Rackspace is one of the leaders of the Openstack alliance, an open source cloud initiative that aims to break Amazon’s stranglehold on the industry by offering open application programmable interfaces (APIs). Until now Openstack has largely been all talk, but Rackspace has deployed a production Openstack cloud that the firm claims will help it sell Openstack to the enterprise.
Fabio Torlini, VP of cloud at Rackspace said the firm has been “going flat out to make the code production ready”. Torlini said Rackspace’s decision to deploy an Openstack based cloud could be a tipping point in deployment. “It’s going to be the catalyst for many other companies deploying Openstack,” said Torlini.
Rackspace has been the largest contributor to Openstack and the fact that it has the first major Openstack deployment support claims that Rackspace is getting the most out of Openstack.
However Torlini said, “For us, we’re able to be the first one to launch a large scale Openstack compute platform because, yes, we are one of the main providers of the original code and we are a founder of Openstack, so we have tried to develop Openstack as a neutral foundation and it is a foundation to provide a service to all its members. But we’re lucky enough to be one of the founder members, to be able to drive it, and get there [deployment] first.”
Torlini defended Rackspace’s role in the Openstack alliance, claiming the strong leadership shown by the firm is good for the community. Torlini said, “Openstack is beneficial to the product itself but that’s the whole point. The whole idea of many more providers going onto Openstack helping develop the Openstack cloud, helping advance the actual products and code is the whole point of Openstack. On the counter side of that argument is if it’s beneficial for us it is just as beneficial for any other member of Openstack because they have access to the same code and they are able to provide.”
Torlini admitted that Openstack and the community is an advantage for the firm but claimed it wasn’t possible for Rackspace to dominate. “You have companies in Openstack that are far larger than Rackspace enabled to put much more resources into Openstack as well, it’s impossible for us to dominate Openstack – it’s an independent foundation. Is it advantageous from a product perspective? I should damn well hope so,” said Torlini.
As for Amazon, which operates a proprietary cloud, Torlini suggested the firm might have to open up if it is to remain competitive. Torlini said, “I think they [Amazon] may need to force themselves to go in that direction. What I think they will struggle with is to offer is the complete level of service [...] in terms of supporting private clouds based on the same code set and public clouds based on the same codeset. There’s a big gap for them to close because they don’t come from a service background but I think they will have make their products more open.”
Rackspace’s Openstack cloud is a big seal of approval for the software to which the firm and many other large software vendors have contributed. Torlini is correct in that Rackspace’s move could well spur others to move away from Amazon in the search of interoperability with multiple cloud providers, however until Rackspace’s competitors start deploying Openstack based clouds, there won’t be a big difference to developers.
Security experts have warned that the cloud could suffer the same kind of collapses that plague the financial system. Bryan Ford at Yale University in New Haven says that the full risks of this migration have yet to be explored. Complex systems, such as the Cloud, can fail in many unexpected ways and outlines various simple scenarios in which a cloud could come unstuck.
He said that a cloud could experience a full meltdown that could threaten any business. Ford said that while individual systems on a cloud might play nice, if you have other application providers in the same cause problems for another. He came up with a scenario were two conflicting load balancing programs operate with the same refresh period and when these periods coincide, the control loops start sending the load back and forth between the virtual servers in a positive feedback loop.
He said that “This simplistic example might be unlikely to occur in exactly this form on real systems—or might be quickly detected and “?xed” during development and testing—but it suggests a general risk.” Ford said that similar problems happened during ?nancial industry crashes.
But he said that a more general risk arises when systems are complex because seemingly unrelated parts can become coupled in unexpected ways. Complexity theorists are beginning to recognise this problem and the consensus is that bizarre and unpredictable behavior often emerges in systems made up of “networks of networks”. Ford concludes with the following: “We should study [these unrecognized risks] before our socioeconomic fabric becomes inextricably dependent on a convenient but potentially unstable computing model.”
Few companies have moved to cloud computing — the delivery of computing as a service from remote centers — and of those that have, many are disappointed with the results, a survey published on Tuesday revealed.
Fewer than one in five organizations questioned have outsourced the hosting of their applications to cloud computing providers, with two-thirds in early discussions, in trials or not considering a move, said computer security firm Symantec.
Many firms are looking at cloud computing providers such as Amazon, Microsoft, Salesforce, Google or Rackspace to help them increase their scale without installing expensive hardware and software locally.
IT research firm Forrester has forecast that the global cloud computing market will grow from $41 billion this year to $241 billion in 2020.
While three out of four organizations have adopted or are currently adopting cloud services such as backup, storage and security, when it comes to the wholesale outsourcing of applications there is more talk than action, Symantec found.
Concerns about security and a lack of expertise among IT staff are the main factors holding companies back, according to the survey of 5,300 organizations carried out by Symantec, which makes the popular Norton anti-virus software.
“While computing changes constantly, most shifts are simple changes that don’t require organizations to change the core of how they work. Not so with cloud computing,” Symantec said. “It requires organizations to change how they approach IT.”
Symantec found that security was the number-one concern of organizations mulling a move to the cloud, with more than half of respondents worried about malware outbreaks, hackers stealing their data and insiders sharing sensitive information.
But the majority of respondents also said they expected that implementing cloud computing would eventually improve or at least not affect their security.