OpenStack, VMware, Red Hat – Will the Real ‘Linux of the Cloud’ Please Stand Up?

By Tiffany Trader

August 21, 2012

A search for “Linux of the cloud” will turn up several candidates with claims staked to this honorific, among them OpenStack, VMware and Red Hat. In the race to open source cloud dominance, achieving a kind of Linux parity is the ultimate stamp of approval, but are any of these plays worthy of the bestowal?

First, VMware

VMware was just voted (in one survey) the preferred Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) provider. In partnership with Cloud Connect, Everest Group asked over 100 executives who had either purchased or planned to purchase cloud services to identify their preferred cloud management platform. VMware led the pack at 34 percent, followed by OpenStack (14 percent), IBM’s SmartCloud platform (12 percent), and CloudStack (9 percent). Sharing the rest of the pie were VCE, a joint venture between Cisco and EMC, (with 4 percent), and Eucalyptus Systems (3 percent).

While this is an interesting data point from a small but seemingly well-qualified survey, the vCloud platform is not VMware’s “Linux of the Cloud” candidate. That recognition goes to CloudFoundry, the developer-focused Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) offering that debuted as an open source project in April 2011.

One year later, VMware CTO Steve Herrod reaffirmed the company’s commitment to its “Open PaaS” approach. In both a company webinar and a blog entry, Herrod proclaimed VMware’s intention to be the “Linux of the cloud.”

The CTO emphasized the key open cloud mantra: freedom of choice. “Customers want to have the flexibility to move from a private cloud to a public cloud, from a public cloud to a private cloud or between public cloud providers, and not be locked into any particular cloud,” he wrote.

While VMware invented and popularized x86 virtualization, the company is not exactly synonymous with open source. At least not when it comes to IaaS: VMware’s vCloud software is closed. It’s true that VMware has created some open source plays, but to be clear, this is predominately a proprietary software company that also just so happens to be the main competition for a sea of open source cloud backers.

The Case for Red Hat

Leading enterprise Linux vendor, Red Hat has also used the phrase “Linux of the Cloud,” and their move last week to fully support OpenStack does help cement the company’s cloud play. Their open source cred is not in question, but the main focus of the company is a monetized distro: Red Hat Enterprise Linux. And while Red Hat’s OpenStack distribution is currently available in an unsupported (and free) preview mode, plans are underway for a paid and supported release.

Measuring Up to Linux

If you want to be compared to Linux, you have to be like Linux, the free and open source software collaboration started by Linus Torvalds. To qualify for “Linux of the Cloud” status means meeting certain criteria. To whit: the cloud framework in question should be open source, free, and have significant community adoption/involvement: i.e., a level of popularity. It should also be a base-line operating system of sorts. Just as Linux is the foundation of your system’s software, the Linux of the Cloud should form the foundation of your cloud. It should also be stable and robust, which the upcoming “Folsom” release of OpenStack promises to be.

As for community adoption, no open source cloud play comes close to Linux’s penetration. According to Wikipedia, Linux “has been ported to more computer hardware platforms than any other operating system.” While adoption is mostly unremarkable in the desktop market, it has about a 12% server share and a 60% technical computing share. Its use in supercomputing is nearly ubiquitous (source: TOP500), and it has a strong embedded play as well.

To recap, there are at least three vendors claiming Linux of the Cloud status, except, as careful readers have no doubt already noted, despite being open source, these are three distinct animals: an IaaS-building project (OpenStack); a developer-focused PaaS (VMware’s CloudFoundry) and a soon-to-be-productized IaaS platform (Red Hat’s OpenStack distro). Since the cloud stack is comprised of multiple levels, one could get more granular on the framing of their Linux comparison. So OpenStack could become the Linux of IaaS; and Cloud Foundry the Linux of PaaS. But whether these less-streamlined “catch-phrases” will be helpful to marketing efforts is open to interpretation.

I’d also argue that if any layer of the stack deserves the unmarked “cloud” label (i.e. “just cloud”), it should be the most foundational layer of the IaaS/PaaS/SaaS stack. On this point, OpenStack and Linux are both necessary application enablers with strong community support.

And the Winner Is

Among OpenStack, VMware and Red Hat, the OpenStack-Linux comparison holds the most water. Both Linux and OpenStack are free and open source software collaborations. One is a computer operating system, while the other a cloud operating system. (OpenStack project co-founder Rackspace bills the framework as an “open and scalable operating system for building public and private clouds.”). Where the comparison begins to break down is in maturity, market share, and in established community buy-in.

