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Vendors vary in approaches to open source cloud management

When choosing between open source cloud management vendors, IT administrators need to know how they differ in their support of open source strategies.

OpenStack and CloudStack are two robust open source cloud management tools. In the first part of this series, we examined the evolution of the two approaches. The second part of the series looks at how the vendors behind each strategy measure up.

With two open source cloud management platforms -- CloudStack and OpenStack -- competing for market acceptance, network vendors face a decision on how to allocate resources between them. IT admins need to know, for example, whether they should focus on just one approach, devote the majority of resources to one with limited support for the other or support both equally. When it comes to CloudStack vs. OpenStack, they also need to understand how each vendor differs in its support of the two methodologies. Here's how the vendors stack up.

A one-solution focus

We see them both as great platforms for SDN with solid, great communities behind them.
Mike Cohendirector of strategic alliances, Big Switch Networks

Hewlett-Packard, a Platinum Member of the OpenStack Foundation, focuses its efforts solely on OpenStack. With two of its executives on the foundation's board of directors, HP has been one of the most active contributors to OpenStack and ranks as one of the largest OpenStack contributors in terms of lines of code. Frances Quida, HP's manager of cloud solutions, said the company believes OpenStack is more robust than CloudStack. "Because of the flexibility afforded by the evolving framework and its ability to be used across hybrid delivery models, HP's position is that OpenStack is a more complete open source cloud management platform than CloudStack. Therefore, OpenStack is preferred and [it's] where we have directed our investment."

Citrix Systems Inc. submitted CloudStack to the Adobe Software Foundation after acquiring the cloud management platform from Citrix had been a member of the OpenStack community but ceased work on OpenStack and exited the community early this year. Since then, it has been the primary supporter of CloudStack, citing, among the methodology's other attributes, the hundreds of CloudStack clouds -- with many containing more than 1,000 servers and one with 30,000 servers -- now in full production.

OpenStack with support for CloudStack

Arista Networks Inc., Cisco Systems Inc. and Nicira Inc. are vendors primarily in the OpenStack camp. They have developed interfaces to enable their products to operate in a CloudStack environment.

Cisco, for example, a Gold Member of the OpenStack Federation, has made major contributions to OpenStack components including the Quantum networking component. Cisco has also developed the Cisco Edition of OpenStack that has been tested with Cisco Unified Computing System and Nexus switches. The Cisco Edition is downloadable free of charge.

Despite devoting significant resources to OpenStack, Cisco recognizes that neither stack solution will be the best choice for all of its customers. At the recent Citrix Synergy conference, Cisco and Citrix announced intentions to jointly develop an integrated CloudStack architecture that includes Cisco UCS, Nexus switches and Cisco ONE components. Lew Tucker, Cisco's chief technology officer of cloud computing and vice chairman of the board of the OpenStack Foundation, explained, "Cisco serves a broad set of customers and therefore works with different [independent software vendor] partners to provide solutions across multiple cloud platforms. Cisco also works with open source projects such as OpenStack to drive the evolution of standards and common platforms across the industry."

Arista Networks, meantime, has primarily focused on OpenStack but also supports customers that have deployed CloudStack. Arista has worked with partners in the OpenStack community to implement Quantum plug-ins that interface with Arista switches, and it also participates with Rackspace Inc. on the Alamo OpenStack private cloud certification program. While Arista is currently not actively engaged with the CloudStack community, it is keeping the door open for possible future initiatives. To that end, Arista has engineered APIs in its EOS operating system so they can be integrated in a CloudStack environment.

Nicira, recently acquired by VMware Inc., has been a major contributor to OpenStack. It began and leads development of the Quantum component and has deployed OpenStack as its internal cloud. Nicira has also integrated its network virtualization platform into CloudStack and is working with Cisco to integrate Quantum with CloudStack.

Vendors supporting both platforms equally

Vendors that support both OpenStack and CloudStack include Big Switch Networks Inc., Brocade Communications Systems Inc. and Juniper Networks Inc.

Juniper Networks, an active member of both the OpenStack and CloudStack communities, has contributed to the OpenStack Quantum project, developed plug-ins to support Juniper products and also provided interfaces to support its SRX Series service gateways in a CloudStack environment.

Brocade Communications, an OpenStack Foundation corporate sponsor, maintains a Cloud Lab where it demonstrates a prototype OpenStack configuration with its VDX switches. Brocade has also been working on integrating its ADX application delivery switch as well as its VDX products with CloudStack. Finally, it has been working with the CloudStack community to address customer requirements for CloudStack interfaces for these products.

Big Switch Networks designed its Open Software Defined Network Suite to operate in a wide variety of environments including OpenStack, CloudStack, Microsoft System Center and VMware vCenter. Citing the benefits of OpenStack and CloudStack, Mike Cohen, Big Switch's director of strategic alliances, said, "We see them both as great platforms for SDN with solid, great communities behind them."

Even as OpenStack and CloudStack continue to evolve, it's unclear whether one open source cloud management approach will dominate or whether the strategies will continue to compete. One possible solution: The management systems merge. Some view OpenStack not as a single methodology but as a set of open source components available for use in other management platforms. Currently, CloudStack users can choose OpenStack Swift for object storage and they will be able to choose Quantum for network support. As it becomes possible to select more OpenStack components for inclusion in a CloudStack deployment, the distinction between the two may fade.

Among other possible future scenarios: One approach may prove better for service providers and the other for enterprise clouds. No matter what the outcome, the intense work under way to develop the two strategies is certain to speed cloud deployments.

This was last published in March 2013

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