IBM Embraces OpenStack, But Is It Good for the Web?

IBM is jumping with both feet onto the open-source bandwagon, announcing at its IBM Pulse 2013 conference in Las Vegas that OpenStack will undergird its cloud services and software.

OpenStack is an open-source Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) platform developed as part of a joint effort by Rackspace and NASA, launched in 2010. Dell recently made news when it announced that its new private cloud would be based on OpenStack; other members of the OpenStack Foundation include AT&T, Hewlett-Packard, Red Hat and Canonical.

The centerpiece of IBM’s announcement is its new-and-improved SmartCloud Orchestrator, which lets companies unite public and private cloud resources onto their infrastructure via a streamlined graphical interface; at least in theory, the system allows the building of new cloud services “in minutes.” Integrating third-party tools, configuration and automation on a single platform could also reduce operational costs, especially those nebulous ones that stem from frustrated IT pros wasting hours trying to make various systems play nice with one another.

SmartCloud Orchestrator also depends on all those tools and platforms from third parties being interoperable with one another via OpenStack. While that seems a potential stumbling block at first glance, it might not prove that much of a problem: after all, a lot of vendors have signed onto the open-source IaaS. If the plan works, it could also unite a lot of companies and functionality under the IBM banner, which would be helpful as the latter faces down the 800-pound gorilla in the cloud space: Amazon.

In addition to sponsoring the OpenStack Foundation, IBM has also co-created the Cloud Standards Customer Council, which it claims has grown from 50 members at launch to roughly 400 now. Contributing to the development of best practices and standards is all well and good, but such initiatives may also reinforce the growth of “walled gardens” in the cloud arena, in which handfuls of vendors keep their customers locked into certain standards—or open standards, as the case may be.

In any case, IBM clearly sees the best route forward on the “open-source” side of that equation. But it remains to be seen how much headway it can make against Amazon, Microsoft, Oracle, and other organizations anxious to serve as the backbone of the Internet.

 

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