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Rackspace, Intel launch OpenStack training center

Enterprises are interested in OpenStack, but can't find enough IT pros with open source cloud expertise. Rackspace and Intel hope to change that.

OpenStack has been available for five years, but there's still a lack of qualified open source developers to move the cloud platform into enterprises.

With that, Rackspace has partnered with Intel to build the OpenStack Innovation Center at its San Antonio headquarters to increase the number of skilled developers to work within the two companies.

The new OpenStack training programs, along with efforts to recruit new developers, will allow Intel and Rackspace to improve the manageability and scalability of the open source technology so it's more accessible to enterprises. There will also be communal availability of two 1,000 node clusters for large-scale testing of OpenStack and related new features.

"Rackspace and Intel are looking to make sure that OpenStack is in a place where enterprises are not concerned with its stability or its ability to support private clouds at scale," said Al Sadowski, research director, service providers, for 451 Research, LLC, in New York. "In return, it's going to result in more managed cloud customers for Rackspace and more silicon chip sales for Intel."

All of the output from the Intel and Rackspace OpenStack collaboration will be made freely available, according to Rackspace. The two 1,000-node clusters are expected to be online in the next six months.

OpenStack as a collection of projects

Customers still want additional OpenStack features and to be protected from risk, said Darrin Hanson, vice president, Rackspace Private Cloud. OpenStack projects will include the Nova scheduler, the Neutron networking platform, Ceilometer metering and containers as a service, with the partners being agnostic about the container orchestration and management technologies.

OpenStack is often criticized for its complexity and the challenges around some of its components, so Hanson was careful to delineate between the areas that still need improvement and those that are more stable. Rackspace breaks down OpenStack components after each release and deploys it in a configuration that meets service-level agreements and can be deployed at scale in an upgradable fashion, he said.

"We're not making any statements that there's not enough or it's moving too slowly, we're just going to douse it with a little more gasoline," Hanson said.

OpenStack skills in high demand

As much as there is a need to advance some pieces of the technology, a lack of  OpenStack expertise remains the biggest pain for users, said Lauren Nelson, senior analyst with Forrester Research, Inc., based in Cambridge, Mass.

"It's really hard to get OpenStack expertise," Nelson said. "As soon as you train them, up they go somewhere else, so they become super valuable."

DigitalFilm Tree, a post-production, software and process consulting company in Los Angeles, uses Rackspace and OpenStack. Any efforts to increase the number of people capable of working with the open source technology are more than welcome to CTO Guillaume Aubuchon, who said there are more media companies that want to adopt OpenStack, but struggle due to a lack of quality developers and the cost of their services.

"We have more opportunities to integrate OpenStack with other companies than we have developers to fill those opportunities," Aubuchon said.

There are many OpenStack certification programs available, and most focus on preparing end users for a particular OpenStack distribution. But this new program is different in that, so far, it's only geared toward current and future Rackspace and Intel employees involved with the OpenStack Innovation Center.

The companies aren't saying exactly how many developers they intend to train, but Hanson estimated it would be in the hundreds. They plan to recruit from computer science academic institutions and other disciplines, with the end goal of contributing code upstream and improving the enterprise-grade features that are central to this new collaboration.

A bigger seat at the table

Rackspace started OpenStack five years ago with NASA. Despite that central role in its creation, the company eventually took a step back to avoid the appearance of OpenStack being a one-vendor project. Since then, some of the biggest names in IT have joined and Rackspace hasn't been as quick to adapt to the more competitive stance of some of its partners, Nelson said.

"This is a play for them to essentially establish themselves as the thought leader and re-establish them as actively contributing to the community," Nelson said.

Rackspace has hinted at this type of increased engagement in recent months and continues more than a year-long trend of getting back to its roots in managed services. The vendor recently extended that strategy to a managed version of Microsoft Azure and could add similar arrangements in the future.

Trevor Jones is the news writer for SearchCloudComputing. You can reach him at [email protected].

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