Rackspace announced Monday that it is open-sourcing its cloud computing platform, making a bid to bring some sorely needed interoperability to the cloud with the launch of the OpenStack project.
First up is the software behind the company's cloud storage engine, Rackspace Cloud Files. You can freely download early code at the OpenStack site under the Apache 2.0 license -- meaning of course that you can do pretty anything you want with the code. The full release is expected in mid-September, according to the site.
In mid-October, Rackspace will release OpenStack Compute, code based on its Cloud Servers technology and the Nebula platform operated by NASA, which is partnering with Rackspace on the project.
So basically, anyone will be able to download the software behind two massive cloud computing platforms and build their own. And NASA and Rackspace have pledged that their engineers will continue to develop the technology -- they kind of have to, considering that both organizations will be powering their clouds using OpenStack. Rackspace also says that it will commit money and manpower to supporting enterprise and service provider adoption of OpenStack.
"We are committed to an open design process," wrote Jim Curry, VP of corporate development at Racksapce and OpenStack lead, in a blog. "Rackspace will provide dedicated project leads to guide the roadmap on behalf of the community. We will hold regular design summits -- open to anyone -- which will produce a roadmap to guide development."
One of those design summits has held last week in Austin, with 100 participants from more than 25 companies, including AMD, Citrix, Dell and Intel, according to Lew Moorman, president of Rackspace's cloud offerings and chief strategy officer. In a blog, Moorman said that cloud community leaders and developers gathered at the summit to "meet and review the architecture, engage on technology direction and contribute code."
Who does Rackspace think will use the code? According to the OpenStack site, big organizations and service providers that have physical hardware they want to use for large-scale cloud deployments, as well as companies that have requirements that prevent them from using a public cloud.
But the real aim, according to Rackspace, is building industry standards and avoiding the kind of vendor lock-in that has characterized the cloud thus far.
"The entire tech ecosystem can build around this foundation," wrote Moorman. "With wide adoption, there will be a market for new services all around this core engine. From storage systems to monitoring tools to management systems, there is no end to what can be attached to the core project."
And, he added, "A core set of standards will be freely available and totally open. New technologies can be attached. Better solutions will be driven into the product. And, the use of this powerful technology will not tie you to the use of any other technologies."
Opening up its technology could be perceived as a risk for Rackspace, and Moorman noted that the company didn't make the move lightly. But, he saidm "while we at Rackspace hire top developers and engineers to make sure our technology is second to none, seeking a technology advantage has never been our approach. We have our own vision about how to deploy this technology and serve customers -- by giving them seamless access to scalable computing with the trusting partnership that comes through Fanatical Support."Having NASA lend its clout -- and technology -- to the project could held make it a success. In a statement, NASA CTO Chris Kemp, who has spearheaded the development of Nebula, said that the two organizations are "uniquely positioned to drive this initiative based on our experience in building large-scale cloud platforms and our desire to embrace open source."