OpenStack and Cloud Standards

AT&T announced that it has joined the OpenStack Community at the 2012 CES AT&T Developer Summit. As I pointed out in my blog “Mobile Trend Suggested by the 2012 AT&T Developer Summit”, this is a significant move for AT&T and Cloud Computing.

Friends have told me “Say more about it”. So I am writing this blog with the intention of explaining OpenStack and its impact in plain English.

First, let me do a quick Cloud 101 to set the context.

Cloud architecture usually has 3 layers which are called the SPI (“SaaS, PaaS and IaaS”, or Software as a Service, Platform as a Service and Infrastructure as a Service) model. See the attached diagram specifying some of the vendors for each layer.

Software as a Service (SaaS) provides applications running in a Cloud environment.

Platform as a Service (PaaS) provides a platform for developers to create and deploy their applications.

Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) provides system level capabilities for developers to take advantage of a complete computing environment.

IaaS is usually deployed in one of three models: Private Cloud, Public Cloud and Hybrid Cloud. Private Cloud is a Cloud computing environment that is dedicated to one customer. Public Cloud is open to the public and the customers pay for use. Hybrid Cloud has both public and private Cloud environments.

Now, let’s map OpenStack into the SPI model.

OpenStack was formed to address the IaaS layer when proprietary Cloud stacks were emerging. Rackspace and NASA started the OpenStack initiative in July 2010 with the intention to create open industry standards. Since then, it has grown into a community of 150+ companies and 2300+ members. It has on-going open source projects, under the Apache 2.0 license.

Currently, concern about being “locked-in” is shared by the Cloud solution providers, developers and consumers. OpenStack proposes that OpenStack implementation could eliminate vendor lock-in, proprietary protocols, closed hardware platforms and excessive enterprise licensing fees.

Standards organizations are still exploring the market needs and it will take a while to form industry standards because standards go through a series of evolutionary phases. For those who are waiting for IaaS to become standardized, perhaps collaboration with the OpenStack effort is a good way to go. AT&T is the first carrier to join the OpenStack to support its effort.

The business impact of IaaS Standards is huge. When standards are realized, IaaS Vendors have to quickly modify their proprietary implementations in order to make sure that their IaaS is interoperable with other Cloud stacks. Consumers will be able to host their apps in various Cloud structures to achieve cost reduction. Developers and solution vendors don’t have to deal with different Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) to get their apps platforms to run in the various Clouds.

The first to market solution will have the competitive advantage. For example, CloudScaling announced its IaaS solution based on the OpenStack open source project on February 13th. Cloud Technology Partners tm Inc. (CloudTPtm) has announced their partnership with CloudScaling to deliver an open cloud System to support next generation applications.

We shall expect to see more innovations and collaboration in the Cloud computing space this year.

What do you think? What are the advantages/disadvantages of OpenStack that you have seen? Leave your comments below.
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