In June, IBM bought Blue Box, an OpenStack-based Private-Cloud-as-a-Service startup. Less than 90 days after the acquisition, Blue Box Cloud became available in of IBM’s SoftLayer data centers last week, enabling customers to easily build OpenStack private clouds on IBM SoftLayer dedicated servers.
Todd Moore, IBM’s VP of Open Technology, told the WHIR in an interview at OpenStack Summit Silicon Valley last week that the quick rollout of Blue Box across IBM data centers was made possible because IBM had been taking a similar approach with its technologies. He credits work in the OpenStack community that encourages standardization within OpenStack including the RefStack toolset for testing interoperability between OpenStack clouds, and the Defcore group, which creates standards for OpenStack-labeled products.
The first time IBM met with the Blue Box team at the 2014 OpenStack Summit in Paris when their booths were located across from one another, and there was an immediate cultural synergy – they just clicked. “It’s not just the technology – it’s the people as well too, and the skills,” Moore said. “We just proved it big time with the 90-day integration that we’ve got the skills.”
OpenStack is one of the prefered solutions for private clouds, but it is still a new technology and individuals skilled in it are scarce. One of the advantages of the Blue Box Cloud is that customers can leverage IBM and Blue Box’s skills to make it easier to setup and manage a private cloud.
Blue Box Cloud aims to make setting up a public cloud almost as quick and easy as setting up a public cloud. Out of the box, it takes care of the physical hardware and data center operations, providing a private single tenant cloud using dedicated hardware that’s fully managed and maintained by OpenStack experts.
Adding Enterprise-Grade Security and Federation to OpenStack
Public cloud environments aren’t ideal for enterprises for a variety of reasons such as security and data sovereignty, causing many businesses to attempt to build on-premise private clouds. However, the OpenStack project is working to make hosted private clouds address these concerns.
IBM Distinguished Engineer Brad Topol had started working on the Keystone identity component of OpenStack early on – even before the inclusion of secure TTL connections. “Starting out, it was not enterprise-strength by any means. Based on customer needs and customer requirements, we’ve moved up quickly, putting in those secure connections from Keystone.” Soon after, he said, “customers started coming to us with more requirements, particularly around federation.”
Keystone eventually added integration with federation managers and then is using that as a foundation towards hybrid cloud. He said that contributors are working on multi-region federation, multi-factor authentication, and things like certificate integration and token formats for larger scale regions.
Topol said, “Keystore is one of those projects where you’re always looking for new people to join who are experts in particular areas of security, so that we can continue to do what we need to do with security integration and also be able to scale.”
Preparing for Hybrid Cloud Architectures, and Leading the Way for Interoperability
Blue Box Cloud offers bare-metal configurations that integrate an on-premise cloud with its PCaaS. This allows businesses to leverage their existing infrastructure purchases or use workload-specific infrastructure on-prem for things like intense Big Data workloads or commercial database servers such as MS SQL or Oracle.
Blue Box offers three bare metal images aimed at particular applications. The Blue Box Cloud Bare Metal High I/O is optimized for high I/O intensive workloads such as online transaction processing and traditional SQL and NoSQL database services. The High Memory Bare Metal provides heavy caching, search indexing and in-memory analytics applications, and works with both commercial and open-source database packages. The Blue Box High Density Bare Metal server offers 24TB of local storage and is ideal for big data applications.
Blue Box Cloud also fits within IBM’s portfolio of open-source cloud services, providing organizations more IT options, according to Moore. “Within SoftLayer, we’ve had Swift object storage for a long time, but we also have the BlueMix Platform as a Service offering that is based off CloudFoundry,” Moore said. Having options to knit together different clouds and services obviously presents enormous opportunities for organizations. “To make that work, you need to have the federation happen, and so that’s hugely important to us, and something that you’ll see us continue to support.”
To this end, IBM has been a partner in the Cloud Native Computing Foundation, which Moore sees as a way to harmonize many different environments. He also sees an importance in supporting container management solutions such as Mesos, Docker Swarm and Kubernetes, rather than choose one winning solution, because each has strengths.
“We’ve come to the conclusion that containers need to be ubiquitous and how we go about taking care of and managing and doing things,” he said. “We can specify in a way that then creates this bigger environment that everyone can go and work [with].”