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November 5, 2014

Jeff Cotten talks OpenStack concerns and future aims

OpenStack Q&A with Rackspace MD Jeff Cotten at OpenStack Summit Paris 2014

By Ben Sullivan

CBR: What is Rackspace’s history with the OpenStack open source cloud computing platform?

JC: Rackspace is one of the founding members of OpenStack, in partnership with NASA. I think that’s important because when Rackspace saw the need to start evolving the utility models and build a cloud, we knew that we wanted to take a different approach. Ultimately, being a company that leverages a lot of open source technology, we believed that there were a lot of advantages for OpenStack. CIOs were looking specifically for a way to break the vendor cycle where the costs are in refreshing technology and signing up for new subscriptions in business models. That’s the genesis for why Rackspace decided to partner with NASA and create this open source technology.

CBR: What are some of the challenges facing the OpenStack community?

JC: A couple of things. First of all, one of the big issues at this conference, and something for OpenStack in general going forward, is simplification. There is a lot of complex technology and a lot of different projects. The leadership of all of those different projects is also very complex, so we are here for the idea that we need a core set of components that make up the core operating system of OpenStack. We also need to make sure that we are united around interoperability.

I think a lot of it is the vision and making sure we’re all aligned around the vision – ultimately, where do we see OpenStack as an enabling technology in a few years from now? We need to be adhering to that vision.

CBR: Why should the CIO know what OpenStack is and why would they need it?

JC: They need to understand it because it is the underlying orchestration layer for cloud technology. While there are multiple orchestration technologies out there (Microsoft has one, VMware has one, Amazon has one) OpenStack gives you great power because you can deploy it in a private cloud environment. This is where we see great opportunity and demand from our customers. It’s the opportunity to build a private cloud in their own data centre that’s in their control, and then be able to burst into another OpenStack cloud when they need to. For us, our public cloud based on OpenStack is a tool.

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CBR: Can OpenStack really reduce the total cost ownership of cloud?

JC: Absolutely. I think that OpenStack has some major economic benefits. First of all you’re leveraging open source software that you don’t have to pay a licensing fee for. Now obviously, there are options out there where you can choose to have some kind of a managed model, but certainly for Rackspace, it poses economic benefits for our cloud in terms of not having to pay for licensing of that underlying technology.

CBR: Should OpenStack be a collaborative effort amongst its vendors?

JC: Our position really is around the fact that, for our private cloud environment, we have our own distribution that we use and we’re trying to keep it as close to that OpenStack specification as we can. That way, it enables the interoperability and we hope that the other packaging distribitions out there would follow a similar model to enable that interoperability.

CBR: What’s next for Rackspace and OpenStack?

JC: This year we have been on a big push to really clarify our position in this space in the managed services element. You have your ‘do-it-yourselfers’, and the folks who want the managed service model. We want to go after the customers that value having someone help them design and architect and operate their cloud environment. It’s very important for us to enable our customers with choice and flexibility.

CBR: What do you have to say about the larger vendors such as IBM, HP, coming into OpenStack- a community which has traditionally been built on an open, startup ethos – and perhaps trying to steer it into a more commercial model?

JC: I think this is the challenge with open source in general. The way that we want to capitalise and have a commercial model around OpenStack is once again not necessarily trying to control OpenStack, and that is the issue that you’re referring to. This is why Rackspace wants to continue to have board membership in OpenStack and try to lead the thinking to ensure that we’re not ending up with a cloud that only fits a certain service provider or a certain commercial model. We still very much believe in the purity of the open model. I’d say it’s a concern and it certainly seems to be a theme that people are taking away from this particular conference, but I don’t think we’re at the point yet where that outcome is fully decided. I think there’s absolutely an opportunity to make sure that doesn’t happen and it’s in our vested interest to make sure of it.


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