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The Stack Archive

Kemp reasserts value of open cloud at CEE14

Wed 2 Apr 2014

Open sourcing software and hardware is the way to avoid being locked in by a vendor in the future according to Nebula chief executive officer and founder of OpenStack, Chris Kemp.

Kemp, also previously chief technology officer at NASA, told the Cloud Expo Europe 2014 audience that: “We were building new telescopes and sending spacecraft to Mars where we were trying to map the surface of the planet so we could figure out where to land the little Rover. What we were paying for storage was simply not sustainable.

“We wanted to put this incredible content in the hands of the public. We wanted to make it as easy to zoom around Mars and fly through the Victoria crater as it was to view the Grand Canyon or Stonehenge in Google Earth.”

Along with the James Webb Space Telescope that was generating petabytes of data, NASA was also filling server space rapidly. “To have paid for storage the traditional way using government contracts would have not only put NASA out of the business but the whole of the US government,” Kemp said.

“We learned from Google and Facebook. We were able to take whitebox servers, put them in shipping containers and put them on MAE-West, which is the seventh node in the internet. We had lots of connectivity, lots of cheap power and lots of land. We certainly didn’t try to build facilities because that takes about 20 years at NASA. So we put some shipping containers filled with servers on some gravel and called it Nebula.”

“We decided NASA should not be in the business of building infrastructure, so we decided to open source everything.” OpenStack, launched July 2010, was the result.

There’s a lot to cope with. Four websites between them upload nearly a billion photos a day. There are 100 new hours of video on YouTube per minute. There are sensors on our phones, heart-rate monitors, thermometers, cars producing gigabytes of data. And 15% is already via mobile devices. More tablets are being sold than laptops, so storage disks are no longer important and flash memory is.Since then, many new projects have sprung up, with firms and developers working together in teams. There are more than 15,000 individuals and more than 1,000 companies in 133 countries involved. Some 750 concurrent developers have checked in code in the past 30 days. There are two million lines of code.

“A lot of what people call cloud is not cloud,” Kemp claimed. He flagged up “the smallest government document in history”, produced by the National Institute of Standards and Technology. It defines cloud computing as having these essential characteristics:
• On demand
• Elastic
• Shared
• Metered by use
• Accessible.

“If you are the source of the data, then it probably makes sense to use a private cloud,” said Kemp. “If your data source is the internet, then it probably makes sense to run on the public cloud because that is where your data is.”

He continued: “If you want to run your apps on inexpensive servers, then you need to invest a lot in your apps. If you cannot invest in your apps because they were written 25 years ago, then you will need to invest in secure infrastructure. Cloud is built for infrastructure-aware software. VM is for software that is unaware it has been virtualised.

“You need to re-tool everything in your data centre. If you can partition your data and move onto hundreds of machines, that will scale up easier. You will need to make an investment in your apps to move into the cloud.
The good news is most companies have open sourced. Netflix and Facebook are open sourcing in an attempt to standardise stuff on the internet.”

Kemp is a big fan of open source material. “Open Compute is the OpenStack for hardware,” he said. “Facebook has launched a non-profit foundation to open source the design of motherboards and racks. Build your next generation apps on public and private cloud and you will avoid another generation of lock-in to a vendor of technology.”

NIST Definition of Cloud Computing [PDF]

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