OpenStack Bexar Design Summit Day 1

Yesterday, Dell sent me to be part of our OpenStack vanguard for the design summit.  The conference is fascinating and productive for the content of the sessions and even more interesting for the hallway meetings.

It’s obvious looking at the board composition that RackSpace and NASA Nova are driving  most of the development; however, the is palpable community interest and enthusiasm.  Participants and contributors showed up in force at this event.

RackSpace and NASA leadership provides critical momentum for the community.  Code is the smallest part of their contribution, their commitment to run the code at scale in production is the magic rocket fuel powering OpenStack. I’ve had many conversations with partners and prospects planning to follow RackSpace into production with a 3-6 month lag.

Beyond that primary conference arc, my impressions:

  • Core vendors like Citrix, Dell, Canonical are signing up to do primary work for the code base.  They are taking ownership for their own components in the stack.
  • Universally, people comment about the speed of progress and amount of code being generated.  Did I mention that there is a lot of code being written.
  • Networking is still a major challenge.  OpenStack (with Citrix’s Xen support) is driving Open vSwitchas a replacement for iptables management.
  • IPv6 gets lackadaisical treatment in the US, but is urgent in Japan/Asia where their core infrastructure is ALREADY IPv6.  Their frustration to get attention here should be a canary in the cloud mine (but is not).  They proposed a gateway model where VMs have dual addresses: IPv4 gets NATed while IPv6 is a pass-through. Seems to me that the going IPv6 internal is the real solution.
  • Cloud bursting is still too fuzzy a thing to talk about in a big group.  The session about it covered so many use-cases that we did not accomplish anything.  Some people wanted to talk about cloud API proxy while others (myself included) wanted to talk about managing apps between clouds.  My $0.02 is that vendors like RightScale solve the API proxy issue so it’s the networking issues that need focus.  We need to get back to the use-cases!

Executive Tweet: #openstack: Partners & Code = great progress.  Networking = needs more love

Other notes:

VM != Cloud! Comparision draws ire, misses point

Having the requirement benefit of working with both Dave McCrory and Joyent on a daily basis at Dell, I cannot resist weighing in on the blog pong between them.

Dave’s post comparing VM pricing prompted Joyent to blog that VMs are not the only measure of cloud.

While I completely agree that clouds are not all about VMs, I think that Joyent is too limited in their definition of cloud in their reply.  We’re seeing an emergence of services as the differentiator between clouds.

Looking at Amazon, Azure, and Google, the clear way to reduce cloud spend is to migrate applications to consume their services (SQL, Storage, Bus, etc).

If cloud users are primarily concerned about price per hour (which I’m not convinced is the case) then they have real motivation to migrate from purely VM (or SmartMachine(tm) ) based applications to ones that use services.

API vs. API: How Amazon EC2 kicks VMware, RackSpace, and Microsoft

My day job is to try and choose and influence Cloud technologies so it’s no surprise when to hear different vendors pitching why their cloud API is more open, standards based, or performant.  They have convincing yet irrelevant arguments: the primary measure of a cloud API is the size of its ecosystem.

The API’s ecosystem is the number (and vitality) of the upstream partners, SaaS services, PaaS vendors, and ISVs that have built their business on top of that API.  The fundamental truth of this model, like all ad hoc IT standards, is that success is built on business traction, not on technical merit or endorsement by standards bodies.

So which Cloud API will be the winner?  We’re just rounding the first turn and Amazon is ahead.  Let’s look at the lead fillies

  • Amazon EC2/S3 has the clear leadership.  Their API is widely copied (without clear license to do so!), includes storage and their billing model is highly innovative.
  • Microsoft Azure is making a big push.  Windows continues to dominate as a platform and their SQL cloud helps address application porting.  In addition, their PaaS integration provides a forward migration.
  • VMware vCloud has taken to high road through the official standards bodies.  VMware dominates the private cloud space and their vCenter API represents a larger ecosystem than any other virtualization API.   This ecosystem guarantees that vCloud will be widely adopted but if they can cross over into public clouds is fuzzier.
  • RackSpace has an interesting position by offering both dedicated and shared hosting.  Their service and API have been along for a long time.  They have just not created the buzz that Amazon gets.  They could be a swing vote depending on their future decisions around Cloud APIs.

But maybe we don’t have to pick the winner!  Perhaps there’s an option for a trifecta bet where we don’t have to pick a single winner.  This scenario of building a multi-API abstraction layer is getting a lot of interest and creating a lot of value.  Vendors include RightScale, DeltaCloud (was RedHat, now Apache), and jCloud.

Right now, I’m sitting in the Delta Cloud session at RedHat Summit/JBoss World.  One of my concerns about API aggregation is that the API abstraction has to be either least common denominator (LCD) or have strange exceptions.  For example, the speaker is saying that approaches to Firewalls are very different or completely missing.  This creates a serious aggravation for aggregation:  does the API leave a gap, favor one API, or invent yet another way to solve the problem.

I believe the cloud API race is not just a single horse race for the Cloud Computing Cup, it’s more like the Triple Crown.   The real winning API will cover compute, network, and storage management.   

Then again, accelerating PaaS adoption could make these IaaS Clouds into buggy whip manufacturers.

Disclosure:  My employeer, Dell, is a partner with many of the companies listed above.