Home News Featured Blogs Libby Clark

Marten Mickos: Openness is Winning in the Cloud

Open source cloud computing software startup Eucalyptus has had an eventful past few months:

-       In March the Infrastructure-as-a-Service company signed a deal with Amazon Web Services to improve its compatibility with the Amazon API and address customers jointly. This makes Eucalyptus the only cloud vendor to land a formal agreement with the market-leading platform, though it’s not the only one using the API.

-       In April the company raised $30 million in Series C funding, setting it on solid financial footing to fuel its rapid expansion says CEO Marten Mickos.

-       And Eucalyptus 3.1 is coming soon, marking the company’s shift to a much more open development model and placing it firmly at the center of the open source cloud computing movement.

As part of our ongoing focus on open source cloud, we talked with Mickos about Linux and the open cloud, the role of APIs and where open source cloud computing is headed. The interview is presented in two parts. In part two we discuss Eucalyptus’s business in more detail.

Marten Mickos, CEO of Open cloud has been gaining momentum in the past few months with the announcement of CloudOpen and activity around OpenStack. What’s driving that attention?

Marten Mickos: I think generally speaking people are realizing how important cloud is. And when you look at what’s out there, there’s VMWare and then there’s nothing. And then you have four open source projects: OpenNebula; OpenStack; CloudStack; and Eucalyptus. When you want an alternative you are immediately in open source space. What has changed in open source cloud computing since you spoke about it a year ago at LinuxCon?

Mickos: Products have matured. It’s following a typical technology adoption lifecycle, described in Crossing the Chasm. We’re still early but we’re less early than a year ago. In that talk last year you said GPL was vital to Linux, do you see a similar legal framework developing for the cloud yet?

Mickos: It’s an important question but it’s a little philosophical. We have GPL which defines software as free and open. When you go into the cloud it’s not only about source code - it is also about data and API. Today, openness in data and API is up to each vendor - there isn't yet a common rulebook for it like the GPL is the rulebook for free software.

But I do think we’re seeing de facto standards emerging in cloud. To take Eucalyptus as a specific example, we do the same cloud API as Amazon. We see EC2 as a de facto standard. The Linux Foundation has announced a new conference this year, Cloud Open, intended to encourage collaboration among open source players in cloud computing. What do you see as the Linux Foundation’s role in the open cloud movement?

Mickos: The Linux Foundation is one of the most central bodies in software in the whole world. We don’t hear much from The Linux Foundation because it’s so well managed. There haven’t been any big conflicts. Linus Torvalds keeps working on the kernel and after 20 years it keeps feeding a huge ecosystem downstream. Just doing that is already amazing.

I don’t think The Linux Foundation feels that it has to take on some mandate. It is important and relevant that KVM and Xen are now part of the Linux kernel. That’s an indication of the importance of cloud. It’s so important to keep Linux in active development in managing all the work from different parties, which is the key mandate for The Linux Foundation. What about the role of Linux in open cloud?

Mickos: As we get more datacenters running in the cloud the underlying architecture will be Linux. Cloud will mean an increase in the Linux install base. Linux is so well suited for it. It powers already the largest datacenters and as we move to cloud architectures it’s good to have it there. I think cloud will increase the share of Linux on servers. What’s your outlook on the open source cloud movement in general?

Mickos: Openness is winning in cloud. I was just at a Goldman Sachs cloud conference. Out of 15 companies presenting, ten were open source companies. That’s significant. There’s much more coming and promising startups are scaling in size. Companies like Cloudera, Acquia, Opscode and Puppet Labs.

They have a large install base, they have great customers, and they’re competitive against closed source. It bodes well for the world of open source. It’s important in my mind that open source isn’t just a technology, but that there are businesses who thrive on and around open source. Take Red Hat as an example. People forget how critical it is that they’re successful showing that open source makes business sense. We need such role models and it’s very healthy for the open source community. You’ve said that we’re in a transitional period in which programming freedom isn’t about source code anymore, it’s about API’s. What do you mean by that? And how does that apply to the open cloud?