In the race to elect a dominant open cloud OS, the polls are still open. While open cloud has made huge strides over the last 12 months – with real merit too, not your usual cloud-washing hype – these types of proclamations of the type “cloud player x is the new black” are still speculative.

What’s more, the OpenStack project could potentially be suffering from flavor-of-the-month syndrome. Lest anyone forget, it still faces competition from open source IaaS-builders CloudStack, Eucalyptus Systems, and the somewhat lesser-known, although by no means less-capable, European project OpenNebula. While they all fall into the open source cloud OS space, there are some major technical and philosophical differences among the camps. There are also private/public distinctions. While OpenStack and CloudStack straddle the two spheres and can thus be used by enterprise or service providers, the other two stacks enable the building of private clouds. With this in mind, it makes sense that the Eucalyptus software has Amazon-approved API compatibility for that hybrid cloud best-of-both world’s scenario – they are complementary products and thus natural partners.

Final Thoughts

When you consider their myriad distinguishing characteristics framed against the scope of global computing as more and more developing nations take their seat at the table, the case for coexisting multiple mature open cloud operating systems solidifies – so maybe there’s room for more than one Linux of the Cloud – for a while a least. Cloud is fast becoming the computing default, at least in non-HPC circles. Does the continuing commoditization of computing power combined with the inclination toward economies of scale mean we’ll see ever-larger ultra-scale clouds that grow in size as they shrink in number? Will there ever be one planetary datacenter to rule them or is there a limit to economy of scale? Perhaps end-stage cloud (and the name is unimportant) is a global utility – a natural monopoly that will have to be regulated against.

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!

AI-Focused ‘Genius’ Supercomputer Installed at KU Leuven

April 24, 2018

Hewlett Packard Enterprise has deployed a new approximately half-petaflops supercomputer, named Genius, at Flemish research university KU Leuven. The system is built to run artificial intelligence (AI) workloads and, as Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

New Exascale System for Earth Simulation Introduced

April 23, 2018

After four years of development, the Energy Exascale Earth System Model (E3SM) will be unveiled today and released to the broader scientific community this month. The E3SM project is supported by the Department of Energy Read more…

By Staff

RSC Reports 500Tflops, Hot Water Cooled System Deployed at JINR

April 18, 2018

RSC, developer of supercomputers and advanced HPC systems based in Russia, today reported deployment of “the world's first 100% ‘hot water’ liquid cooled supercomputer” at Joint Institute for Nuclear Research (JI Read more…

By Staff

HPE Extreme Performance Solutions

Hybrid HPC is Speeding Time to Insight and Revolutionizing Medicine

High performance computing (HPC) is a key driver of success in many verticals today, and health and life science industries are extensively leveraging these capabilities. Read more…

New Device Spots Quantum Particle ‘Fingerprint’

April 18, 2018

Majorana particles have been observed by university researchers employing a device consisting of layers of magnetic insulators on a superconducting material. The advance opens the door to controlling the elusive particle Read more…

By George Leopold

AI-Focused ‘Genius’ Supercomputer Installed at KU Leuven

April 24, 2018

Hewlett Packard Enterprise has deployed a new approximately half-petaflops supercomputer, named Genius, at Flemish research university KU Leuven. The system is Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Cray Rolls Out AMD-Based CS500; More to Follow?

April 18, 2018

Cray was the latest OEM to bring AMD back into the fold with introduction today of a CS500 option based on AMD’s Epyc processor line. The move follows Cray’ Read more…

By John Russell

IBM: Software Ecosystem for OpenPOWER is Ready for Prime Time

April 16, 2018

With key pieces of the IBM/OpenPOWER versus Intel/x86 gambit settling into place – e.g., the arrival of Power9 chips and Power9-based systems, hyperscaler sup Read more…

By John Russell

US Plans $1.8 Billion Spend on DOE Exascale Supercomputing

April 11, 2018

On Monday, the United States Department of Energy announced its intention to procure up to three exascale supercomputers at a cost of up to $1.8 billion with th Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Cloud-Readiness and Looking Beyond Application Scaling

April 11, 2018

There are two aspects to consider when determining if an application is suitable for running in the cloud. The first, which we will discuss here under the title Read more…

By Chris Downing

Transitioning from Big Data to Discovery: Data Management as a Keystone Analytics Strategy

April 9, 2018

The past 10-15 years has seen a stark rise in the density, size, and diversity of scientific data being generated in every scientific discipline in the world. Key among the sciences has been the explosion of laboratory technologies that generate large amounts of data in life-sciences and healthcare research. Large amounts of data are now being stored in very large storage name spaces, with little to no organization and a general unease about how to approach analyzing it. Read more…

By Ari Berman, BioTeam, Inc.

