IBM has announced its first concrete steps to making the OpenStack (OpenStack.org) cloud architecture the foundation of all of IBM's future cloud services. IBM's initial OpenStack offering, SmartCloud Orchestrator, is a graphical front end for deploying applications independent of ties to underlying cloud components, such as CPU architecture, hypervisor, operating system, or storage implementation.
As with the orchestration components of other cloud providers, such as Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft Azure, IBM's SC Orchestrator lets a business spin up new applications in minutes, while tying in various workflow requirements such as human task automation and lifecycle management. What's new with IBM's Orchestator, however, is its OpenStack underpinings, which theoretically free customers from vendor lock-in. Instead of proprietary management tools and third-party APIs, which tend to hold cloud customers captive to a vendor's cloud environment, OpenStack makes cloud-based applications portable, at least between OpenStack environments.
OpenStack, launched by Rackspace and NASA more than two years ago, is a consortium of cloud computing developers that specifies standards and reference implementations for an open cloud architecture, conveniently also called OpenStack. It's a dessert topping and a furniture polish. More than 150 companies (including IBM, which joined as a Platinum member just ten months ago) are OpenStack participants, including such major industry players as Cisco, Dell, HP, Intel, RackSpace, Red Hat, and VMware.
Notable non-members are Amazon and Microsoft, both of which have large, but proprietary, public cloud environments. OpenStack does support APIs compatible with Amazon's AWS, which OpenStack says let cloud customers port AWS-compliant client applications to OpenStack with minimal effort. And Microsoft says, after an initial mis-start, that Hyper-V will have OpenStack support in the future.
OpenStack the organization produces actual software, largely developed for the open-source Linux operating system. Although IBM hasn't said so specifically, its SC Orchestrator is presumably based on the OpenStack orchestration component named Heat.
IBM says SC Orchestrator is available now through a beta program; IBM predicts general availability later this year.