IBM is going open cloud. This week, the technology giant announced that all its cloud products and services will be based on the OpenStack platform and other open-source cloud standards.
The company said that its decision will help to ensure that cloud computing innovation is not restrained by what it described as "proprietary islands of insecure and difficult-to-manage offerings." In the past, IBM's commitment to open standards has helped gain acceptance for those standards in enterprises, such as Linux.
Robert LeBlanc, IBM senior vice president of software, said in a statement that the company "has been at the forefront of championing standards and open source for years, and we are doing it again for cloud computing."
The first new IBM product offering based on OpenStack will be a new private cloud offering that is designed to speed up and simplify the process of managing an enterprise-grade cloud. Called IBM SmartCloud Orchestrator, it uses the same interface for various cloud services, such as assigning computing, storage and network resources.
Orchestrator also allows users to automate application deployment and lifecycle management in the cloud, and IBM says the product will reduce operational costs for integration with third-party tools or organizing human tasks. For the end user, the product provides a self-service portal that includes the ability to meter, track, and charge-back costs.
The company is also releasing new versions of existing software products that are now supporting open standards. These include the IBM SmartCloud Monitoring Application, to monitor the real-time performance of cloud-based applications, and a new integration between IBM SmartCloud ControlDesk and IBM Endpoint Manager that utilizes open-standard OSLC. The integration automates and extends management of cloud services to various devices, in accordance with compliance, regulation and security needs.
IBM is also applying its considerable corporate muscle in a variety of other ways to back open cloud standards. These include the expansion of a Cloud Standards Customer Council to 400 members from its original 50, assigning more than 500 developers to open cloud projects, and backing the OpenStack Foundation as a platinum and founding member.
Laura DiDio, an analyst with industry research firm Information Technology Intelligence Consulting, described IBM's move as "very smart." She noted that, by becoming such a big supporter of OpenStack and open cloud standards, the company will now "have a bigger say and can help to drive the standard."
DiDio added that, while proprietary cloud standards will continue to exist in niche markets, the big issue for users is interoperability -- and if open standards can provide that, those standards win. Users, she said, only want to know that "it's reliable, secure and can help to relieve management's burden."
OpenStack is an open-source cloud operating system that controls computing, storage and networking resources in a data center, and is managed through a dashboard. It is designed to be used on standard hardware and to accommodate a massively scalable cloud-based system. Besides IBM, other corporate members include AT&T, Canonical, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Rackspace, Red Hat, Cisco, Dell and Yahoo.
The OS began in the summer of 2010, when hosting provider Rackspace announced it was releasing its code for cloud infrastructure, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration said it would provide its open-source cloud computing project, Nebula, to the initiative. Nebula was developed by NASA in 2008, as a way of providing additional data centers for NASA scientists and engineers.