IBM to Ship Free Middleware to Link OpenStack, AWS

IBM’s upcoming Jumpgate is designed to easily connect OpenStack to proprietary clouds.

IBM has released a set of middleware designed to easily link proprietary public-cloud platforms with those built on the increasingly popular open-source cloud platform OpenStack.

It’s also releasing the middleware integration software, called Jumpgate, as open-source, according to a blog posted yesterday by IBM cloud-software subsidiary SoftLayer. While the middleware is likely to give end users far more freedom to mix and match cloud platforms, it also represents an attack by IBM on the market supremacy of Amazon Web Services, which owns a far larger share of the cloud-services market than IBM.

IBM recently shed a number of other businesses and invested tens of millions to expand its network of datacenters and beef up its own cloud-services business, which got a boost after IBM bought leading-edge cloud provider SoftLayer in 2012.

Jumpgate acts “as a compatibility layer between the OpenStack API and a provider’s proprietary API,” according to SoftLayer coder Nathan Beittenmiller, who wrote the blog announcing the release. The middleware exposes OpenStack APIs on one side and those from Amazon or other carriers on the other end, allowing users to move or manage data, verify the status of elements within either a public or OpenStack cloud, create or migrate virtual machines, and other routine cloud-management functions without leaving their preferred cloud platform.

The tools used to send queries or commands to OpenStack clouds can send the same queries to Amazon Web Services, for example, allowing Jumpgate to intercept the request, reformat it to be compatible with AWS’ API format, and sends the command to Amazon. When the result comes back, Jumpgate reformats the driver into an OpenStack-compatible JSON payload and sends it back to the originator. “The result is that you interact with an OpenStack-compatible API, and your cloud provider processes those interactions on their own backend infrastructure,” Beittenmiller wrote.

The middleware is written in Python on the Falcon framework and supports almost all documented OpenStack APIs.

It is still in “an early alpha stage,” however; IBM is developing APIs for its SoftLayer cloud platform first, and will consider other platforms later.

While Jumpgate could solve a major compatibility problem for end-user companies that don’t want to get locked in to either proprietary or OpenStack cloud platforms, the middleware is also a competitive weapon, just as OpenStack was when it was released. Launched three years ago by hosting provider RackSpace, OpenStack represented a shot across the bows of Amazon, Microsoft and other proprietary cloud providers, none of whom were rushing to provide significant interoperability between their cloud-computing platforms and those of competitors. By handing OpenStack over to the open-source OpenStack Foundation, RackSpace gave itself an immediate cohort of allies among companies selling both hardware and software used in the cloud but were not one of the leading cloud-service providers themselves. The OpenStack Foundation has attracted more than 200 members.

Analyst firm 451 Research estimated in October that OpenStack generated $486 million in sales and integration work during 2013, and is likely to break the $1 billion mark by 2015.

Seventy percent of that money goes to RackSpace, though revenue generated by Linux distributors, hardware vendors and others selling OpenStack (primarily to end-user companies) will grow more than 50 percent during 2014, adding up to more than $88 million, according to 451Research.

 

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