Mickos: It is also about source code, but it’s not only about source code. I’m a huge supporter of open source, but the attention is pointing more to the APIs. Ten years ago you’d say that your application runs on Linux. The question now is does your application run on AWS? And of course AWS runs some Linux. But we have reached a new abstraction layer. We are higher up. And we talk about apps running on a specific cloud, not on a specific operating system. It’s difficult to find a public cloud today that doesn’t run on Linux. Your talk about making API’s open was prescient considering the precedent now being set by Google and Oracle. What is the danger here?

Mickos: I’m not a legal expert so don’t want to comment on the specifics of the lawsuit. But generally speaking there are many products that claim Amazon API compatibility or are developing it.


Open Source Cloud Top Stories of the Week

This week's open source cloud headlines featured doomsday predictions about the consequences of the Oracle and Google dispute; why Rackspace's first quarter earnings have some analysts scaling down cloud computing predictions; and a crop of interesting trends including moves to abandon hypervisors and go bare metal in the cloud. 

Could Oracle Blow Up the Cloud?, Wired
An analysis of how the recent decision in the Oracle v Google case would potentially affect the cloud. If APIs are protected under copyright, open source cloud projects including OpenStack and CloudStack could wind up paying fees to Amazon Web Services.
Rackspace Earnings: Cloud Computing, Services Reality Check, Talkin Cloud Blog
The margins on Rackspace’s cloud computing earnings are fluctuating more than investors would like, signalling that the market isn’t going as gangbusters as predicted. Growth was still very strong, however, and the company reassured investors by pumping up its plans for OpenStack.

Citrix CloudStack: 85% of VARs See Private Cloud Opportunities, Talkin Cloud Blog
No real suprising news out of the Citrix Partner Summit in San Francisco this week. The market is young and Citrix is going after the group of VARs and cloud service providers that already partner with Citrix.
Open-source cloud frameworks: A work in progress, ComputerWorld
This overview of open source cloud Infrastructure-as-a-Service and Platform-as-a-Service offerings includes a few case studies from businesses using open source frameworks.

6fusion Goes Vendor-Agnostic with Xen, Citrix Support, Talkin Cloud Blog
This IaaS provider is branching out from VMWare to include Citrix Xen and open source Xen support. The market is chafing against vendor lockin and this company is looking to make the hypervisor less relevant to cloud services.

Going native: The move to bare-metal cloud services, InfoWorld
This article seems to back up 6Fusion’s assertion that hypervisors aren’t necessary for cloud services and that there’s a trend away from them in the market.

The battle to stop Amazon Web Services starts here, InfoWorld
Expect to see more IaaS/ PaaS partnerships and acquisitions as companies align against AWS.


Piston Cloud, the Red Hat of OpenStack Cloud Computing?

With the recent buzz around the OpenStack project, momentum behind open source cloud development is building. We’re now seeing an early ecosystem of companies and products built around OpenStack – a goal that Rackspace’s Lew Moorman laid out for the project when it launched two years ago.

“We hope to build a vibrant business community around this,” Moorman said in a 2010 OSCON presentation. “If companies can build around OpenStack it’s going to pay for developers to continue to give back.”

Piston Cloud Computing was one of the first to jump into the fray as an Infrastructure-as-a-Service startup built on the OpenStack framework. The one-year-old company is both contributing to and seizing the momentum behind OpenStack as the project’s only distribution (so far).

Christopher MacGown, CTO Piston CloudWe talked recently with Christopher MacGown, a Piston Cloud co-founder and CTO, about the kind of open source ecosystem he sees developing around OpenStack and his company’s claim as the Red Hat of OpenStack. There are now several IT companies built around OpenStack, mostly offering services, how are you different?

