OpenStack has been waiting for its moment for three years. It's efficient, flexible and scalable — but the technology industry, while aggressively pursuing advancements, inspects every new thing with a critical eye. The cloud computing platform may have just overcome the skeptic hurdle with the National Security Agency's announcement that it's successfully implemented the OpenStack cloud platform.
The federal intelligence agency was grappling with an issue many corporations have been working to achieve: unifying data while working with different systems, including old infrastructure.
The Quest for Flexibility
In addition to giving groups the ability to help themselves to the cloud computing platform, OpenStack has the benefit of providing flexibility to choose platforms, never locking users into a single vendor. The source code, which is Apache licensed, further provides compatibility with thousands of existing public and private clouds, allowing users to transition from cloud to cloud or use some services, like cloud storage, from a vendor while they supply their own cloud infrastructure for in-house tasks.
The NSA integrated Puppet and other tools to facilitate installation, hardening the system at all layers of the infrastructure, with SSL. NSA created a free tier for employees to test it. The system has auto-account creation and is self-serviced.
The NSA faced the challenge most enterprises have today in their cloud deployment: build a scalable cloud with plenty of storage that has secure public and private cloud infrastructure. Corporations have been tackling the problem of data dispersed throughout different systems that did not work together. To date, firms have been opting to build a private cloud from a virtualization vendor's proprietary software. Some enterprises use multiple cloud providers working under one service agreement and want to hop between them to maximize performance and costs. This makes OpenStack's avoidance of lock-in particularly attractive.
Part of OpenStack's appeal hinges on the camaraderie found in the otherwise highly competitive platform vendor industry. The foundation now boasts 150 vendors. The beta release of the OpenStack Activity Board is live, providing a visual overview of all the OpenStack public activity. The cloud platform community has a few basic requirements that participants must agree to: abide by Apache licensing, support all available hypervisors, implement REST APIs and open image format, commit to drive and adopt open standards and participate in open design process twice a year for community transparency.
OpenStack's computing components provide the software, APIs and control panels. The platform's elements include OpenStack Object Storage, an object store; OpenStack Compute, a scalable compute provisioning engine; and OpenStack Image Service, an image registry and delivery service.
Another reason OpenStack is gaining traction is it allows for scalability with lots of storage — up to multiple petabytes. This gives users strength in working with data, virtual machine images, photo storage, email storage and backup archiving. The all-important component of a scalable infrastructure is its reinforcement, so if a node fails, the distributed environment keeps running, offloading the work elsewhere in the system. If you'd like to trial your app's code in an OpenStack environment, you can give it a run at TryStack.
There is room for customization. Vendors using OpenStack are electing to use different adaptations of OpenStack in their products. The newest version is Grizzly and the older versions are Piston and Folsom — which some regard as more stable. With technology innovators collaborating every six months, customization could very well continue with few hurdles.
Action Item: While aggressively pursuing advancements, inspect every new technology, like OpenStack, with a critical eye. It is vital to unify data while working with different systems, including old infrastructure.