Rackspace Acquires Anso Labs, Affirms Open-Source Commitment

Rackspace acquires cloud computing developer Anso Labs, the brains behind NASA Nebula Cloud and a key contributor to OpenStack but denied it will be taking over control of the project.

Rackspace has acquired Anso Labs, a key contributor to the OpenStack cloud operating system. Despite gaining more governance control, Rackspace reiterated its commitment to the community-driven open-source project.

The deal was originally leaked by a Citrix OpenStack community member in a blog post on Feb. 4, and Rackspace first confirmed the deal on Feb. 9, according to The Register. Rackspace also discussed the Anso Labs acquisition during its Feb. 10 earnings call, but declined to disclose the financial terms of the deal.

A core contributor to OpenStack, San Francisco-based Anso Labs designed and built Nova, the computing component that powers NASA's Nebula private cloud platform, according to the company's Website. NASA contributed Nova's code to the OpenStack project while Rackspace has focused most of its development efforts on OpenStack Object Storage. Rackspace uses Object Storage in its Rackspace Cloud Files, according to Jonathan Bryce, co-founder of the Rackspace Cloud.

"Through this strategic talent acquisition, we are increasing our investment in the success of OpenStack and our open-source strategy," said Lew Moorman, chief strategy officer for Rackspace Cloud, shortly after the deal was announced.

OpenStack is a cloud operating system intended to remove vendor lock-in within the cloud and was jointly launched less than a year ago by Rackspace and NASA. OpenStack has 50 partner companies, including Cisco and Citrix, and 1,000 independent contributors, according to OpenStack General Manager Jim Curry. OpenStack's latest version, Bexar, was released Feb. 3.

Of the four seats on the OpenStack board, two are held by Rackspace, one by Anso Labs and one by Citrix. With this acquisition, Rackspace now controls three of the four seats. As for the nine seats on the project oversight committee, Anso owned three, Rackspace owned five and Citrix had one. Rackspace now controls eight of the nine seats on the committee.

"The Anso Labs acquisition is great news for OpenStack," wrote Joshua McKenty, the former chief cloud architect of Anso Labs, on an online forum. Despite leaving Anso Labs, McKenty retained his seat on the committee, he said. "It will allow some of the most core project contributors to continue to focus on what's best for the platform" without distractions, he said.

Rackspace is aware that some people may accuse the company of trying to co-opt the project, according to Curry. "We also recognize this takes two of the largest contributors to the projects today and puts them under one umbrella," he said. "Our long-term vision is one in which this open community continues to thrive, with more and more contributions and direction coming from the diverse group of organizations and people joining the project every day," he said, trying to allay those concerns.

According to McKenty, most of the complaints about the community-driven governance model have been from "outsiders."

"A lot of community members might have issues with the amount of board members/power," Gerard Braad, an IT consultant in China, posted on Twitter after hearing about the acquisition.

"We are open to adjustments. It is in our interest to have broad community input and ownership," Moorman said in a reply to Braad's post.

Both the board and committee were organized at the end of 2010.

"Our commitment to collaborating with the industry and user community to build the open cloud standard has never been higher," Moorman said.

Braad wondered if Rackspace gaining control meant OpenStack would become "open core," a product strategy that offers advanced, enterprise or service-provider relevant features only available in a paid commercial version.

"I assure you open core is not in the cards. We just guaranteed the great minds of Anso will remain on OpenStack," Moorman posted.

There has been a number of cloud computing and data centers acquisitions recently, including Verizon's $1.4 billion Terremark buy. Rackspace also acquired Cloudkick, a cloud monitoring tools company, last year.