Why Billion Dollar Red Hat and OpenStack Need to Dance

On Februar 29, 2012, Red Hat’s fiscal year came to a close and they are expected to cross an important milestone; becoming the first billion dollar commercial open source software company.  Whether or not you believe they are the first open source software company to cross this mythical threshold is inconsequential, the fact is Red Hat has done it.  With all my sincerest respect and admiration, I tip my “red hat” to this historical accomplishment.

With all due respect to other Linux distributions such as Canonical (Ubuntu) and SUSE, Red Hat is the de facto standard for Enterprise Linux.  They have a reputation for building a quality product, have a stable of certified applications from leading ISVs, maintain a “Cisco-like” army of certified professionals, and provide long term support for their products.  Unlike the early years of their business, Red Hat’s biggest threat does not come from a new operating system challenger ala Microsoft; it comes from virtualization vendors with all eyes on VMware, Microsoft, Citrix, and Oracle.

The good news is that Red Hat foresaw this threat and purchased Qumranet in 2008, which created kernel-based virtual machine or KVM.  The bad news is while VMware grew to a virtualization powerhouse, it took Red Hat until January 2012 to release a real challenger within Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization 3.0 (RHEV3). With this release, the next chapter in Red Hat’s history is unfolding within the Cloud era.

Meanwhile, OpenStack is nothing short of an amazing story of the power of open source and of community.  In July 2010, Rackspace and NASA jointly launched OpenStack and less than 2 years later OpenStack has the backing of over 150 companies with names like Dell, AT&T, HP, Citrix, and more.  Additionally, you’ll find the likes of Canonical and SUSE, but Red Hat is noticeably absent.  However, is Red Hat really that far away?

All one has to do is open OpenStack’s Administrator Manual and you will find instructions on “Installing OpenStack Compute on Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6”.  Also, looking closely at the list of contributing companies you will find Gluster (one of my favorites), a project acquired by Red Hat on the list.

In the battle for virtualization supremacy, OpenStack is a vital weapon against the competition.  Sure, Red Hat has Aeolus and Deltacloud, but what would the world look like with a RHEO (Red Hat Enterprise OpenStack) edition?   Wouldn’t such a release accelerate OpenStack’s rise in the Enterprise while opening up a new revenue source for Red Hat?

Before any of this can happen, Red Hat and OpenStack must dance.  Sure, there are reports that early on Red Hat was invited by Rackspace to join OpenStack but they refused due to its governance model.  However, things have changed as Rackspace has transitioned management of OpenStack to an independent OpenStack Foundation with a defined mission and structure.  Can Red Hat and OpenStack unite under this new model?

Perhaps the final piece of this puzzle will end with a Red Hat acquisition within the OpenStack ecosystem.  Without naming names, there are at least 2 attractive take-over targets that would give Red Hat the development expertise and OpenStack credibility to be a force.

As John Lennon famously wrote and performed in “Imagine”; “You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one, I hope some day you’ll join us, And the world will be as one.”

Red Hat and OpenStack, let’s dance!

Originally posted on http://blog.zenoss.com

Floyd’s Law: Open Source vs. Proprietary Software

As the pace of innovation continues to accelerate, it is increasingly impossible for legacy software vendors to maintain pace.  Professional services organizations are pushed to the brink as they attempt to fill product gaps only to find that they are further and further behind the innovation curve.  Customer frustration is increasing as these projects never end, product innovation never comes, and maintenance costs continue to increase.

Open Source, free of the legacy baggage and bureaucracy of their traditional competitors, is the only model that can keep pace with the accelerating rate of change in the industry.  In fact, Open Source is the disruptive force that continues to break-down legacy paradigms and offer new and disruptive solutions.  As commercialization of Open Source is inevitable, the key is remaining true to the principals of open source while providing customers the innovation and value they desperately desire.


OCI’s Relevance within an Amazon and OpenStack World

Last week, yet another Cloud initiative began as the Open Cloud Initiative (OCI) launched from OSCON 2011 in Portland, Oregon.  The OCI bills itself as a non-profit organization to advocate standards-based Open Cloud Computing.   The OCI hopes to provide a legal framework based on the Open Cloud Principles Document (OCP) and apply them to Cloud computing products and services.

