Open Clouds: A Little Less Talk, A Lot More Action

In IT circles, people have been talking about open cloud computing for a few years—or at least I have. There are many good reasons for this. Open clouds promise the efficiencies of a shared services environment coupled with the benefits of standards-based, interoperable solutions. They allow organizations to build heterogeneous clouds with different types of hardware, hypervisors, apps, and intra-cloud compatibility, minimizing vendor lock-in while maximizing flexibility and choice.

Today, the talk of open clouds is turning to action. You don’t have to look far to find examples of people taking meaningful steps to make open clouds a reality. That’s the case with the Open Data Center Alliance (ODCA). It is actively delivering usage models that help clear the path to open, interoperable cloud solutions with commonly understood security standards, infrastructure interoperability, common performance measures, and common approaches to management.

The importance of this work is evident in the support the Alliance enjoys from its more than 300 members and the growing list of IT vendors and solution providers who are putting the ODCA usage models to work. The real action comes from adoption, and this is the ODCA commitment in 2012—to use the usage models in planning and purchasing processes.

So how do vendor-agnostic requirements turn into solutions and actual deployments? Here’s one example: Last year the ODCA released its Carbon Footprint Values usage model, which outlines a means for cloud services to be CO2 aware. The usage model defines a requirement of workload execution level carbon reporting. This capability requires power management technologies that allow the service operator to see and understand how server platforms consume energy on behalf of the hosted workload.

These technologies are here today. Dell’s new 12G PowerEdge servers, for example, are all enabled to take advantage of the technologies, as are servers from many other OEMs. And on another front, ISVs, like JouleX, are drawing on hardware-level capabilities to aggregate and optimize power consumed across the data center, based on off-the-shelf reference architectures. Other systems vendors can do the same if they are using technologies that allow power management to be an open, interoperable solution.

The ODCA is also working with the Open Compute Project (OCP) to define open specifications for server, storage, and data center infrastructure that meet the needs of the broader enterprise. This initiative to “open source” hardware, like software, is a formula for accelerating hardware innovation based on open standards. It is also a formula that will allow OEMs to adopt groundbreaking technologies used in web-scale data centers and sell them more broadly into enterprise and service provider environments. As we speak, the collaboration between ODCA and OCP is driving server, rack, and system management specs that will make new cloud computing solutions readily available to organizations of all sizes.

Oh, but there is so much more. The pace of innovation is accelerating in open-source cloud software.  OpenStack is a good example of open source software making strides in the industry with development moving into production adoption slowly, but surely, for companies like Rackspace, HP, Cloudscaling, and other IaaS service providers using or testing OpenStack as the basis of their infrastructure.

The idea of open clouds also goes beyond computing and data center management into networking and storage.  For example, the Open Networking Foundation (ONF) was founded last year by leading service providers to drive standards for Software Defined Networking (SDN) and interfaces such as OpenFlow.  ONF’s goal is to reduce costs and improve the ability of IT users to innovate in their networks through open APIs and standards-based hardware. Too much to discuss in this blog, so will save this for later.

This is the way the wind is blowing across the cloud landscape. Vendors are pushing forward with open solutions that meet today’s cloud computing requirements, including those spelled out by the ODCA.

Clearly, this is a great time to refresh your infrastructure, because talk has turned to action.

(Guest post by Raejeanne Skillern, Director of Cloud Computing Marketing at Intel. You can reach her on Twitter at @RaejeanneS)