This content is part of the Essential Guide: Essential guide to Linux in the enterprise
Problem solve Get help with specific problems with your technologies, process and projects.

Open source cloud platforms: Moving from hype to production

Success of several open source cloud providers hinges on whether OpenStack cloud is production-ready. How do Eucalyptus, Red Hat and others stack up?

Enterprises with strong development teams or business-specific applications may eschew commercial cloud services...

providers in search of open source cloud options. Open source cloud platforms like Eucalyptus, OpenStack and Abiquo have momentum to succeed with enterprises building private clouds.

But several questions remain about how one open source cloud services provider differs from the next. Who will come out on top? Will Eucalyptus Systems make its mark against growing competition from OpenStack? Can OpenStack make the move from an overhyped project to a production-quality cloud alternative? Will Red Hat define its ambiguous cloud strategy? And what about hypervisor-agnostic companies like Abiquo? Who will move into the limelight and into enterprises’ private cloud adoption plans?

Abiquo is an open source software company with an enterprise cloud product that allows customers to rapidly build and manage fully automated and governed, self-service, multi-stack, multi-hypervisor clouds – private, public or hybrid. Abiquo integrates with an enterprise’s installed hypervisor and storage management tools; it supports all major hypervisors and allows you to manage a virtualized infrastructure through a single “pane of glass.” You do not have to switch among multiple user interfaces.

According to Forrester Research, Abiquo is listed near the top of 15 private cloud products, a list that includes BMC, CA Technologies, HP, IBM, Microsoft and VMware.

For the past few years, Canonical has been aligned with the open source cloud project, Eucalyptus, to create Ubuntu Enterprise Cloud (UEC). However, in February 2011, Canonical joined forces with OpenStack and later that year switched to OpenStack for its Ubuntu cloud foundation technology. OpenStack currently makes up the core of the Ubuntu Cloud; Ubuntu has been named the lead host and guest operating system on HP’s OpenStack-based cloud.

These changes won’t affect current releases of Eucalyptus-based UEC, according to Canonical. Eucalyptus will still be available for download and supported by Canonical. Customers that have deployed private clouds on Eucalyptus-based UEC will continue to receive maintenance through April 2015. Ubuntu will provide tools that automate the migration from a Eucalyptus-based UEC to an OpenStack-based UEC.

Eucalyptus Systems
Eucalyptus Systems offers production-ready releases of the open source Eucalyptus cloud project code. It also provides commercial plug-ins, including support for VMware’s hypervisor. Support for KVM and Xen is baked into the Eucalyptus project code, and it supports much of the Amazon EC2 API.

Eucalyptus Systems charges an annual subscription fee, like Red Hat and other open source cloud providers, which encompasses technical support and access to the company’s commercial plug-ins. Eucalyptus Systems’ plug-ins give companies the capability to blend VMware, KVM and Xen assets into a single cloud fabric while ensuring compatibility with existing public cloud options that are compatible with Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2).

Main strengths of Eucalyptus Systems’ open source product are that it’s low cost, installed in production environments, supports VMware and Amazon EC2, and allows enterprises to move workloads back and forth between Amazon EC2 public clouds and Eucalyptus-based private clouds.

OpenStack is an open source community of technologists, developers, researchers and corporations that share resources, technology and ideas to develop open source products for cloud computing. One main goal of the OpenStack initiative is to remove cloud customer fear of proprietary vendor lock-in. OpenStack is currently the most hyped open source platform for building private and public clouds.

NASA and Rackspace were the first primary OpenStack supporters. Now a number of large companies such as Cisco, Dell, HP and Intel have voiced support for OpenStack. As noted previously, Canonical dropped Eucalyptus as it core cloud technology in favor of OpenStack. And Microsoft is actively involved in OpenStack supporting Hyper-V integration.

OpenStack holds the most promise for becoming a standard, making hybrid clouds a reality and reducing the impact of lock-in.

OpenStack API modules are compatible with other APIs such as Amazon EC2, Xen, and KVM. Tools exist to move virtual servers from OpenStack to Amazon EC2.