Christopher MacGown: We’re primarily a product company. We’ve built the first of many distributions of OpenStack. We’re also private cloud focused versus those focused on OpenStack-based public clouds.

We’re one of the few companies for whom OpenStack is the big bet for our company. We succeed when OpenStack succeeds. Whereas some of these other companies have services divisions or other open source projects they can fall back on. How are you integrated with OpenStack?

MacGown: At Piston Cloud we’re amongst the founders of OpenStack. My fellow cofounders were both at NASA and worked on the Nebula project, one of the key technologies behind OpenStack. I was at Rackspace at the time and trying to figure out how to make it open source.

We’re still really involved with the project. I’m on the Nova Core team for OpenStack compute. And several engineers are on core teams and the new Cinder project as well. Why is it worthwhile to gamble your whole company on OpenStack?

MacGown: In open source software it’s not the actual software that wins, it’s the ecosystem that builds services or applications around it that wins. Linux won because the ecosystem was so much larger than the BSD/s. There’s a huge ecosystem around OpenStack. That makes it a good bet. To quote Wired in a recent article: Who will be the Red Hat of OpenStack?

MacGown: We’ve always described ourselves as the Red Hat of OpenStack, though that’s become a bit funnier since Red Hat has joined OpenStack. They’re not as focused on Infrastructure-as-a-Service as we are. So we think we can still make that claim.

Our competitive advantage is we’re the only people who have built large scalable clouds. Joshua (McKenty) helped build the first certified regulated cloud for NASA, which was used by the White House. We understand regulation and we built the first implementation of Cloud Audit API, and open sourced that framework. We understand the space and believe that other people won’t actually be able to compete with us on the advantage. Is open source cloud heating up? Why now?

MacGown: It really is. Open source cloud is heating up now because so many people see the Amazon model and realize it’s going to lock them in long term and don’t want to turn Amazon into next IBM. They’re realizing they can actually drive the development to meet their needs better than if using other proprietary solutions such as KWS or VMWare. What are some of the trends we should be paying attention to in the open cloud space right now?

MacGown: The licensing model is moving away from general public license (GPL) and transitioning to a freer, more open licensing. That enables companies to do more around open core proprietary extensions without feeling like they’re going to violate their own source code with the GPL. There’s a trend toward Apache licensing. On the tech side there’s a lot of research and development in software-defined networking. How does software-defined networking fit in with open source cloud?

MacGown: When it becomes something people understand and view the benefit for, they’ll be able to build out federate cloud environments similar to how we build out web properties now. Everybody uses Apache, some use IIS, but when you use a web browser everything is the same with your experience. Back ends might not be identical but you have the same experience as an end user of the software or virtualization pieces directly and use that across cloud providers and platforms. Has this been a focus of the OpenStack project?

MacGown: It’s definitely a focus. Companies like Cisco and Dell have contributed heavily. And with federation in general there’s a lot of expectation and work being done from the humanitarian and scientific computing communities. Talk about some of the challenges of the open cloud and OpenStack project and your niche in the market.

MacGown: One of the main challenges is nobody’s quite sure what cloud means. With the OpenStack project in particular that’s very similar. You have a lot of excitement and driving that in a single direction that’s 80-90 percent for everyone has been historically difficult.

The work that’s been done around the foundation to put the control directly in the hands of the community will help that. There are efforts to formalize the relationship and the decision making structure. Your startup is less than two years old now, how far have you come? Where are you headed?

MacGown: We raised series A funding in July of last year, announced a preview of our product, Piston Enterprise OS (pentOS) in September 2011 and pentOS went general availability in January of this year.

Our goal for the year is we’re going to have a great release of OpanStack Essex around the middle to the end of the third quarter. We were the first to release a distro of Diablo, but we don’t want to be the first for Essex. (Canonical plans to have Essex first.) We want to be the stately gravitas distro where we support it and know all about it and can guarantee the security of it.

To learn more about how open source is impacting the future of cloud computing, check out The Linux Foundation’s latest event CloudOpen.


