PALO ALTO, Calif. Executives from Hewlett-Packard, Intel and Yahoo are calling for developers to create an open source software standard for cloud computing. They showed their work on the effort—some of it still at a very early stage—at a gathering of researchers creating a test bed for cloud services.
The trio joined with three academic research institutes to form the Open Cirrus group in July 2008, each dedicating computer servers with a total of 1,000 cores to form a distributed network of systems as a research platform. On Monday, three more research groups joined the effort—the Russian Academy of Sciences, South Korea's Electronics and Telecommunications Research Institute and MIMOS, a R&D arm of Malaysia's Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation.
"We want to rally the larger research community around the vision of this open source cloud services stack," said Andrew Chien, vice president of research at the first annual gathering of the partners here, echoing calls of a group of 38 vendors in March.
Cloud services are essentially unused parts of large data centers rented out to host third party applications. Amazon, Google and Microsoft have announced cloud service offerings, but each uses some of its own proprietary software to implement them.
An open source stack could prevent the spread of proprietary offerings and spur innovation like the so-called LAMP stack of Linux, Apache, MySQL and Perl/Python did for Web 2.0 developers, Chien said.
"The LAMP open source stack was given credit for creation of a whole raft of Internet startups and tech innovation, and I think the same could prove true for an open cloud stack," Chien told the gathering of about 50 researchers hosted at HP headquarters.
"A million processors could be the province of a handful of companies in five years, or they may be broadly available to academic and startup communities and other businesses whether they be telecoms or entertainment companies," he said.
Commercial cloud services make their own brands of application frameworks available to users today. But they do not release the kinds of virtualization and monitoring tools, storage file systems and job schedulers they use to execute and manage those applications, Chien said.
The Intel researcher characterized as very fragmented the current variety of existing software tools for cloud computing.
"It's very hard to put together a clean, robust stack," said Chien. "We spend a lot of time in the industry building shims or glue to hold these pieces together," he said.
The software is mature enough to make decisions about a standard stack now, he said, answering a question from one researcher. "We're in a landscape where a number of players are moving forward, and I don't expect their stacks to remain static," he said.