The cloud is coming--and to prove it's no smoke and mirrors trick (like so many Net phenomena) Rackspace, which already plays in the server-side of the cloud game, is due to offer an open-source solution so folks can host their own clouds.
Rackspace's new OpenStack system already sounds promising: It's open-sourced, which will appeal to the more free-thinking Netizens out there, and it's designed so that the end-user can build and host cloud storage servers (pretty automatically, according to OpenStack itself) for whatever needs they see fit, up to petabyte sizes. The uses for this are potentially many-fold, but one immediately springs to mind: Imagine you're a technology company that values the distributed-working solution offered by cloud-based systems, but are wary of trusting your precious project data, business models, and sensitive company info to a third party cloud-services operator. Sure, they're extraordinarily trustworthy ... but some firms will definitely prefer the comfort levels associated with running and managing their own solution. There're also going to be many more customization modes available, and since the system is open-sourced, it's plausible that the developer community will craft installations, plug-ins, and optimized tweaks for OpenStack that Rackspace itself may never have invented, let alone had the resources to code-up.
Rackspace is taking what some traditional business-thinkers may see as a big risk with this project: The core elements of OpenStack aren't some esoteric one-off pieces of code designed to make a new idea work. They're actually key components of Rackspace's existing infrastructure. Evidently Rackspace is relying on the fact that this proves the system already works to help sell it to end-users. As a Rackspace exec also revealed to CNet, part of the thinking is also that Rackspace supports the general principles of standardization, and hopes to get its model in more widespread use in the early stages of the cloud server explosion.
And if that's not enough to pique potential clients interests, the initial cloud-storage offering in OpenStack will be augmented by a computer-power cloud processing system (using NASA's Nebula cloud systems) later in the year, and this will mean OpenStack customers will be able to serve a complete home-hosted virtualization offering to their workforces. Will big cloud services operators like Amazon be worried about Rackspace's efforts? Probably not--until OpenStack starts making real traction in the marketplace at least.
To keep up with this news, follow me, Kit Eaton, on Twitter.