Apache LibCloud’s May 19 graduation from the Apache Incubator signifies that the race toward cloud inter-operability is firmly underway. Libcloud provides an open source Python library of back-end drivers that enables developers to connect to APIs of over 20 cloud computing platforms such as Amazon EC2, Eucalyptus, GoGrid, IBM Cloud, Linode, Terremark and vCloud. Developers can write code once and then re-deploy their applications on other cloud environments in order to avoid vendor lock-in and create redundant architectures for disaster recovery purposes. LibCloud was originally developed by the Rackspace acquisition CloudKick but subsequently migrated to the Apache Incubator Project in November 2009. LibCloud’s graduation from the Apache Incubator as a Top Level Project means that the product will be managed by a Project Management Committee that assumes responsibility for its evolution and subsequent releases. LibCloud is currently available under version 2.0 of an Apache Software License.
The principal drawback about LibCloud is its exclusive use of Python as the programming language to connect drivers to vendor APIs. Red Hat’s DeltaCloud, in contrast, leverages a REST based API that offers more flexibility than LibCloud’s Python library for the purpose of migrating software deployments from one cloud infrastructure to another. Like LibCloud, DeltaCloud is being groomed through the Apache Incubator project but has a few more steps to travel before graduation and the achievement of top level status. Nevertheless, open source options are clearly leading the charge toward cloud inter-operability although they all presently require the withdrawal of a cloud instance to a holding database followed by re-deployment through the activation of the linking API. In other words, neither LibCloud nor DeltaCloud enable developers to connect Amazon EC2 to Rackspace without an intermediary database as a preliminary step.
At its May 2010 summit in Boston, Red Hat, the world’s leading provider of open source solutions, announced the launch of CloudForms and OpenShift, two products that represent the company’s boldest entrance into the cloud computing space so far. CloudForms marks an IaaS service offering that enables enterprises to create and manage a private or hybrid cloud computing environment. CloudForms provides customers with Application Lifecycle Management (ALM) functionality that enables management of an application deployed over a constellation of physical, virtualized and cloud-based environments. Whereas VMWare’s vCloud enables customers to manage virtualized machines, Red Hat’s CloudForms delivers a more granular form of management functionality that allows users to manage applications. Moreover, CloudForms offers a resource management interface that confronts the problem in the industry known as virtual sprawl wherein IT administrators are tasked with the problem of managing multiple servers, hypervisors, virtual machines and clusters. Red Hat’s IaaS product also offers customers the ability to create integrated, hybrid cloud environments that leverage a combination of physical servers, virtual servers and public clouds such as Amazon EC2.
OpenShift represents Red Hat’s PaaS product that enables open source developers to build cloud computing environments from within a specified range of development frameworks. OpenShift supports Java, Python, PHP and Ruby applications such as Spring, Seam, Weld, CDI, Rails, Rack, Symfony, Zend Framework, Twisted, Django and Java EE. In supporting Java, Python, PHP and Ruby, OpenShift offers the most flexible development environment in the industry as compared to Amazon’s Elastic Beanstalk, Microsoft Azure and Google’s App Engine. For storage, OpenShift features SQL and NoSQL in addition to a distributed file system. Red Hat claims OpenShift delivers greater portability than other PaaS products because customers will be able to migrate their deployments to another cloud computing vendor using the DeltaCloud inter-operability API. The only problem with this marketing claim is that DeltaCloud is by no means the most widely accepted cloud computing inter-operability API in the industry. Red Hat submitted the DeltaCloud API to the Distributed Management Task Force (DMTF) in August 2010, but the Red Hat API faces stiff competition from open source versions of Amazon’s EC2 APIs as well as APIs from the OpenStack project.
In summary, Red Hat’s entrance into the IaaS and PaaS space promises to significantly change the cloud computing landscape. CloudForms signals genuine innovation in the IaaS space because of its Application Lifecycle Management capabilities and hybrid infrastructure flexibility. OpenShift, meanwhile, presents direct competition to Google Apps, Microsoft Azure and Amazon’s Elastic Beanstalk because of the breadth of its deployment platform and claims about increased portability. What makes OpenShift so intriguing is it that constitutes Red Hat’s most aggressive attempt so far to claim DeltaCloud as the standard API for the cloud computing industry.