While conspiracy theorists will call this the “One Cloud” movement, the reality is there is little to worry about.  An OCI without Amazon, Microsoft, Verizon, AT&T, and more isn’t really an assembly of “leaders of Cloud computing” but more of an ideology.  Academics and Open Source aside, there is very little motivation for Cloud providers to work together other than standard connectivity and a few APIs.

The biggest force in promoting the OCI’s self-proclaimed slogan of “A non-profit advocate of open cloud computing” is actually another truly powerful Open Source Movements called OpenStack.  As OpenStack adoption continues to increase, they may become the defacto standard for building Clouds.  OpenStack is the core platform that allows Enterprises and Service Providers to build value-added software and/or services to create new and unique offerings or businesses to their customers.

It is the difference between “talking” and “action”.  While some in this industry like to debate the merits of Cloud computing and interoperability, others are creating and innovating.  I have already mentioned the OpenStack movement and its importance to Cloud computing, and no conversation on this subject would be relevant without talking about Amazon.

Amazon is rapidly innovating within Cloud computing while continuing to disrupt the industry, drop their published prices, and make money.  Instead of getting caught up in all this debate, Amazon is setting their agenda and putting the entire industry on the defensive.  In fact, their rate of innovation is astounding while their rate of adoption is actually accelerating.  What is their motivation to interoperate with other Cloud providers?  As long as they have open and defined APIs into the private clouds (VMware, Microsoft, Xen, KVM) of their Enterprise customers, then they are all set.

Altruistic goals cannot be confused with the capitalistic reality of the world we live in.  The OCI may have great intentions, but they plenty of work to do to make themselves relevant within an Amazon and OpenStack world.

Moving To The Cloud: The Last Easy Decision

By now, you’ve read all the analyst reports, news articles, press releases, and blogger ramblings regarding the benefits of cloud computing.  Begrudgingly, you understand that although Cloud Computing began as a marketing fad, the technology behind it is real and is here to stay.

Perhaps you are dabbling in virtualization while considering upgrading your aging networking and storage equipment.  You wonder about the risks associated with moving aggressively toward this new type of infrastructure while considering migrating entire services to Application Cloud providers such as Service-now, Salesforce, or Microsoft’s new Cloud offerings.

Privately, you worry about the demands and pressures placed on your current IT staff.  If Cloud computing is going to work then you must find a way to tear down the silos that have existed for decades.  A successful transition will require not only a well thought out plan but the flawless execution of said plan.

Finally, you wonder what role Amazon EC2, Rackspace, AT&T, Verizon, SAVVIS, and others will play in your future.  Costs are one thing, security and reliability is another.  After all, even Google struggles to provide the vaunted 5 9’s of reliability.  Even if you find the perfect provider, will they remain independent or fall victim to the inevitable consolidation of the industry?

Weighing all the risks, you decide to build a private cloud first while eyeing the benefits of a hybrid or public cloud architecture.  Confidently, you call in your IT Directors or Managers and instruct them to provide you with a detailed cost analysis of building your new architecture.

Unfortunately, the easy part is over; where do you begin?  Do you start with picking a server or compute vendor or a storage vendor?  Do you call in your trusted networking vendor to understand what they have to offer?  Do you exit your comfort zone and call one of these newer vendors with cloud ready equipment?

The server team loves HP and is pushing Matrix, but you’ve read a lot about Cisco UCS, Dell Datacenter/Cloud Solutions, and IBM’s new Blade offerings.  The storage team loves EMC, but you’re intrigued by HP’s purchase of 3Par and Dell’s purchase of Compellent, not to mention NetApp.  Your storage networking team is loyal to Brocade, but if you purchase Cisco UCS then why not implement the Nexus and MDS?  Your networking team is partial to Cisco and are all certified Cisco engineers, but you wonder if Brocade, Juniper, or upstarts like Aristra are the way to go?   Unified fabric or Qfabric?  Fibre channel, ISSCI, or fiber channel over Ethernet?  What about the impacts of multi-hop fiber channel over Ethernet?  Is it time to upgrade your power, cooling, cabling, racks, too?

