Summary:

After years of debate over the role of open source in cloud computing, the possibility of a top-to-bottom, open-source, infrastructure stack now looks very real, with much of the designs and code needed to build a cloud from the ground up available free of charge.

stack of cubes

After years of debate over the role of open source in cloud computing, the possibility of a top-to-bottom, open-source, infrastructure stack suddenly looks very real. The recent announcements of Facebook’s Open Compute and VMware’s Cloud Foundry  address the hardware architecture and Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) layers, respectively. Together with Rackspace’s OpenStack, which addresses the Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) layer, much of the code and data center and server designs one might need to build a cloud from the ground up are available free of charge. Despite their disparity in terms of function, they might actually be ideal complements to one another.

Of the three, OpenStack is the linchpin, and after talking with OpenStack Project Chairman Jonathan Bryce on Wednesday, it seems to be open to that role. In fact, Bryce mentioned one element — the Open Compute integration — is already in progress. At Facebook’s Open Compute unveiling last week, Bryce’s team a contingent of OpenStack members was able to stand up an OpenStack cloud on the Open Compute reference nodes in just 3.5 hours.

Bryce acknowledged that such an efficient design will be a big deal for service providers, as well as large enterprises that operate like service providers. Conveniently, those just happen to be OpenStack’s target audiences. Bryce wouldn’t comment on any official plans within Rackspace to use the Open Compute designs, but as Stacey reported last week, Rackspace Chairman Graham Weston acknowledged plans to “adapt Facebook’s ideas for its own use, and perhaps build on them.”

Regarding Cloud Foundry, Bryce said while he’s not fully up to speed on specifics, it looks like a complement to OpenStack based on what he’s seen. Depending on the users and their roles within organizations, different people will have different needs when it comes to cloud software, he noted, so while developers might rather just write code and deploy it, the IT department will need access to the IaaS layer to coordinate resource provisioning and other lower-level concerns. Many PaaS offerings, including Heroku, run atop IaaS clouds such as Amazon EC2. In fact, it was Bryce who suggested the possibility of Cloud Foundry running atop OpenStack running on Open Compute-based hardware.

Yes, we’re only a week out from the Open Compute announcement and two days out from the Cloud Foundry news, but the writing is on the wall for how cloud computing and open source might ultimately converge. No open-source cloud software will replace AWS anytime soon. But a little collaboration between OpenStack and Cloud Foundry could give cloud builders their own Linux to rival AWS’s Windows (or Microsoft itself, with Windows Azure). That would spur competition and result in goodness for everyone. For those willing to build their own data centers, too, Open Compute is icing on the cake.

Image courtesy of Glyn Baker.

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