China Vie for Supercomputing Supremacy

November 14, 2016

The 48th edition of the TOP500 list is fresh off the presses and while there is no new number one system, as previously teased by China, there are a number of notable entrants from the US and around the world and significant trends to report on. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Vectors: How the Old Became New Again in Supercomputing

September 26, 2016

Vector instructions, once a powerful performance innovation of supercomputing in the 1970s and 1980s became an obsolete technology in the 1990s. But like the mythical phoenix bird, vector instructions have arisen from the ashes. Here is the history of a technology that went from new to old then back to new. Read more…

By Lynd Stringer

For IBM/OpenPOWER: Success in 2017 = (Volume) Sales

January 11, 2017

To a large degree IBM and the OpenPOWER Foundation have done what they said they would – assembling a substantial and growing ecosystem and bringing Power-based products to market, all in about three years. Read more…

By John Russell

Container App ‘Singularity’ Eases Scientific Computing

October 20, 2016

HPC container platform Singularity is just six months out from its 1.0 release but already is making inroads across the HPC research landscape. It's in use at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL), where Singularity founder Gregory Kurtzer has worked in the High Performance Computing Services (HPCS) group for 16 years. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Dell EMC Engineers Strategy to Democratize HPC

September 29, 2016

The freshly minted Dell EMC division of Dell Technologies is on a mission to take HPC mainstream with a strategy that hinges on engineered solutions, beginning with a focus on three industry verticals: manufacturing, research and life sciences. "Unlike traditional HPC where everybody bought parts, assembled parts and ran the workloads and did iterative engineering, we want folks to focus on time to innovation and let us worry about the infrastructure," said Jim Ganthier, senior vice president, validated solutions organization at Dell EMC Converged Platforms Solution Division. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Lighting up Aurora: Behind the Scenes at the Creation of the DOE’s Upcoming 200 Petaflops Supercomputer

December 1, 2016

In April 2015, U.S. Department of Energy Undersecretary Franklin Orr announced that Intel would be the prime contractor for Aurora: Read more…

By Jan Rowell

Enlisting Deep Learning in the War on Cancer

December 7, 2016

Sometime in Q2 2017 the first ‘results’ of the Joint Design of Advanced Computing Solutions for Cancer (JDACS4C) will become publicly available according to Rick Stevens. He leads one of three JDACS4C pilot projects pressing deep learning (DL) into service in the War on Cancer. Read more…

By John Russell

Leading Solution Providers

D-Wave SC16 Update: What’s Bo Ewald Saying These Days

November 18, 2016

Tucked in a back section of the SC16 exhibit hall, quantum computing pioneer D-Wave has been talking up its new 2000-qubit processor announced in September. Forget for a moment the criticism sometimes aimed at D-Wave. This small Canadian company has sold several machines including, for example, ones to Lockheed and NASA, and has worked with Google on mapping machine learning problems to quantum computing. In July Los Alamos National Laboratory took possession of a 1000-quibit D-Wave 2X system that LANL ordered a year ago around the time of SC15. Read more…

By John Russell

CPU Benchmarking: Haswell Versus POWER8

June 2, 2015

With OpenPOWER activity ramping up and IBM’s prominent role in the upcoming DOE machines Summit and Sierra, it’s a good time to look at how the IBM POWER CPU stacks up against the x86 Xeon Haswell CPU from Intel. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Nvidia Sees Bright Future for AI Supercomputing

November 23, 2016

Graphics chipmaker Nvidia made a strong showing at SC16 in Salt Lake City last week. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Beyond von Neumann, Neuromorphic Computing Steadily Advances

March 21, 2016

Neuromorphic computing – brain inspired computing – has long been a tantalizing goal. The human brain does with around 20 watts what supercomputers do with megawatts. And power consumption isn’t the only difference. Fundamentally, brains ‘think differently’ than the von Neumann architecture-based computers. While neuromorphic computing progress has been intriguing, it has still not proven very practical. Read more…

By John Russell

The Exascale Computing Project Awards $39.8M to 22 Projects

September 7, 2016

The Department of Energy’s Exascale Computing Project (ECP) hit an important milestone today with the announcement of its first round of funding, moving the nation closer to its goal of reaching capable exascale computing by 2023. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

BioTeam’s Berman Charts 2017 HPC Trends in Life Sciences

January 4, 2017

Twenty years ago high performance computing was nearly absent from life sciences. Today it’s used throughout life sciences and biomedical research. Genomics and the data deluge from modern lab instruments are the main drivers, but so is the longer-term desire to perform predictive simulation in support of Precision Medicine (PM). There’s even a specialized life sciences supercomputer, ‘Anton’ from D.E. Shaw Research, and the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center is standing up its second Anton 2 and actively soliciting project proposals. There’s a lot going on. Read more…

By John Russell

Dell Knights Landing Machine Sets New STAC Records

November 2, 2016

The Securities Technology Analysis Center, commonly known as STAC, has released a new report characterizing the performance of the Knight Landing-based Dell PowerEdge C6320p server on the STAC-A2 benchmarking suite, widely used by the financial services industry to test and evaluate computing platforms. The Dell machine has set new records for both the baseline Greeks benchmark and the large Greeks benchmark. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

What Knights Landing Is Not

June 18, 2016

As we get ready to launch the newest member of the Intel Xeon Phi family, code named Knights Landing, it is natural that there be some questions and potentially some confusion. Read more…

By James Reinders, Intel

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