Reports that retailer Wal-Mart plans to expand its use of Rackspace services based on OpenStack should have enterprise IT pros doing a double-take. Indeed, if you haven't heard of OpenStack by now, it's time to get with it.
OpenStack, as most of you know, is open-source software designed for the creation and management of infrastructure-as-a-service cloud offerings. Originally designed by Rackspace and NASA two years ago, OpenStack is now an independent project supported by an army of big IT vendors, including IBM, AT&T, HP, and VMware. Some in this army are part of another platoon of early adopters.
At this time, OpenStack's creators have stepped off center stage. Rackspace is just another supporter, albeit a powerful one whose influence is
still questioned. And NASA stopped development work on OpenStack earlier this year.
The news that Wal-Mart may join the OpenStack bandwagon is significant because it represents a use of the software by a mainstream enterprise -- a big, mainstream enterprise in a key vertical: retail. Until now, much OpenStack publicity has centered on firms using it to create their own cloud services. Wal-Mart would reportedly use OpenStack as implemented by Rackspace: to power an internal cloud for data analytics.
No doubt lots of other enterprises will be keenly interested to see how Wal-Mart, a frequent early adopter of technology, fares in terms of OpenStack's practicality for enterprise applications in private clouds.
(Inquiries to Wal-Mart for verification of its use of OpenStack for data analytics went unanswered at press time.)
The Wal-Mart news also prompts a review of OpenStack as an alternative to Amazon Web Services (AWS), the foundation for many cloud services. Indeed, NASA itself prompted talk about this issue when it reportedly embraced AWS after abandoning OpenStack development this past spring.
There are commercial APIs that purport to integrate OpenStack and AWS, and startups continue to forge new links. But so far, the unification isn't mainstream.
There are also alternatives to OpenStack, such as Citrix's CloudStack and Eucalyptus.
The flurry around Wal-Mart's rumored adoption of OpenStack shows the vigorous interest in the emerging alternatives for IaaS, not only for service providers, but for enterprises in other industries. The IT world will be closely tracking the progress of the Wal-Mart project, as well as others that surface.
— Mary Jander , Executive Editor, Internet Evolution