IBM Jumpgate: An OpenStack Translator For Proprietary Clouds
While the OpenStack cloud controller has certainly garnered lots of praise and enthusiasm in the past couple of years, there are still not that many public clouds based on OpenStack and there are plenty of clouds, both large and small, that are not based on homegrown cloud controllers. This presents a management problem, and one that IBM's SoftLayer cloud division hopes to solve with an open source software project called Jumpgate.
The Jumpgate project was quietly started by SoftLayer about four months ago in the wake of its acquisition by Big Blue last summer for a rumored $2 billion or so.
Several months before IBM bought SoftLayer in an effort to vault itself into the upper echelons of the cloud market, the company had joined the OpenStack Foundation and committed to building its next-generation cloud controller atop OpenStack, ditching its homegrown SmartCloud controller. IBM's SmartCloud public cloud was small and it had to create its own controller because it could not find a suitable open source tool to use, IBM said at the time.
SoftLayer, with over 22,400 customers and 120,000 servers under management, and a recent investment of $1.2 billion to more than double the size of the SoftLayer cloud this year, was clearly in a different league from IBM when it came to public cloud. And, like IBM, it had also long-since created its own cloud controller that predates OpenStack by many years. One of the key reasons why SoftLayer was worth buying is that it had sophisticated tools for managing bare metal as well as virtual iron, including capabilities that are not available in OpenStack. This tool is called Infrastructure Management System (IMS), and it does the bare metal provisioning that OpenStack does not as well as managing the XenServer environment for virtual server instances on the SoftLayer cloud. By the way, that bare metal provisioning is a big one, in fact, given how many of SoftLayer's customers are in the media, gaming, oil and gas, and financial services industries and they want to quickly deploy applications on raw iron to run their models and simulations.
Jumpgate was an internal project at SoftLayer to bridge the gaps between OpenStack and the internal IMS tool, and rather than keeping Jumpgatet all to itself, SoftLayer is opening it up for others to use and improve. Nathan Beittenmiller, a software engineer spearheading the Jumpgate project, explained in a blog post announcing the project that SoftLayer did not want to give up its own tooling, but did want for its own internal IT staff as well as its cloud customers to be able to make use of tools made for OpenStack and to allow for those familiar with OpenStack to buy and deploy infrastructure on the SoftLayer cloud.
Jumpgate, as the name suggests, is a portal between a proprietary cloud controller, such as the SmartCloud or IMS tools of IBM and SoftLayer, and OpenStack. The tool is written in Python and runs on an application framework called Falcon Framework, and what it does is interface with every endpoint for the OpenStack APIs and every endpoint for the proprietary cloud. The calls over the APIs are translated between the two, with the appropriate data being shuffled over the Jumpgate connection. This is akin to application binary interface, or ABI, emulation for applications, which allows for an application coded for a Linux application to run inside of Solaris on X86 servers. (That was really a capability at one time.)
Beittenmiller warns that Jumpgate is still in the alpha stage of development, so it is not precisely ready for production work. SoftLayer has built endpoints to link to the Nova compute controller inside of OpenStack, as well as the Glance image manager and the Keystone authentication system. Beittenmiller says that he knows of others who have grafted the Heat application orchestration and Trove database as a service tools from OpenStack onto the SoftLayer cloud using Jumpgate. As you might expect, SoftLayer is looking for contributors to the project to build out and test its OpenStack API translator.