July 31, 2012
Today is an exciting day for anyone who follows the infrastructure or PaaS space today as Rackspace announced the general availability of cloud services powered by OpenStack. It’s also a satisfying day for those who have argued at length with people within the cloud community who have been adamant that OpenStack isn’t actually ready for primetime.
Rackspace’s deployment marks the first time that any company has deployed a large-scale OpenStack powered service offering and starts to deliver upon the broader OpenStack vision of open and hence federable clouds. Rackspace’s rollout includes compute and database, along with storage, CDN, load balances and monitoring. In Rackspace’s case this is underpinned by a new control panel designed to centralize and ease management and control of cloud usage within an organization.
With the move to OpenStack, Rackspace customers can now use the Rackspace Cloud in hybrid or private cloud instances. Customers can choose the best platform for their applications by using RackConnect which provides integration between public and private clouds within Rackspace. At the same time, Rackspace is announcing a Cloud Tools Marketplace which is a catalog of third-party-developed applications designed to work with the Rackspace Cloud. Through the marketplace, customers can browse, review and connect to cloud solutions focused on management, monitoring, application deployment, security and other functional areas.
Alongside these announcements comes something which really starts to deliver upon the value that PaaS brings – PaaS vendor AppFog is a launch partner for the Rackspace OpenStack cloud and with this move it means that application developers and managers can move their clouds easily across all OpenStack providers.
I spent some time talking to AppFog CEO Lucas Carlson about this and started asking his view on the claims that OpenStack isn’t ready for primetime. Carlson is very bullish on the initiative and over the last couple of years has seen it grow traction and momentum. He’s positive that with the Rackspace launch, OpenStack is ready for the enterprise and PaaS will gain traction – as developers finally have a way to ensure interoperability and workload portability. He told me that AppFog actually released its Rackspace infrastructure integration only a few days ago and in that time have seen it grow to the point where some 10% of their applications are running on Rackspace.
I then asked Carlson about the concerns within the cloud community about the fragmentation of OpenStack, he was quick to suggest that this in fact plays directly into the hands of PaaS providers since, in his words, IaaS has become something of a hodge podge of different, competing and sometimes conflicting flavors. PaaS abstracts that complexity away and integrates all the different flavors allowing workloads to be readily moved between different infrastructure vendors. I challenged Carlson to whip me up a quick screen cast to prove true application portability. The following video (no audio) may look pretty boring, but it’s pretty exciting for those who look to portable applications as the way of the future.
Open as a key strategy – the OpenStack initiative has been much-heralded, but much-lambasted at the same time. Conflicts around fragmentation and control (at an appropriate level) have been consistently thrown around the community. The announcement that one of the biggest public cloud providers is going live with OpenStack should put many of those criticisms to rest at last. True the initiative has a degree of fragmentation and the community needs to determine a core set of functionality which will be consistent across all OpenStack systems, but the very fact that people are walking the talk, is a proof point that OpenStack is real, and works. Many will question how much of Rackspace’s OpenStack relies on proprietary pieces of technology, and clearly there is some validity in this line of questioning. but that being said, this is a net positive for an open perspective on the cloud generally and OpenStack specifically.
PaaS delivers, at last – without wanting to sound evangelical about PaaS, for a few years now many of us have been talking up PaaS as the true future of cloud services. As we move to an infrastructure world which is more complex and heterogeneous, the value that companies such as AppFog bring cannot be overstated. Finally a vendor truly allows workloads to run across multiple flavors of infrastructure, both public and private, and abstracts all the complexities involved in that away from the end user. AppFog is already integrated with AWS, HP and Azure – with the addition of Rackspace, AppFog gives developers immense choice over where their applications sit.