Member Profile: Open Source Founder and Android Fan Anthony Favre

Anthony Favre used Linux for the first time as a student in 1997 and has since started two companies that specialize in Linux and open source technologies. 

AnthonyFavreIn 2002 he founded Linalis, an IT company in Geneva that provided LPI (LInux Professional Institute) certifications. There he wrote one of the first LPI-certified study guides. Then in 2009, he founded the Swiss branch of French IT company Smile, also active in open source, where he is now managing director. 

"My job is to promote open source solutions in general and Linux in particular," Favre said. "My company is a Red Hat advanced partner and we provide solutions based only on open source." 

He recently joined the Linux Foudation as an individual member after learning that membership is an option for anyone.

"I didn't know it was possible to join The Linux Foundation. Since I saw that, I was pleased to grant a little bit to the foundation," he said. "Unfortunately, I'm not technically strong enough to develop or help on projects."

He's still very active in the community through the events he organizes to promote Linux such as the 2009 conference LinuxDays and this year's Open Source Now event in Geneva. He's hoping to take advantage of his membership to attend Linux Foundation events such as LinuxCon Europe in Barcelona Nov. 5-7. Members receive 20 percent off the registration fee for LinuxCon events.

His favorite Linux innovation?

"All of them, but specifically Android," he said, because it's an easy-to-use Linux for end users.

Welcome, Anthony!

Want to share your story with The LInux Foundation and have your profile featured on Email Digital Content Editor Libby Clark, lclark (at)   


Top Open Cloud Stories This Week

Open cloud news this week brought with it some new competition, some reflection on existing competitors and some unexpected cooperation.  I've also thrown in a short counter perspective on the issue of portability -- is it a myth? 
What did you think was this week's top open cloud story? Please tell me in the comments, below. I'd love to hear from you. Your feedback will help me refine this list and and make it more useful to the community. Thanks!
First the competition:
Open source cloud toolkit funded by EU Optimis project to arrive in June, ComputerWorld UK
Funded by the European Union to make Europe more “cloud friendly,” the Optmis project is gaining steam. The European OpenStack equivalent is also getting some pressure to partner with OpenStack.

Red Hat debuts OpenShift Origin project, takes swipe at VMware's Cloud Foundry, ZDNet

The Origin project will serve as the upstream for code and improvements to OpenShift, Red Hat’s PaaS, which today runs on Amazon Web Services cloud and competes against VMware’s open source Cloud Foundry.

Marten Mickos: For Eucalyptus open cloud is more than open code, TechWorld
Mickos compares cloud storage to depositing money in the bank. All depositors should have free and open access to their stored data. He also comments on Eucalyptus’ partnership with Amazon to support Amazon Web Services’ API, saying it gives his company a competitive advantage over OpenStack, which doesn’t have a similar deal with Amazon.
Cooperation (or just less competition):
Thanks to Piston, OpenStack gets an unlikely ally in VMware, GigaOM
Piston Cloud wants to bring together the Cloud Foundry PaaS with the OpenStack IaaS. Wasn’t OpenStack in part a play against VMWare, as well as Amazon Web Services?
Open Compute one year later. Bigger, badder and less disruptive than we thought, GigaOm
With the growth of Facebook’s Open Compute open hardware project and OpenStack it’s possible to build an entirely open hardware infrastructure layer and companies are demanding more flexibility. The big data ecosystem has adjusted, with companies like Dell and HP offering new server and storage designs compatible with Open Rack.
A different perspective:

Two Cloud Myths Busted: Lock-In and Locked Up, PCWorld
Portability is a favorite mantra of open cloud supporters. But is portability a myth? This commentary says profitability and intellectual property values will always trump portability.
Page 55 of 57

Who we are ?

The Linux Foundation is a non-profit consortium dedicated to the growth of Linux.

More About the foundation...

Frequent Questions

Join / Linux Training / Board