Via Hacker News, Rackspace and NASA have opened up much of the components they’ve been using to run their large scale swarms of virtual machines under the auspices of the new Open Stack project. A few companies in the space of offering virtualization as a service have made some noises comparable to Open Stack but few have committed this fully to the idea.
Say what you will about the fully buzz-compliant term, cloud computing, using virtualization to help scale large scale service computing has gained a lot of traction in recent years. Most affordable and useful offerings carry a significant risk of lock-in. It has always seemed to me that there was a powerful need for some sort of open standard to allow users to port between public clouds and even run their own instances at whatever scale makes sense, all without introducing any disruptions into higher level applications.
Open Stack also comes with the quality I tend to respect most with open source projects and standards, that of being standard through heavy, shared use. Opening up what Rackspace, NASA and the other couple of dozen companies that have signed on are doing seems like a natural next step rather than a pure marketing ploy. That being said, it is still pretty early days for this particular effort, despite investments prior to opening things up. With a full Launchpad instance backing the effort though they are certainly putting their money where their mouth is, so to speak.
The whole stack is being made available under the Apache 2.0 license which is a respectable choice for balancing open collaboration and courting businesses that might like to use or even innovate upon this effort. I hope that the open availability of this project opens up a much wider market of compatible and competing cloud providers such that prices for the average individual come down to encourage more experimentation with running private instances of services that are otherwise way too consolidated, like Twitter and Facebook.
In the interest of disclosure, I am essentially a Rackspace customer. This very server is a VPS (virtual private server) I set up with Slicehost a couple of years ago. Slicehost has since been acquired by Rackspace. I have a further interest in as far as Open Stack may trickle into Slicehost and I may gain the ability to port my VPS should I ever feel the need to do so.