Next come even tougher questions regarding the software vendors.  Do you choose Microsoft, VMware, Citrix, Red Hat, or Oracle, as your virtualization vendor?  Are your current software vendors certified on these platforms?  You’ve been reading about Vblocks, could this help or does it force you into purchasing Cisco, EMC, and VMware?  What about open source alternatives?

Finally, how do Openstack, Eucalyptus, and Nimbula fit into this equation?  What’s Dell UEC or Opscode’s Chef?   What do you do for backup and disaster recovery?  How are you going to manage and monitor this?  Can you really get a single pane of glass?  Can anyone really handle the dynamic nature of a Cloud where everything from networking to storage to servers to applications are all virtualized?  What about security?

Yes, Cloud computing is as revolutionary and as disruptive as you have been reading.  However, never underestimate the complexity or magnitude of the decisions you must make to implement this marvelous architecture.  In the end, the easiest decision you will make is to move to the Cloud.

Cloud Wars: Rackspace Seizes OpenStack, Is Dell Next?

In perhaps their boldest acquisition to date, Rackspace has purchased Anso Labs and are now firmly in control of OpenStack.  Anso Labs is the brains behind Nova, a key component of OpenStack that was originally built for NASA’s Nebula private cloud platform; NASA eventually contributed Nova to the OpenStack project.  Rackspace now controls 3 out of the 4 board seats for OpenStack, virtually owns 2 key software pieces the OpenStack code, and has cornered the market on OpenStack brainpower.

It’s no secret that OpenStack is a blazing hot open source project, but what is Rackspace’s true motive for this acquisition?  Some have speculated that Rackspace could move OpenStack toward an “open core” strategy, opening the door for a paid commercial version of the software.  However, that would be contrary to Rackspace’s DNA and is highly unlikely yet not out of the question.

What’s more likely, is Rackspace’s growing reliance on OpenStack represented too high of a risk for a company that has its eyes set on dominating Cloud computing.  I have always contended that Open Source is a development strategy not a business model.  Therefore, Rackspace’s business model was at risk because their open source development strategy hinged on the talents of Anso Labs.

Additionally, Anso Labs brings Rackspace new Cloud services capabilities in the areas of consulting, training, support, integration, and customization of both OpenStack and Nova. Imagine Rackspace offering their customers the ability to build their own private clouds while augmenting them with their public and/or hybrid cloud offerings.  In essence, OpenStack to Rackspace becomes Eucalyptus to Amazon.

Where there is brilliance in this acquisition there are also risks.  Will the team at Anso Labs accept their new owner’s vision and/or plans? What happens to OpenStack’s growing community of participants and contributors?  Will the bright lights of the free spirits of Anso Labs be extinguished by the weight of a public company?

Finally, an unintended consequence of seizing control of OpenStack may be making Rackspace a M&A target themselves.  While Lanham Napier, Rackspace’s CEO said, “We have not built our company to sell it” the market may think otherwise.  If JMP Securities analyst Patrick Walravens’ observation that investor’s main issue with Rackspace is “the capital-intensive nature of their business…capex guidance is up 41% from a year ago…” then an acquisition by an infrastructure provider may make perfect sense.  Is Dell Next?

Cloud Wars: Cisco Invades OpenStack

Simply put, Cisco is an amazing company.  Love them, hate them, fear them, or fight them, but always respect them.  While other large companies such as IBM and GE have “reinvented” themselves, few have done so prior to having a profound downturn in either market share and/or stock prices.

With an innocent blog post by Lew Tucker, Cisco VP and CTO of Cloud Computing, Cisco has invaded OpenStack under the guise of Networking.  Remember, OpenStack was founded by NASA and Rackspace and currently has over 45 members with the mission of providing open source software to build public and private clouds.  However, none of OpenStack’s members have the shear size or market power of Cisco.

