Rackspace launches open source cloud platform with Nasa

We spent five minutes with Fabio Torlini of Rackspace discussing Openstack, the open-source computing platform launched today with US space agency Nasa.

Computer Weekly spent five minutes with Fabio Torlini, marketing director, Rackspace EMEA, discussing Openstack, the open-source computing platform it launched today with US space agency Nasa.

Computer Weekly: What is the Openstack deal about?

Fabio Torlini: Rackspace and our Openstack supporters are working together to develop and publish our software under an open-source model. That means we will make the source code for Openstack publicly available and any interested party - including our peers, solution partners and customers - will be able to collaborate with us to author, improve, and expand Openstack technologies.

Several software projects critical to the success of the internet, including the Linux operating system, the Apache HTTP server, and the Firefox web browser, are open source software.

As take-up increases and more and more hosting companies utilise the same open source platform it will truly make the cloud open. Customers will be able to move freely from cloud to cloud, not tied to one provider indefinitely.

Software developers will also be able to programme to one stable platform. Openstack will become the cloud platform of choice, in the same way that Android has rapidly become the platform of choice for mobile providers.

CW: Why is Rackspace doing this?

Torlini: The open source software model has been proven to promote the standards and interoperability critical to the success of our industry. The explosive growth of the internet can be attributed to open, universal standards like HTTP and HTML.

The early cloud offerings, however, have bucked this trend and are largely proprietary. No-one benefits from a fractured landscape of closed, incompatible clouds where migration is difficult and true transparency is impossible. That's not what our customers want. And that's not what Rackspace wants.

We're not alone with this. Many people in the industry believe it's critically important for the cloud to be open and share concern about the proprietary nature of the leading cloud platforms.

CW: How do you expect to compete against Microsoft's Azure, Amazon's EC2 and all the rest, especially now that HP, Dell and Fujitsu can sell Azure?

Torlini: We will win based on service. The first wave of hosting was offered by providers who used commodity hardware and software. What differentiated Rackspace was the service experience that we offered. The next wave of hosting is being driven by technologies that help provision computing. We want to standardise the offering. If it's standard, then technology does not determine the winner. If the technology is standard and we're one of the companies that deploys it really well, then we can create the service magic that will help us win the lion's share of new customers.

CW: Nasa is offering a computation-intensive platform, rather than something for a traditional commercial processing workload. What will companies use Openstack for?

Torlini: This is not code that many small and medium businesses are likely to run until they are more mature. Instead it's aimed at providers, institutions, and enterprises with highly technical operations teams that need to turn physical hardware into large-scale cloud deployments. All companies will win by having a larger selection providers to choose from and one standard platform.

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