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Rackspace and NASA Launch Open-Source Cloud Platform
Rackspace and NASA Launch Open-Source Cloud Platform

By Barry Levine
July 19, 2010 2:20PM

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Rackspace is making its cloud platform open source as OpenStack. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration is adding its Nebula cloud technology used by NASA scientists and engineers. An OpenStack Compute project will be based on Rackspace's Cloud Servers, and OpenStack Storage on Rackspace's Cloud Files.

Hosting provider Rackspace announced Monday that it's opening the software code for its cloud infrastructure. "Cloud technology will never look back," the company proclaimed on its web site, adding that the OpenStack open-source cloud platform will create new technology standards and cloud interoperability. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) will add its Nebula cloud technology to the initiative.

The key goal of OpenStack, according to its organizational web site, is "to allow any organization to create and offer cloud-computing capabilities using open-source software running on standard hardware."

OpenStack Compute, Storage

NASA's Nebula is an open-source cloud-computing project that provides an alternative to data centers for NASA scientists and engineers. Nebula was first developed in 2008 at the NASA Ames Research Center, and it will become the cornerstone for the OpenStack initiative.

Two initial projects are OpenStack Compute, for automatically creating and managing large groups of virtual private servers, and OpenStack Storage, for creating "redundant, scalable object storage using clusters of commodity servers to store terabytes or even petabytes of data." Storage is expected to be released in mid-September, and Compute is targeted for mid-October.

The code is freely available under an Apache 2.0 license, which allows anyone to run it, build on it, or submit changes back to the project. The Storage project is based on code from Rackspace's Cloud Files, which provides unlimited online storage and serving of files and media. Compute, based on Rackspace's Cloud Servers software and on NASA's Nebula technologies, provisions servers for staging and production.

Getting Back 'Into Space Exploration Business'

NASA's Chief Technology Officer for IT Chris Kemp said NASA and Rackspace "are uniquely positioned to drive this initiative based on our experience in building large-scale cloud platforms and our desire to embrace open source." Both organizations said they are currently using OpenStack technologies to manage "tens of thousands" of computing instances.

Kemp told news media that the "perfect scenario" for the agency is "to get out of the cloud R&D business altogether" and get back "into the space-exploration business." To do that, he said, OpenStack needs to include enough of NASA's cloud requirements.

Rackspace said this kind of open cloud helps prevent vendor lock-in, increases flexibility in deployment for a highly elastic commodity cloud, utilizes a larger and more robust ecosystem, drives greater industry standards, and increases the speed of innovation for cloud technologies.

An OpenStack Design Summit hosted by Rackspace was held July 13 through 16 in Austin, Texas, and more than two dozen companies were represented to validate the code and approve a project road map. Participants included AMD, Citrix, Dell, Cloudkick,, enStratus, Intel, Limelight, NTT DATA, RightScale and others.

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