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.
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).
We 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.
Linux.com: 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.
Linux.com: 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.
Linux.com: 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.
Linux.com: 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.
Linux.com: 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.
Linux.com: 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.
Linux.com: 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.
Linux.com: 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.
Linux.com: 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.
Linux.com: 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.
As a global community, we are creating and sharing more information than ever before. And, most of that activity is happening "in the cloud," which is hosted on millions of servers in datacenters located anywhere from the Columbia River Gorge, to the Nevada desert, to the most remote areas of China.
As the reality of managing that level of data sets in, the demand for employees with a unique combination of analytics and IT management expertise is on the rise. With our newest event, CloudOpen, taking place this coming summer, we wanted to learn more about this demand and the areas we should address at this event and as part of our ongoing Linux training program. So, we got in touch with Dice.com's Managing Director Alice Hill. Her responses were very useful and we thought we'd share them with you, the community.
Linux.com: We've been reading a lot about an increasing demand for professionals with big data expertise. What's your take on the primary drivers behind this trend?
Hill: Every company wants more intelligence – more insights into customer behavior, emerging trends, cost structures, etc. Many firms have the data, but it’s unused, unstructured and isn’t easily digestible by managers to make decisions. If companies can develop this asset, it will give them an edge in the market and potentially influence customer behaviors.
Linux.com: What kinds of expertise are employers looking for related to big data?
Hill: Data architects, analytics professionals and data scientists are high on the list right now. Employers are requesting experience with machine learning, statistics, and natural language processing. Big data takes that foundation and marries that know-how to newer technologies like Hadoop and NoSQL and other open-source tools/technologies.
Linux.com: You recently reported that demand for Linux talent hit an all-time high on the Dice.com boards. Do you see any parallels with the demand for big data talent?
Hill: About one-third of the “big data” jobs on Dice also request Linux expertise. The employment demand for Linux expertise is much more widespread and it’s really a core skill for technology professionals today.
Linux.com: We've heard that a big data expert is likely someone with a hybrid of expertise, including business and technical acumen. How are employers dealing with this challenge?
Hill: That’s true and we see more and more job postings on Dice.com that note an MBA is a plus. However, it’s not just the technology departments’ responsibility to gain business acumen. The line of business leaders need to have a willingness to dig into the technologies and ask questions when they don’t fully comprehend the back-end of getting the insights everyone wants.
For newer technologists, whether focused on big data or other areas, you should be able to “story board” what the business needs, contribute to the story, understand the financial analysis and deliver it in a way that is easily understood by any audience. This is where we should spend time teaching our less experienced colleagues.
Linux.com: What advice do you have for professionals seeking a career in the area of big data?
Hill: Focus on working with internet companies with consumer audiences – ecommerce, gaming, etc. Those firms have enormous data streams matched by a serious craving to use the data. Ultimately, though don’t fit your career into a trend – you should do what you are best at for real satisfaction.
"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.
Want to share your story with The LInux Foundation and have your profile featured on Linux.com? Email Digital Content Editor Libby Clark, lclark (at) linuxfoundation.org.
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!
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.