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!

SC Bids Farewell to Denver, Heads to Dallas for 30th

November 17, 2017

After a jam-packed four-day expo and intensive six-day technical program, SC17 has wrapped up another successful event that brought together nearly 13,000 visitors to the Colorado Convention Center in Denver for the larg Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

SC17 Keynote – HPC Powers SKA Efforts to Peer Deep into the Cosmos

November 17, 2017

This week’s SC17 keynote – Life, the Universe and Computing: The Story of the SKA Telescope – was a powerful pitch for the potential of Big Science projects that also showcased the foundational role of high performance computing in modern science. It was also visually stunning. Read more…

By John Russell

How Cities Use HPC at the Edge to Get Smarter

November 17, 2017

Cities are sensoring up, collecting vast troves of data that they’re running through predictive models and using the insights to solve problems that, in some cases, city managers didn’t even know existed. Speaking Read more…

By Doug Black

HPE Extreme Performance Solutions

Harness Scalable Petabyte Storage with HPE Apollo 4510 and HPE StoreEver

As a growing number of connected devices challenges IT departments to rapidly collect, manage, and store troves of data, organizations must adopt a new generation of IT to help them operate quickly and intelligently. Read more…

SC17 Student Cluster Competition Configurations: Fewer Nodes, Way More Accelerators

November 16, 2017

The final configurations for each of the SC17 “Donnybrook in Denver” Student Cluster Competition have been released. Fortunately, each team received their equipment shipments on time and undamaged, so the teams are r Read more…

By Dan Olds

SC Bids Farewell to Denver, Heads to Dallas for 30th

November 17, 2017

After a jam-packed four-day expo and intensive six-day technical program, SC17 has wrapped up another successful event that brought together nearly 13,000 visit Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

SC17 Keynote – HPC Powers SKA Efforts to Peer Deep into the Cosmos

November 17, 2017

This week’s SC17 keynote – Life, the Universe and Computing: The Story of the SKA Telescope – was a powerful pitch for the potential of Big Science projects that also showcased the foundational role of high performance computing in modern science. It was also visually stunning. Read more…

By John Russell

How Cities Use HPC at the Edge to Get Smarter

November 17, 2017

Cities are sensoring up, collecting vast troves of data that they’re running through predictive models and using the insights to solve problems that, in some Read more…

By Doug Black

Student Cluster LINPACK Record Shattered! More LINs Packed Than Ever before!

November 16, 2017

Nanyang Technological University, the pride of Singapore, utterly destroyed the Student Cluster Competition LINPACK record by posting a score of 51.77 TFlop/s a Read more…

By Dan Olds

Hyperion Market Update: ‘Decent’ Growth Led by HPE; AI Transparency a Risk Issue

November 15, 2017

The HPC market update from Hyperion Research (formerly IDC) at the annual SC conference is a business and social “must,” and this year’s presentation at S Read more…

By Doug Black

Nvidia Focuses Its Cloud Containers on HPC Applications

November 14, 2017

Having migrated its top-of-the-line datacenter GPU to the largest cloud vendors, Nvidia is touting its Volta architecture for a range of scientific computing ta Read more…

By George Leopold

HPE Launches ARM-based Apollo System for HPC, AI

November 14, 2017

HPE doubled down on its memory-driven computing vision while expanding its processor portfolio with the announcement yesterday of the company’s first ARM-base Read more…

By Doug Black

OpenACC Shines in Global Climate/Weather Codes

November 14, 2017

OpenACC, the directive-based parallel programming model used mostly for porting codes to GPUs for use on heterogeneous systems, came to SC17 touting impressive Read more…

By John Russell

US Coalesces Plans for First Exascale Supercomputer: Aurora in 2021

September 27, 2017

At the Advanced Scientific Computing Advisory Committee (ASCAC) meeting, in Arlington, Va., yesterday (Sept. 26), it was revealed that the "Aurora" supercompute Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

NERSC Scales Scientific Deep Learning to 15 Petaflops

August 28, 2017

A collaborative effort between Intel, NERSC and Stanford has delivered the first 15-petaflops deep learning software running on HPC platforms and is, according Read more…

By Rob Farber

Oracle Layoffs Reportedly Hit SPARC and Solaris Hard

September 7, 2017

Oracle’s latest layoffs have many wondering if this is the end of the line for the SPARC processor and Solaris OS development. As reported by multiple sources Read more…

By John Russell

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

Google Releases Deeplearn.js to Further Democratize Machine Learning

August 17, 2017

Spreading the use of machine learning tools is one of the goals of Google’s PAIR (People + AI Research) initiative, which was introduced in early July. Last w Read more…

By John Russell

GlobalFoundries Puts Wind in AMD’s Sails with 12nm FinFET

September 24, 2017

From its annual tech conference last week (Sept. 20), where GlobalFoundries welcomed more than 600 semiconductor professionals (reaching the Santa Clara venue Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Amazon Debuts New AMD-based GPU Instances for Graphics Acceleration

September 12, 2017

Last week Amazon Web Services (AWS) streaming service, AppStream 2.0, introduced a new GPU instance called Graphics Design intended to accelerate graphics. The Read more…

By John Russell

AMD Showcases Growing Portfolio of EPYC and Radeon-based Systems at SC17

November 13, 2017

AMD’s charge back into HPC and the datacenter is on full display at SC17. Having launched the EPYC processor line in June along with its MI25 GPU the focus he Read more…

By John Russell

Leading Solution Providers

EU Funds 20 Million Euro ARM+FPGA Exascale Project

September 7, 2017

At the Barcelona Supercomputer Centre on Wednesday (Sept. 6), 16 partners gathered to launch the EuroEXA project, which invests €20 million over three-and-a-half years into exascale-focused research and development. Led by the Horizon 2020 program, EuroEXA picks up the banner of a triad of partner projects — ExaNeSt, EcoScale and ExaNoDe — building on their work... 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

Delays, Smoke, Records & Markets – A Candid Conversation with Cray CEO Peter Ungaro

October 5, 2017

Earlier this month, Tom Tabor, publisher of HPCwire and I had a very personal conversation with Cray CEO Peter Ungaro. Cray has been on something of a Cinderell Read more…

By Tiffany Trader & Tom Tabor

Cray Moves to Acquire the Seagate ClusterStor Line

July 28, 2017

This week Cray announced that it is picking up Seagate's ClusterStor HPC storage array business for an undisclosed sum. "In short we're effectively transitioning the bulk of the ClusterStor product line to Cray," said CEO Peter Ungaro. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Intel Launches Software Tools to Ease FPGA Programming

September 5, 2017

Field Programmable Gate Arrays (FPGAs) have a reputation for being difficult to program, requiring expertise in specialty languages, like Verilog or VHDL. Easin Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

HPC Chips – A Veritable Smorgasbord?

October 10, 2017

For the first time since AMD's ill-fated launch of Bulldozer the answer to the question, 'Which CPU will be in my next HPC system?' doesn't have to be 'Whichever variety of Intel Xeon E5 they are selling when we procure'. Read more…

By Dairsie Latimer

IBM Advances Web-based Quantum Programming

September 5, 2017

IBM Research is pairing its Jupyter-based Data Science Experience notebook environment with its cloud-based quantum computer, IBM Q, in hopes of encouraging a new class of entrepreneurial user to solve intractable problems that even exceed the capabilities of the best AI systems. 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

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