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SUSE jumps into OpenStack with its own distribution

Linux vendor SUSE has thrown its hat into the already crowded OpenStack distribution game.

Openstack is the open source cloud deployment model that in the two years since its founding has gained considerable attention from some of the biggest tech players in the industry. Companies like Rackspace, through its private cloud, already offer a free OpenStack distribution, while CloudScaling, Piston Cloud Computing Co., Red Hat and Ubuntu each have a distribution or are planning to release one soon.

Meanwhile, companies ranging from Rackspace to HP, Internap and Softlayer are already leveraging OpenStack as the foundation for their public clouds, giving users curious about trying OpenStack another option. "It's definitely getting crowded," says Forrester researcher James Staten about the OpenStack distributions already emerging in the market.

So how's SUSE going to fit in?

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"Our feeling is, yeah it's a crowded space, but we're able to capitalize on 20 years of experience supporting Linux, combined with our track record in the open source community," says Peter Chadwick, senior product manager of cloud at SUSE. Compared to Red Hat, its biggest Linux competitor, SUSE says it is more heterogeneous because it more fully supports both Xen and KVM hypervisors. SUSE's OpenStack distro will also support Crowbar, an open source project backed by Dell that aims to ease the launching of cloud installations across clusters of computers.

Despite all the players, Chadwick believes there's enough market share to go around for everyone to get a piece of the pie. "This is a market that's large and is expanding," he says. SUSE has been a member of the OpenStack community, but today's news of a distribution is the first product launch the company has made based on the OpenStack code.

SUSE explored other open source cloud deployment platforms to support, most notably the Citrix-based Apache CloudStack, but Chadwick says he's impressed with the community OpenStack has built up around it. In addition to Rackspace, Dell, IBM, Red Hat, Cisco, Nicira and others, the OpenStack board voted Tuesday to include VMware as a member company in OpenStack.

SUSE's OpenStack distribution, which is included in its Enterprise 11 Service Pack 2 offering, includes an administrative server that provides the automation platform, setup control nodes an image repository and then the actual compute and storage nodes.

Ken Pepple, a former OpenStack contributor at Internap and now a cloud consultant at Cloud Technology Partners, says SUSE's OpenStack distribution may appeal most to its current customer base, which is heavily in Europe. "Among the Linux distributions, they are the first with a separate OpenStack-based product," he says. "This may gather them some points with an early mover advantage, but I see Canonical's higher profile standing in the OpenStack development community and Red Hat's industry stature and breadth of solution to relegate them to an afterthought for most enterprises."

Staten, the Forrester researcher, says the true winners in the OpenStack distribution space will offer a full range of services, from the download of the massaged OpenStack code, to the support, professional services and linkage in with a public cloud that users can elastically scale into if they desire. Rackspace, he says, is likely in the best position to provide that full range of services at this point, he says.

OpenStack folks are thrilled that so many vendors are signing on to the project. "With SUSE being focused on the enterprise, it's great to have OpenStack available from all the major Linux distributors," says Rackspace's Jonathan Bryce. "Basically anyone running Linux can now have their choice of OpenStack distributions."

Could too many vendors coming out with their own OpenStack distributions fragment the market? Bryce scoffs at the idea. "At the end of the day, we're all running off of the same OpenStack code," he says. "Where there's differentiation is in the tools, management and installation, configuration and support. From an OpenStack perspective through, it's all the same 1 and 0s, it's just being spread further into the market."

Network World staff writer Brandon Butler covers cloud computing and social collaboration. He can be reached at [email protected] and found on Twitter at @BButlerNWW.

Read more about software in Network World's Software section.


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