GoGrid CEO John Keagy Building Coalition For Open-Source Cloud Orchestration Engine

Over the past several months, GoGrid CEO John Keagy has been quietly holding meetings with partners and rivals alike to share an ambitious plan.

His brainchild has the potential to shake up the entire cloud services industry by uniting some of its largest players around an open-source project: a universal cloud orchestration engine called OpenOrchestration.org.

Keagy, a pioneer in Internet infrastructure who founded GoGrid, isn’t coy about his motivations for cultivating this coalition, and what company he sees as its target.

[GoGrid Targets MSPs, Partners With Cloud IaaS Program]

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"The idea is that OpenOrchestration.org has an appeal for several different constituencies, all of which are threatened by Amazon Web Services," Keagy told CRN in an exclusive interview in which he talks publicly for the first time about this project, and his behind-the-scenes efforts to recruit many brand-name technology vendors.

It's an effort that, if successful, could have a major impact on the channel by empowering VARs and solution providers.

GoGrid is a cloud service provider that focuses on "open data services" and big data analytics. The company has been a proponent of open-source technologies, and touts its 1-Button Deploy solution for quick deployments.

OpenOrchestration enables IT professionals to use a single blueprint to deploy identical platforms consisting of tools, frameworks, databases, configurations and apps to GoGrid and many other public or private clouds. The engine is un-opinionated as to tools or cloud provider, and will be offered as a free and open service and, as such, represents a new paradigm in open source.

Keagy said that OpenOrchestration will serve as a preferable alternative to cloud vendors that offer proprietary platforms. But to steal significant market share from a player as dominant as AWS will require a strong alliance, he told CRN.

That's why Keagy's been trying to convince rival cloud service providers, software developers, tool makers and some of the largest solution providers and VARs to join forces in moving up the stack, away from the commodity realm of infrastructure.

’We need to collaborate and create an orchestration platform that extracts all our technologies and makes all that easier to use,’ Keagy told CRN.

’In order to have the global footprint and the reach and might, you’re damn right, we need to have some collaboration,’ he said.

And that’s the gist of what Keagy's been telling industry insiders.

He has held high-level talks about OpenOrchestration with more than 10 leading cloud companies and all the major independent software vendors that develop orchestration and cloud management tools.

"We think we can create an alternative for [end users] if we can make the same independent software vendor technologies off-the-shelf as easy to use as a competing PaaS service for Amazon, and give you an architecture that gives you some flexibility to move from cloud to cloud and from on-premise data centers,’ Keagy told CRN.

AWS is a lot more than an IaaS provider. With its tools, relational databases, load balancing, auto-scaling, messaging queues, search services and more, Amazon blurs the line between infrastructure and Platform-as-a-Service.

It’s a platform that locks in end users, forcing adoption of an architecture and specialized services that can’t be replicated elsewhere, according to Keagy.

If those users could easily launch their own customized architectures and components onto any cloud -- including Amazon's -- it would give them reason to migrate away from the platform provided by the industry leader, he said.

And that’s why GoGrid’s CEO is working so hard to create a groundswell of support for OpenOrchestration.org.

The state-based orchestration engine accepts blueprints created through popular configuration management utilities like Ansible, Chef and Puppet; a reference architecture like Hadoop or Cassandra; applications that can be downloaded from repositories like GitHub; and network and security configurations. It then builds, installs and converges a platform to user specifications onto any cloud or on-premises infrastructure.

All the benefits of a platform, with no proprietary pitfalls and platform lock-in.

GoGrid CTO Heather McKelvey told CRN that OpenOrchestration empowers users to write a playbook that can send clusters to any cloud that offers a public API, or multiple clouds at once.

’In less than 10 minutes it creates all virtual machines, firewalls, IP addresses, configuration, and any SDN," McKelvey said.

OpenOrchestration has been up and running for half a year, and some software vendors have already scripted blueprints that deploy platforms to showcase their products.

’The technology is fully baked and operational,’ Keagy told CRN, adding he hopes other cloud service providers who join GoGrid in the project will decide to also deliver the engine as a free service.

Keagy told CRN he believes OpenOrchestration will create new and more-lucrative opportunities for the channel. After all, if a customer is no longer locked-in to a single platform and stuck with one vendor, VARs have a great opportunity to help them with buying decisions.

’We’ve had that up for six months and we’ve realized we’ve really done something unique and powerful that we can extend to the entire industry,’ he said.