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Canonical: Making the Open Cloud Seamless for Users

Cloud computing has made great strides over the past two years as more companies enter the market and open source projects emerge. But the industry is still young and the current model in which each vendor has its own solution is creating “layers from hell” for the end user, says Kyle MacDonald, vice president of cloud at Canonical.

Kyle MacDonaldTo achieve interoperability and ease adoption, vendors must work together to collapse the layers, MacDonald says. This is the subject of his keynote at CloudOpen, Aug. 28-31 in San Diego. How can projects such as OpenStack, which Canonical supports, help produce a unified experience for customers?

Here, MacDonald discusses how Canonical defines the open cloud, the company’s involvement in the OpenStack project and the challenges facing open source cloud adoption today.

How does Canonical define the open cloud?

Kyle MacDonald: We think open cloud has to be based on open source. And the reasons are really around making sure users have freedom and avoid lock-in and that the infrastructure and cloud technologies created are flexible and can be extended and expanded.

We also are very big on the idea that this should be a marketplace event. True power comes when the users can move from one cloud service to another. That’s the state of nirvana. The cool word is ‘interoperability.’

We’re all giving users resources now and different ways to acquire cloud services in the infrastructure layer and cloud layer and letting them be unique to each provider. One of the keys to the model is the ability to move from one provider to another regardless of how they define their services. It has to be flawless in an open cloud vision -- no barriers on the way in and no barriers on the way out -- and it has to be completely seamless to an end user.

If we keep that as a focus, all of these things will have to match to that nirvana. It will be almost required that if you’re a cloud service you publish an API that’s clear. And eventually there will be a common API or it becomes so simple the minor differences won’t be a big deal to end users. And then partners who define the services can use those same open source technologies and provide a good service.

How do you make it happen?

MacDonald: A lot of people are talking about open cloud now and those are buzz words. I’d like to think Canonical is a special case. The heritage of everyone in this company comes from open source. We understand what it means to be in an open source world. Open source cloud and open source may not necessarily be the same thing but standards are well documented. We share work openly so people can make it better.

The idea is that the focus is on the developer and not on differentiation. These are all fundamental parts of the Canonical experience. Taking it into the cloud, in the infrastructure space we tried to pick an open source and well-defined cloud stack that would work.

We have poured a tremendous resource into OpenStack. We think it provides the best chance to provide an open source cloud alternative. If we can give everyone the same core stack and make it easy to deploy, reliable and scalable it won’t be hard to build on top of that.

How does Canonical contribute to OpenStack?

MacDonald: Our engineers contribute to feature enhancements on OpenStack. We bring contributors to developer summits. We do packaging of OpenStack and we take the latest bits of enhancement and run them through automated testing and then release it as part of our nightly builds so developers and users can get the latest version of OpenStack. We do this with all the vendors, including every vendor’s packets.

It’s a truly open source effort. If we can create this environment we can create a better OpenStack. You’ll start to see some of the latest contributions beyond the core structure of getting it up and running and getting it built. We’re working on a resources metering project, one of the most critical parts of OpenStack. That will be in the next version release.

What is the biggest issue facing the open cloud today and cloud computing, in general?

MacDonald: I think it’s a maturity thing. This is very new technology. Cloud has shown up on the radar screen relatively recently. OpenStack is crossing its 2-year birthday.  Frankly, users have not had enough experience with it. If you’re a cloud expert you’ve done it for 2 to 4 years. If I had a heart surgeon with that experience I’d be nervous. We need to make it a stable and expected interaction.

There seems to be a debate raging among IT managers over PaaS vs. IaaS – the advantages and disadvantages. Where does Canonical come down on the discussion?

MacDonald: We’re  focused on bringing IaaS to users right now. In the PaaS world users don’t know that much about infrastructure and user types are very different and there are always net new applications.

I’m sure you’ll see us embracing PaaS as well. Cloud Foundry is completely built on Ubuntu. And some of the biggest PaaS providers run on Ubuntu. We are waiting to see what the best use case for users is.

How has the switch to OpenStack from Eucalyptus for your Ubuntu enterprise cloud services gone?

MacDonald: It was very difficult. We had to really wrap our heads around what we were getting into. Frankly, we made the switch, we put all of our effort into OpenStack and I don’t think we’ve looked back. We’re quite happy to support Eucalyptus users that choose Ubuntu as their platform and make patches available for Ubuntu users that want to use Eucalyptus. The majority of Ubuntu users are developing with OpenStack but we want to make a neutral experience.

What’s next for Canonical?

MacDonald: We’re spending a lot of time with our MAAS (Metal-as-a-Service) technology, for provisioning clusters of physical servers, and with Juju, a powerful service orchestration technology that allows you to easily and reliably deploy in real time to the cloud. It allows you to think flexibly about services, by taking nodes and instances in any cloud you might be using - private or public - and automating deployment. This makes it much quicker to develop, test and deploy your cloud services.

Your keynote at Cloud Open will address “collapsing the layers,” can you give us a preview?

MacDonald: I’d love to have you come to that talk so I can tell you in full. When we talk about cloud technology traditionally -- every vendor has done this -- we talk about our thing as a layer. The PaaS, the cloud, the management tools from RightScale, these are the layers.

If you break it down into a graphic you’d end up with the layers from hell map, a barcode type of thing. The end user is looking to easily experience that. There are so many layers and conversion points and end users have to put them all together.

We have lots of ways to solve this, Juju and MaaS and OpenStack are all working to collapse the layers. If we’re going to be a good cloud in the future we have to make these as simple as possible.

 

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