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Red Hat Releases Open Source OpenStack Cloud Preview

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Red Hat is out today with the first public preview release for its Enterprise OpenStack cloud distribution.

The preview release is the first milestone on the path to what will become Red Hat’s Enterprise OpenStack commercially supported release at some point in 2013. OpenStack is one of the leading open source cloud platforms and has the support of major IT vendors like Dell, HP, IBM, Cisco, AT&T and Rackspace.openstack distribution

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Red Hat CTO Brian Stevens told Datamation that the first preview release is based on the Essex OpenStack release. OpenStack Essex debuted in April of this year and benefited heavily from Red Hat’s contributions. While the preview released today is based on Essex, Steven noted that Red Hat will update to the upcoming Folsom release later this year.

“Our commercial offering early next year will be based on Folsom,” Stevens said. “We believe that Folsom provides the baseline feature set for a commercial product so our commercial release will wait until then.”

With the Essex-based Red Hat OpenStack preview, Stevens added that there is only basic support for the Quantum networking project. Quantum is the new networking component of OpenStack, leveraging the open vSwitch technology originally developed by Nicira. Quantum is set to become a full project in the Folsom release, and Red Hat intends to include full support as part of its commercially supported distribution as well.

OpenStack Installer

One of the ways that different vendors are beginning to differentiate their respective OpenStack distributions is with different installation mechanisms and tools. Dell, which is one of the leading sponsors of OpenStack, has open sourced its crowbar tool. Red Hat’s Linux rival SUSE also uses crowbar for its OpenStack distribution.

Stevens explained that in the Essex-based preview, Red Hat is using straight YUM/RPM for installation and manual configuration. YUM and RPM are the standard tools used by Red Hat for installation of any application.

“We also have created Red Hat Enterprise Linux based Puppet modules, which can be used either standalone or with Puppet server infrastructure to deploy the OpenStack services,” Stevens said. “These Puppet modules are already published on the puppet labs website.”

Puppet is one of the leading open source configuration management technologies. Puppet first began to offer support for OpenStack installation and configuration management in April.

“In addition, we are working on a standalone install utility that will utilize the Puppet modules to make it easier to deploy OpenStack for small labs and PoC deployments,” Stevens said. “We are working with the upstream communities to evaluate projects, (including Crowbar, to determine which projects make the most sense to include in Red Hat’s distribution of OpenStack in future releases.”

RHEL 6 Only

From an operating system perspective, Red Hat OpenStack will only run on Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6 (RHEL) and not the older but still supported Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5.x.

“Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5 does not provide many of the required dependencies,” Stevens said. “Given the maturity of Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6 along with the expanded feature set of core components such as KVM in Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6, we saw no customer or business drivers to support Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5 for the hosts systems.”

As to why Red Hat has chosen to release a preview of it OpenStack Enterprise distribution now, there are a number of key drivers. Red Hat was not an early adopter of OpenStack, but in the Essex timeframe the company jumped in with both feet. Red Hat is now also one of the leading members of the nascent OpenStack Foundation.

Stevens stressed that Red Hat’s OpenStack preview isn’t just the OpenStack project with Red Hat packaging.

“These preview releases are more than just the upstream release packaged in RPM; they include backporting of fixes, hardening, testing and certification that will add several weeks to the process,” Stevens said. “Given the significant customer interest in Red Hat OpenStack, including the use of OpenStack with Fedora, within EPEL (Fedora hosted extras repository for RHEL) and with our LightHouse customers, we wanted to enable broad access to OpenStack for developers and end users as soon as possible.”

Red Hat’s community open source Fedora Linux has included OpenStack support for at least a year. Stevens noted that Red Hat and Fedora developers had to deal with multiple challenges initially. One of them was the simple fact that OpenStack was initially built with Ubuntu Linux as the core reference Linux implementation.

“For the most part, once things worked properly in Fedora, porting it to EPEL was straightforward,” Stevens said. “Most of the work we have been doing to move from EPEL to the Red Hat distribution of OpenStack has been around backporting bug fixes to the stable branches upstream and then carrying those patches from Fedora to EPEL and finally Red Hat OpenStack.”

Red Hat Portfolio

While OpenStack can stand alone as product, Red Hat’s overall strategy is more robust. The plan moving forward is to make sure that Red Hat OpenStack integrates well with other open source efforts that Red Hat leads.

“Red Hat is working to ensure that other open source projects in the Red Hat cloud portfolio work well with OpenStack,” Steven said. “That includes OpenShift, our PaaS offering, running on top of OpenStack as well as CloudForms support for OpenStack to provide an open hybrid cloud solution that spans multiple cloud and virtualization providers such as OpenStack, Amazon EC2, Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization and vSphere.”

The unsupported preview version of Red Hat OpenStack is available at: www.redhat.com/tryopenstack.

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at InternetNews.com, the news service of the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist.

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