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Exploring the World of OpenStack

2/23/2015 8:00 AM Eastern

OpenStack. In computing, and especially distributed computing, it’s a staple of conversation and workflow. People tend to elevator-pitch it as “an open operating system for the cloud,” “Linux on steroids” and “a framework based around opensource software.”

 

As one software aficionado put it: “It’s a bunch of scripts (translation: instructions) that help create clouds and virtual machines to deploy file systems and storage and a bunch of other stuff.”

 

Getting clearer? Here’s more. OpenStack started in July of 2010 as a collaborative project between NASA and Rackspace, with a goal of making it easier to use regular, off-the-shelf computing hardware to handle public and private cloud activities.

 

Last month, Time Warner Cable posted a tech blog titled “One Year Later: Setting Up OpenStack at TWC,” penned by its lead “stacker,” Matt Haines (real title: vice president, cloud engineering and operations). In it, he describes how his agile team “designed and deployed an enterprisegrade cloud,” using OpenStack, in its two national data centers.

 

Comcast began its OpenStack cloud work three years ago to support its X1 rollout — navigation first, then apps, and now video. (It’s what’s behind “cloud DVR.”)

 

Both Comcast and Verizon settled on OpenStack as an alternative to buying proprietary set-tops, control components and servers from the same company. Troubleshooting gets easier, they submit. Rolling out new services, features and bug-fixes gets (way, way) faster.

 

Vendors, always in a weird spot when their customers decide to lean toward “build” vs. “buy,” is following suit. During International CES, Cisco Systems heavily emphasized its investment in, and development of, OpenStack-based components for multichannel video providers.

 

It follows that OpenStack is behind all the tech talk about “transparency,” and the tales about how this or that was about to go kaflooey, but because there was visibility into the software (which always comes in “stacks”), techs fixed it (in hours, not months), averting disaster. Anecdotes like this abound in OpenStack-speak.

 

Everything about OpenStack is open, even how papers are vetted for its twice-yearly five-day conferences, which each attract around 5,000 attendees. (The “stackers” met in Atlanta and Paris last year.) Submitted for consideration for last November’s Paris confab were 1,100 papers. (By contrast, cable’s tech events typically attract around 300 papers, vetted by committee.) The entire OpenStack community voted on who spoke.

 

As “open” stuff goes, OpenStack is decidedly one to know. The OpenStack conference meets again in Vancouver May 18-22; on any given day, regional groups host meetups all over the world. Time to get your stack on.

 

Stumped by gibberish? Visit Leslie Ellis at www.translation-please.com or www.multichannel.com/blog.

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