IBM Expands Quantum Computing Network

April 5, 2018

IBM is positioning itself as a first mover in establishing the era of commercial quantum computing. The company believes in order for quantum to work, taming qu Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

FY18 Budget & CORAL-2 – Exascale USA Continues to Move Ahead

April 2, 2018

It was not pretty. However, despite some twists and turns, the federal government’s Fiscal Year 2018 (FY18) budget is complete and ended with some very positi Read more…

By Alex R. Larzelere

Inventor Claims to Have Solved Floating Point Error Problem

January 17, 2018

"The decades-old floating point error problem has been solved," proclaims a press release from inventor Alan Jorgensen. The computer scientist has filed for and Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Researchers Measure Impact of ‘Meltdown’ and ‘Spectre’ Patches on HPC Workloads

January 17, 2018

Computer scientists from the Center for Computational Research, State University of New York (SUNY), University at Buffalo have examined the effect of Meltdown Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

How the Cloud Is Falling Short for HPC

March 15, 2018

The last couple of years have seen cloud computing gradually build some legitimacy within the HPC world, but still the HPC industry lies far behind enterprise I Read more…

By Chris Downing

Russian Nuclear Engineers Caught Cryptomining on Lab Supercomputer

February 12, 2018

Nuclear scientists working at the All-Russian Research Institute of Experimental Physics (RFNC-VNIIEF) have been arrested for using lab supercomputing resources to mine crypto-currency, according to a report in Russia’s Interfax News Agency. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Chip Flaws ‘Meltdown’ and ‘Spectre’ Loom Large

January 4, 2018

The HPC and wider tech community have been abuzz this week over the discovery of critical design flaws that impact virtually all contemporary microprocessors. T Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

How Meltdown and Spectre Patches Will Affect HPC Workloads

January 10, 2018

There have been claims that the fixes for the Meltdown and Spectre security vulnerabilities, named the KPTI (aka KAISER) patches, are going to affect applicatio Read more…

By Rosemary Francis

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

Deep Learning at 15 PFlops Enables Training for Extreme Weather Identification at Scale

March 19, 2018

Petaflop per second deep learning training performance on the NERSC (National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center) Cori supercomputer has given climate Read more…

By Rob Farber

Leading Solution Providers

Fast Forward: Five HPC Predictions for 2018

December 21, 2017

What’s on your list of high (and low) lights for 2017? Volta 100’s arrival on the heels of the P100? Appearance, albeit late in the year, of IBM’s Power9? Read more…

By John Russell

Lenovo Unveils Warm Water Cooled ThinkSystem SD650 in Rampup to LRZ Install

February 22, 2018

This week Lenovo took the wraps off the ThinkSystem SD650 high-density server with third-generation direct water cooling technology developed in tandem with par Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

AI Cloud Competition Heats Up: Google’s TPUs, Amazon Building AI Chip

February 12, 2018

Competition in the white hot AI (and public cloud) market pits Google against Amazon this week, with Google offering AI hardware on its cloud platform intended Read more…

By Doug Black

HPC and AI – Two Communities Same Future

January 25, 2018

According to Al Gara (Intel Fellow, Data Center Group), high performance computing and artificial intelligence will increasingly intertwine as we transition to Read more…

By Rob Farber

New Blueprint for Converging HPC, Big Data

January 18, 2018

After five annual workshops on Big Data and Extreme-Scale Computing (BDEC), a group of international HPC heavyweights including Jack Dongarra (University of Te Read more…

By John Russell

US Plans $1.8 Billion Spend on DOE Exascale Supercomputing

April 11, 2018

On Monday, the United States Department of Energy announced its intention to procure up to three exascale supercomputers at a cost of up to $1.8 billion with th Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Momentum Builds for US Exascale

January 9, 2018

2018 looks to be a great year for the U.S. exascale program. The last several months of 2017 revealed a number of important developments that help put the U.S. Read more…

By Alex R. Larzelere

Google Chases Quantum Supremacy with 72-Qubit Processor

March 7, 2018

Google pulled ahead of the pack this week in the race toward "quantum supremacy," with the introduction of a new 72-qubit quantum processor called Bristlecone. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

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