Microsoft 'committed' to Hyper-V OpenStack support

The OpenStack community is considering dropping support for Hyper-V

Microsoft may try to revive support for Hyper-V in OpenStack as the community considers removing the code -- which one OpenStack developer called broken and unmaintained -- from the stack.

"Microsoft is committed to working with the community to resolve the current issues with Hyper-V and OpenStack," Microsoft said in a statement.

That comment followed a suggestion on an OpenStack news group by Thierry Carrez, a developer handling release management for OpenStack, that the code supporting Hyper-V be removed from the version of OpenStack Compute currently being developed. In a newsgroup item titled "Essex dead wood cutting," he included Hyper-V among just two items that could be removed from Essex, the version of OpenStack Compute scheduled for release in the second quarter. He called the Hyper-V code "known broken and unmaintained."

If it is removed, few people are likely to miss it. "I don't know of any production deployment of it. I don't know of any active development deployment of it," said Joshua McKenty, CEO of Piston Cloud Computing. McKenty was the technical architect of NASA's Nebula cloud platform, which spun off into OpenStack, and is very involved in the OpenStack community.

He recalled that Microsoft hired a contractor company to do the integration work "but they never really finished," he said.

The project may have fizzled for a couple of simple reasons, he said. For instance, the people at Microsoft who championed the idea may have moved into a different group at the company and no one else picked it up.

However, Microsoft may have also decided instead to focus on its own Azure platform for use in public and private cloud deployments, he said.

Microsoft did not answer other questions about its interest and experiences with adding Hyper-V support to OpenStack.

If Microsoft wants to sell server software to cloud service providers using OpenStack, the lack of interest in its hypervisor might be a concern, one analyst said. "What this says more than anything is that people aren't building clouds on Windows as an underlying architecture," said James Staten, an analyst with Forrester Research.

Because Hyper-V is included with the Windows Enterprise server license, a lack of interest in Hyper-V in the OpenStack community probably means cloud service providers aren't using Windows server in their OpenStack deployments.

That's not particularly surprising, Staten said. "If you're building using an open community based solution, you'll start with things that carry no license at all," he said.

However, he said that many individual cloud service providers are beginning to build two offerings: one uses primarily open source software. The second is built on commercial products that are used in enterprises and thus might be more appealing to enterprise customers. Currently, VMware has the bulk of the market share for the cloud services aimed at enterprises, he said.

"So to add a third one or to introduce a commercial license would be a nonintuitive move," Staten said.

Microsoft has not yet chimed in officially on the OpenStack newsgroup thread that popped up last week or following a ReadWriteWeb story about the issue that appeared Monday. So far Tim Bell, who works with CERN, is the only person who has indicated he'd like to continue support for Hyper-V. CERN does not appear to be using Hyper-V with OpenStack in a production environment, but an October presentation posted online indicates it hoped to at least try using Hyper-V in its OpenStack environment once the support was available.

"Are there other sites who are affected by this proposal who would be willing to invest effort to maintain the Hyper-V support?" Bell wrote on the newsgroup thread.

Based on the rest of his post, the issue for Bell and potentially others is getting support from Microsoft if they are running Windows 7 and Windows Server as guests in OpenStack using a hypervisor other than Hyper-V. Microsoft will in fact offer support in that scenario if the hypervisor being used is part of its Server Virtualization Validation Program.

Without an outcry against dropping support for Hyper-V for now, the code could be dropped soon. A member of the community could decide to do the work to remove the code this Thursday during a scheduled bug squashing day at OpenStack, McKenty said. That action would be reviewed by the 45-member core team at OpenStack, which he's a member of.

Barring an outcry, the only reason he can see for deciding to keep the code in place would be if the core team determines that it's too big of a change to make since there is a freeze on feature changes at this stage in the development of the new version of OpenStack Compute, McKenty said.

Meanwhile, based on its statement, Microsoft could be looking for another partner to help with the development of Hyper-V support in future versions of OpenStack. The company must be careful with how it works with open source communities due to its historical run in with antitrust authorities, Staten said. That means Microsoft is likely to partner with a contractor again, rather than do the work itself.

Regardless, even if Hyper-V support is removed from the next version of OpenStack, it doesn't necessarily mean it won't be back, he said. "It's less of a dropping and more of a deprioritization," Staten said. Without a significant number of cloud vendors committed to building OpenStack on Hyper-V, "there's no point doing the engineering work at this time."

Nancy Gohring covers mobile phones and cloud computing for The IDG News Service. Follow Nancy on Twitter at @idgnancy. Nancy's e-mail address is Nancy_Gohring@idg.com

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