Cloud Native

RefStack: IBM’s Step Towards Multi-Cloud OpenStack Interoperability

6 Jun 2016 9:37am, by

Companies left and right are deploying OpenStack in production at an unprecedented rate. AT&T, Verizon, Volkswagen, BMW, JPL are all building their future on top of OpenStack. However, the fact remains that there is not, and there will never be one cloud. There will be multiple clouds, by multiple vendors. And that creates a huge challenge: interoperability and risks of vendor lock-in, even within the OpenStack ecosystem.

The cloud is no different than the web, in that it will be a patchwork of different networks and technologies, said Angel Diaz, who is the vice president of cloud architecture and technology at IBM. “When you look at the cloud, our view is that there is not a single cloud, there is not going to be a single cloud.”

Companies like IBM are working on bringing the ‘Internet effect’ to clouds. “What we’ve been trying to do at IBM in order to have kind of the internet effect for clouds, is to ensure that the cloud architecture, the centers of gravity, how one builds a cloud, are open and are based on truly open-source projects,” said Diaz.

“RefStack is the most critical piece, that is the piece that actually does the work” — Angel Diaz.

IBM already has a portfolio to help the enterprise build a cloud-friendly stack: OpenStack for computer, storage and networking; containers for microservices; OpenWhisk for event-driven architectures; Cloud Foundry for cloud native applications. In a nutshell, the entire architecture is built around open source technologies.

But with interoperability, all of these open source technologies will lose their edge, Diaz said.

“What will happen is that vendors that don’t have interoperability won’t be able to play in this liquid economy. There is no proprietary format for web and web service; they’re all based on the application HTTP codebase. That war is over. The same thing is going to happen here, at least that’s the plan,” said Diaz.

And vendor lock-in takes a different form in the cloud era.

“When you’re locked in to say, the Amazon API, you can’t move. There’s nothing you can do. You’re there. If you’re using OpenStack API to drive your work goals, you have a hope of going to another provider, and there are other providers. What we want to do, within OpenStack distribution, reduce the friction of movement. Make it even easier.”

Enter RefStack

Last year IBM launched RefStack, an open source tool for vendors and other users to run API tests against their clouds to provide a reliable overview of what APIs and capabilities are being used in the marketplace. The idea is to drive interoperability across clouds, to mitigate vendor lock-in and enable developers to use the best combination of cloud services and APIs for their needs.

IBM is working with the OpenStack “DefCore” governance committee, which defines the standards for determining that a software product is OpenStack compliant.

There are new features coming to RefStack:

  • User functionality and usability enhancements to allow easier, more streamlined visibility into test data for OpenStack release compatibility.
  • Plug-in enablement to allow users to expand existing test suites to include external test cases.
  • Stability enhancements to expand the availability of the RefStack service and support a growing number of RefStack users.

IBM expects that RefStack will soon offer vendor registration, allowing community members to easily correlate test results in RefStack’s central repository with specific OpenStack vendors — ensuring results are more transparent. RefStack now maintains a central repository and API for test data.

Now that the project is in place, the next goal is to get OpenStack vendors involved. To raise interest, RefStack has announced the first ever Interop Challenge, in which vendors are invited to participate.

In October 2016, different OpenStack deployments will demonstrate interoperability across on-premises, public and hybrid clouds.

“We are trying to make it as easy as possible to have interoperability across the different aspects of OpenStack, because it’s a big deal,” said Diaz. For interoperability, he said, “RefStack is the most critical piece, that is the piece that actually does the work,” said Diaz.

IBM and Cloud Foundry are sponsors of The New Stack.

Feature image: Maresa Smith, via Death to the Stock Photo.

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