eBay expands its cloud with OpenStack and Nicira

eBay goes public about its first implementation of OpenStack along with Nicira network virtualisation, hinting at broader adoption to come


OpenStack, the open source "cloud operating system," has stirred community excitement and attracted a vendor following, including Cisco, Dell, HP, IBM, and Red Hat. But until now one thing has been lacking: A high-profile corporate customer willing to talk about its OpenStack implementation.

Today, eBay is announcing that it's using OpenStack to manage a high-volume dev, test, and experimentation environment where apps are created for eBay Marketplaces. According to Jean-Christophe Martin, Cloud Architect for eBay, the current OpenStack implementation is small, but eBay is looking at extending that footprint as the open source project matures.

OpenStack is a broad cloud management framework with many components. One of the main attractions for Martin was integration with the Nicira Network Virtualization Platform, which enables eBay to spin up virtual networks for hundreds of projects on demand. Nicira (which VMware has announced it will acquire for £813 million) has been a key contributor to OpenStack, in particular the network management component, code-named Quantum.

"We wanted to have a fabric that was shared," says Martin. "Instead of physical environments, we wanted to have virtual environments on top of that fabric. And in order to do that, we wanted to have network isolation." Instead of using conventional VLANs, which have scalability and availability limitations, Martin found a stronger solution in Nicira's Network Virtualization Platform. "The nice thing is that Nicira was out-of-the-box integrated with OpenStack. So when we looked at deploying our first environment with Nicira, it was easier for us to take OpenStack on top of our existing cloud."

That existing, home-grown cloud relies on VMware for virtualisation, whereas his OpenStack cloud uses KVM. "Our strategy is to be multi-vendor," says Martin. "We always want to have the option to change the provider for a given technology," a key benefit of OpenStack that extends to Nicira as well. The Quantum component of OpenStack "provides an abstraction of the network management," says Martin. "Today we have Nicria, but we know that some other solutions will be developed on top of OpenStack Quantum ... so we can switch vendors or have multiple vendors on the same platform."

Although Martin is "pushing the envelope" with network virtualisation - Quantum is not even part of the current OpenStack release - he admits that, otherwise, he is not currently using the "fancier" features of OpenStack. "Really, our focus was an alternative to vCenter. So we have now vCenter on ESX and OpenStack on KVM that provides almost the same capability."

The potential cost saving of open source is clearly a factor. "That's definitely one of our new strategies. Before, we were mostly looking at vendor-provided solutions. I think that right now we are switching to more of an open source strategy."

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