In his post (http://blogs.cisco.com/news/cisco-joins-openstack-community/) Lew writes:

In our view, dynamic provisioning of the network and network-based services is an essential element of cloud computing…

…To achieve this, we believe that it is best to join with others from across the industry to work on open technologies and that open source is the ideal way to reach developers and learn from the community…

My Take, Cisco is spending billions of dollars to insure their continuing dominance in networking and Cloud computing.  By joining OpenStack, Cisco gains visibility into OpenStack’s interworking as well as the ability to influence the direction and speed of the project itself.  As an added benefit, Cisco will learn from the community while having the ability to reach a set of talented developers that otherwise may never have engaged with Cisco.

Clearly, Cisco understands how to build complex partnerships across competitive lines.  While VMware has vCloud, do they not work with other server vendors?  Would EMC not sell a SAN to an HP customer?  As a server vendor, Cisco is learning that choosing neutrality over products has its benefits especially when it comes to software.

While OpenStack is “hot” and an interesting project, they have their competitors as well with more coming. It remains to be seen if,  “a collection of open source technologies delivering a massively scalable cloud computing operating system” is supportable and useable by mainstream Administrators and Enterprises.  Perhaps this is what VMware is betting on with their vCloud solution.

One final note, where are the Operating System Vendors in this fight? Yes, Ubuntu is currently packaging applications like OpenStack and Eucalyptus but we need an integrated Cloud Operating System, not simply a collection of applications.  Microsoft, Red Hat, Apple, anyone….

Cloud Wars: Dell Fights Back With UEC

While Verizon is acquiring Terremark and Time Warner Cable, yes TW Cable, is acquiring NaviSite, Amazon continues to disrupt the industry with their 12 plus Cloud offerings.  The more EC2 grows, generated $220 million in 2009 with predicted revenue of $500 Million in 2010 and $750 Million in 2011, the more it validates that customers are willing to transform their purchasing behavior from hardware devices to compute nodes.

Meanwhile, Enterprises are struggling with virtualization and virtualization stall with the impending reality that they must operate within a Cloud model.  Here lies VMware, the dominant x86 virtualization provider, as they have a complete set of products and 3rd party certified partners to help their customers go virtual.  Let’s face it; ESX/ESXi and vCenter are excellent products.  Additionally, VMware has introduced vCloud and vCloud Express “VMware Power. By the hour.” Essentially, this technology allows Enterprises to build a private cloud and Service Providers to build public clouds and to provide hybrid cloud offerings.

Of course, this pits Amazon’s Cloud Offerings, which are not built with VMware’s technology, against VMware and some of their most powerful partners.  Amazon utilizes the Xen hypervisor along with other customized/internal solutions.  Understanding that VMware is the dominant Enterprise x86 virtualization technology, Amazon has introduced VM Import.  VM Import allows Enterprises to easily migrate VMware Guests (VMDK) into the Amazon EC2 Cloud.

However, what if I want to create a private EC2 within my Enterprise?  Along comes Dell’s Ubuntu Enterprise Cloud (UEC) infrastructure solution. Dell UEC combines the power of Dell’s server hardware with the software of Ubuntu Linux and Eucalyptus providing Enterprises with the same virtual machine images and management APIs that Amazon uses for EC2.  Well it is not exactly EC2, as some will argue that Eucalyptus is not a full implementation of the EC2 API, and it is a matter of fact that Amazon has plenty of additional customized internal tools/systems that make EC2 a reality.  Not to mention that EC2 relies on the Xen hypervisor while UEC utilizes KVM virtualization.  All in all, it’s a great start.

As always, Dell has published an excellent UEC Reference Architecture White Paper for UEC Standard Edition.  This begs the question whether or not Dell will offer Enterprise and/or Service Provider Editions of UEC.  In any case, Dell now has a visionary offering that they will be able to evangelize to their current customers and prospects.  In fact, as UEC matures, Dell is sure to add elements of their entire product portfolio; namely Compellent storage equipment, more powerful server platforms, and perhaps networking/storage hardware via their partnerships with Juniper, Brocade, and others.

One last thought, Dell has incredible flexibility in creating unique cloud offerings via simply changing software and hardware partners.  For example, offering a solution based on Red Hat with Delta Cloud or perhaps a secondary UEC offering that utilizes OpenStack.  This flexibility also translates to Dell’s Open Management philosophy, which is sure to attract additional software partners thereby creating a UEC partner ecosystem.

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