OpenStack appeals to organizations with technical expertise looking for low-cost, open-source development options. A number of companies, including Rackspace, Citrix and Mirantis, have developed for-cost support programs for OpenStack users.

Vendors such as HP view OpenStack as the platform of choice for building public clouds as well as private clouds. NASA uses OpenStack for its internal, private cloud. Rackspace uses OpenStack ObjectStorage in its cloud storage platform; Cisco built a Network as a Service (NaaS) around OpenStack.

Red Hat
CloudForms, an Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) product and OpenShift, a Platform as a Service (PaaS) product, are Red Hat’s cloud computing offerings. CloudForms enables companies to create and manage private cloud environments. Red Hat claims CloudForms lets users manage applications versus managing virtual servers.

OpenShift creates an application development environment. Red Hat argues OpenShift is more portable than other PaaS products because it allows customers to migrate deployments to other cloud computing vendor environments using the DeltaCloud API, also an open source project.

Open source cloud takeaways
Of the open source cloud companies detailed here, Red Hat is by far the largest; however, most large providers (i.e., HP, Cisco, Intel) support OpenStack. And OpenStack also holds the most promise for becoming a standard, making hybrid clouds a reality and reducing the impact of lock-in. Providers, institutions and enterprises with highly technical operations teams are key OpenStack users.

One negative of OpenStack has been that Rackspace dominates its development. This may be a moot point, though, now that a number of other vendors have become involved and are declaring OpenStack the foundation of their cloud products.

OpenStack is about 18 months from being a production-quality cloud foundation, whereas, Eucalyptus Systems’ product and its plug-ins have been being used in production mode. If HP doesn’t have success with its OpenStack-based cloud, then OpenStack could falter a bit.

Red Hat’s cloud products are receiving attention from its installed base, but its popularity likely won’t creep far outside the installed base. The company is growing quickly and expected to add 1,000 employees over the next year; many of these employees will be in its cloud organizations.

However, Red Hat’s cloud strategy and offerings, which are all open source, are a bit muddled. The number of open source projects users need to navigate to create a private cloud can be confusing, and the company lacks a coherent description of its cloud strategy.

If the hype around OpenStack materializes into a solid production-quality cloud and makes a strong bid as a real standard, then Canonical with Ubuntu/OpenStack could hit the jackpot.

Once seen as a dark horse with potential, Eucalyptus is viewed by some today as an afterthought that has been overshadowed by OpenStack. But if you have an environment virtualized using VMware vSphere ESXi, KVM or Xen, Eucalyptus Systems with its commercial plug-ins is a good choice for implementing a private cloud. In addition, if you want to move workloads between a Eucalyptus-based private cloud and Amazon EC2, it’s an even better choice. If you’re an enterprise aiming to create a private cloud today, Eucalyptus Systems is ready.

Canonical switched from Eucalyptus to OpenStack as its foundation technology in Ubuntu for cloud infrastructures. Even though Ubuntu is popular among non-cloud users competing in the enterprise for a piece of the production cloud business will be difficult. If the hype around OpenStack materializes into a solid production-quality cloud and makes a strong bid as a real standard, then Canonical with Ubuntu/OpenStack could hit the jackpot.

It’s not comfortable to think the cloud success of Canonical, Eucalyptus Systems and Red Hat all depend on the success of OpenStack. If OpenStack fails to live up to its hype, then Eucalyptus Systems and Red Hat will be big winners. Because its agnostic when it comes to hypervisors, stacks, etc., Abiquo’s success isn’t tied to the success or failure of OpenStack.


Bill Claybrook is a marketing research analyst with over 35 years of experience in the computer industry with the last dozen years in Linux, open source and cloud computing. Bill was research director, Linux and Open Source, at The Aberdeen Group in Boston and a competitive analyst/Linux product marketing manager at Novell. He is currently president of New River Marketing Research and Directions on Red Hat. He holds a Ph.D. in computer science.

Dig Deeper on Open source cloud computing

Start the conversation

Send me notifications when other members comment.

Please create a username to comment.