OpenStack: what's in it for Google Cloud

ComputerworldUK sits down with Craig McLuckie, Google Cloud's product manager and co-founder of open source container Kubernetes, to discuss cloud, open source communities and the reasons behind Google's OpenStack endorsement.

Few companies understand what it means to scale cloud apps, like Google’s Search or Maps, across thousands of machines.

Google runs one of the most sophisticated automated infrastructures, and is renowned for pioneering cloud computing technologies. Its expertise using containers for managing huge application demands and its early adoption of Docker, which allows cloud-based apps to run alongside traditional enterprise workloads, marks it out as an influencer.

But now, it’s turning its efforts to OpenStack. Put simply, OpenStack is an open source cloud computing platform. Initially developed by NASA, it is home to an ecosystem of businesses and developers dedicated to building atop of, and furthering the framework which include distributors like Mirantis - which offers enterprise-ready solutions, as well as major vendor-led integrations. It has emerged as a legitimate community, with the aim of producing enterprise-worthy technology that solves basic infrastructure provisioning problems.

Google’s cloud developers will contribute code to OpenStack projects (like container-focused Magnum) and it has integrated its own open source container project, Kubernetes, with the framework.

Politically, it’s an obvious choice. Supporting OpenStack is a small, but sharp punch in the face for Amazon Web Services (AWS), one of Google’s rivals.

But more than just a rally against near-monopoly AWS, Google’s sponsorship is an opportunity to curry favour with an entire community - and get knowledgeable talent building on its infrastructure.

“The intent was to clearly signal our commitment to bringing cloud-native paradigms Google have been working on to the OpenStack community,” says Craig McLuckie. “It will mean that over time, as Google becomes more active in the community we will make sure that Google Cloud primitives are very well-aligned with Google Cloud technologies.”

For example, McLuckie says it would be “very natural” to work with the foundation to create an adapter that allows OpenStack customers to use Google’s new storage product, Nearline, for offsite backup.

Future projects

“I expect us to look at what identity integration with OpenStack Keystone means and put effort into making sure we have good hybrid cloud for people building and deploying OpenStack, but also want to access Google Cloud.”

Keystone is an OpenStack project that provides identity, token, catalog and policy services when using the framework. It uses the OpenStack identity API.

Since the announcement to sponsor OpenStack in July, McLuckie is ensuring Google’s developments in the cloud-native app space works well with OpenStack as a “primary deployment destination for everything we do”.

Why now?

But it's taken Google five years to officially sponsor OpenStack. It has decided to back the foundation with funds - and developers - because it has finally reached "legitimate" status.

“I won’t name any names, but there are two patterns that can exist with open source communities. You can have a closed community, where it is driven to a specific set of corporate objectives. At the other end, you can end up with a community that has become balkanised. Here, the technology becomes fragmented and lacks legitimacy because it doesn’t have a technical identity. OpenStack has never been the former, but has had some struggles with the latter.”

Previously, McLuckie explains, OpenStack’s API set lacked coherence, with varying semantic equivalents across the stack. Five years in, however, he is, “starting to see convergence around these projects - and that is heartening”.

Easier deployment will ensure OpenStack succeeds

Easing the burden of deploying OpenStack technologies on premise, in private clouds is “imperative,” says McLuckie.

Organisations like Mirantis and Redhat, for example, are highly motivated and will “reduce the barriers to entry considerably”, he adds.

“The community is sufficiently advanced now that people are competing within it...It is an arms race to become better, and more efficient.”

McLuckie pauses, remembering Google’s mission. “On the flipside, I’m a cloud provider and we provide a one-stop shop to provide those solutions for you. Between these two things, and the emergence of engaged, focused, talented individuals that are looking to build businesses around OpenStack, the right thing is going to happen.”

Copyright © 2015 IDG Communications, Inc.

Shop Tech Products at Amazon