Nebula Cloud Project Gets Buzz, But Will Proprietary Players Taint It?

by Ostatic Staff - Aug. 10, 2011

In case you've missed it, Nebula, a new startup from former NASA CTO Chris Kemp, which is focused on open source technology for large private cloud deployments, is generating a lot of hubbub. Nebula is billed as a way for many companies and organizations to leverage the kind of muscle in the cloud that Google and Facebook do, at a fraction of the cost. Simon Phipps has noted that at OSCON, luminaries such as Bill Joy and Al Gore waxed rhapsodic in a video about Nebula. Here is more on what Nebula is all about, including some concerns about whether proprietary players might taint its open source focus.

As GigaOM notes, Chris Kemp’s co-founders are VP of Engineering Devin Carlen, former CTO of Anso Labs, and VP of Business Development Steve O’Hara, former founder of Prime Networks, OnFiber and CoreLogic.  And the GigaOM piece notes:

"What they’re all working is fairly fascinating: A hardware appliance pre-loaded with customized OpenStack software and Arista networking tools, designed to manage racks of commodity servers as a private cloud. How commodity? Kemp said the first two certified reference architectures when the product is available in the fall will be for Dell’s PowerEdge C micro servers  and Facebook’s bare-bones Open Compute servers."

Simon Phipps questions whether Nebula will remain truly open, though:

"Most notable for me was the promise to keep the entire system - including the hardware - open source so anyone can implement and hack it. That promise was not anchored on any tangible guarantee, such as a non-profit foundation owning the design copyrights and patents, so I remain skeptical in my hope. After all, OpenStack has boiled down into a RackSpace-run technology project following their refusal to anchor their governance on anything independently open. Subsequently they seem to have lost all the staff there who I knew to be committed to open community and software freedom. We really need the Open Cloud Initiative to work."

There is no question that Chris Kemp knows what "truly open" means. He is the same person who helped usher OpenStack in at NASA, but Nebula has already attracted attention from giants such as Facebook. In fact, Facebook was part of the recent Nebula demonstration at OSCON. 

Chris Kemp has said that he is committed to improving OpenStack and its open approach to the cloud. With its focus on OpenStack, Kemp and his team have to make sure that easy-to-use management tools are in place for Nebula, because that is not OpenStack's forte. It would also be good to see Kemp resist too much involvement from titans such as Facebook, who may have a similar impact on Nebula as the one that Phipps cites Rackspace having on OpenStack above. 

That's the rub with today's good open source ideas: It often doesn't take long before the proprietary software titans start circling a good open source project, which can cause the project to start circling the drain.