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2012: The year cloud computing took a bite out of IT

Eric Knorr | Dec. 26, 2012
As new public cloud plays leap in and the private cloud slowly evolves, we're on the brink of a shift to cloud computing for critical business workloads

Part of what all this technology is intended to enable is self-service, so that business stakeholders can provision their own applications and resources. Another important component is chargeback: With pooled resources, you need a way to allocate costs throughout the organization.

The biggest deal in the private cloud this year was clearly OpenStack, an open source "cloud operating system" built on the collaborative work of NASA and public cloud provider Rackspace. OpenStack has tremendous community momentum, plus the support of key vendors, including Cisco, Dell, HP, IBM, and Red Hat. That's impressive for a project whose first release was in late 2010.

Yet today, few enterprise customers are attempting to deploy OpenStack in a production environment.

OpenStack is similar( to the Linux kernel, in (that vendors add value( around it to make it( practical to deploy and (maintain. A number of companies, including( big players like HP and (startups like Nebula and (Piston Cloud, are doing just that. Others, including Red Hat and Rackspace, are offering their own fairly raw OpenStack distros wrapped in scripts to ease deployment. In other words, for the most part, the fully packaged OpenStack solutions are still being baked, and only the boldest customer would consider downloading, installing, and firing up OpenStack for anything except experimental purposes -- especially when the bits are undergoing major revisions every few months.

Meanwhile, OpenStack is hardly the only game in town. VMware probably has one of the more mature commercial private cloud solutions, thanks mainly to vCloud Suite. Plus, one of the big cloud events of 2012 was VMware's $1.2 billion acquisition of Nicira, a hot little network virtualization company that, along with Cisco, has led the development of the Quantum network service component of OpenStack. Then there's Microsoft -- Windows Server 2012 and System Center 2012, released this year, together offer a viable private cloud solution.

Two other open source players deserve mention. Eucalyptus is a private cloud stack intended to mimic Amazon Web Services, with full API compatibility. CloudStack, an open source project launched by Citrix in April 2012, is well-positioned for use by cloud service providers, featuring a great Web UI for administering cloud resources.

And that represents an irony of the private cloud: Many of the early adopters of these do-it-yourself cloud stacks are public cloud service providers -- who will of course opt for open source solutions. HP and Rackspace, for example, both offer IaaS based on OpenStack. For private cloud enterprise customers, only those that have already implemented wide-scale server virtualization need apply, and adoption of more advanced private cloud functionality will take years.


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