Really Open Source Cloud Computing Arrives At Last

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This week I'm attending the Open Source Convention in Portland, Oregon, along with the ancillary events it attracts. Today's report covers the significant news of a true, community-driven open source cloud project announced today and the impact the so-called "open core" business model had on its creation.

At the end of the Community Leadership Summit here in Portland people arriving for OSCON started to show up. They included one of the guys behind Rackspace's announcement of OpenStack that was made today. He gave me a full rundown of both the news and the history behind it.

If you've not seen it yet, do take a look as it's probably the most significant advance for open source cloud computing that we've seen so far - Rackspace's Robert Scoble has a detailed posting. To summarise, Rackspace have collaborated with NASA to build a suite of open source elements and create a completely open reference platform for Amazon-style cloud computing under the Apache licence, as well as an open community to maintain and evolve them. There is also an impressive line-up of initial community sponsors including the likes of Dell and Intel.

At the heart of the platform you'll find Nova, a new cloud fabric controller written by NASA to replace Eucalyptus in their Nebula project. The origins of this controller are telling, as The Register reports:

But Kemp also said that the scalability of the product and other issues with Eucalyptus (including the inability by NASA to get some of its enhancements into the Eucalyptus code base) compelled Kemp to take the entire Nebula team and dedicate it – for the past six months – to creating a new fabric controller, called Nova, from scratch.

Reports I've heard here suggest that the eponymous company behind Eucalyptus resisted NASA's contributions to the open source code because they would have conflicted with the features of the open core commercial version the company aims to monetize.

I'm still waiting to hear back from Eucalyptus about this, but if it's true it's a significant case study in the consequences of the open core model, both for the company using it, for their customers and for the community they have gathered around the code. Open core obstructed NASA's freedom to modify the code to suit their needs as well as leading to the creation of a powerful competitor for Eucalyptus. I wrote recently that open core is bad for you; this seems a powerful demonstration of that observation in action.

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