Photograph by Simon Dawson — Bloomberg via Getty Images
By Barb Darrow
July 16, 2015

The OpenStack Foundation, which is pushing the adoption of the open-source cloud framework of the same name, now has a big, new member: Google.

Google (GOOG), which is joining at the corporate sponsor level as opposed to the top Platinum or mid-tier Gold level, will work with the foundation to make sure that Linux containers and associated container management technologies, namely the Google-backed Kubernetes project, will work nicely in the OpenStack context.

This is an important development because it signals that OpenStack, which many see as a good way to run and manage more traditional virtualized computing tasks, can also manage non-virtualized applications deployed on bare metal servers and new fangled containers as well. Container technology, as exemplified by the hot cloud company Docker, lets developers build programs that draw from multiple databases and servers, and package them so that the whole container can be moved from environment to environment, provided it runs on Linux and supports Docker.

If Google and the foundation can ensure that containers run well and can be managed on OpenStack, then it will better appeal to companies that want to keep running legacy virtualized and non-virtualized applications as well as hot-new container applications from a single dashboard. That’s attractive for companies that are not yet ready to rewrite all their software for cloud computing environments but do want to create brand new applications optimized for cloud deployment. This collaboration, in theory, will let them mix and match.

Kubernetes, open-sourced by Google last year, makes it easier for big companies to manage lots and lots of containers.

Google project manager Craig McLuckie, who showed off container management at the last OpenStack Summit, will appear again at OpenStack Silicon Valley, next month in Mountain View, Calif.

In a Google blog post announcing this move, McLuckie cited two big trends:

The first is a move towards the hybrid cloud. Few enterprises can move their entire infrastructure to the public cloud. For most, hybrid deployments will be the norm and OpenStack is emerging as a standard for the on-premises component of these deployments.

The second trend is a move towards container-oriented computing. Google pioneered new patterns around containers, dynamic scheduling, and micro-service architectures. We did this to solve hard problems building and operating applications at internet scale, but the model translates well to everyday applications and solves long standing problems in operations. Recently, through the Kubernetes project, we have started bringing these patterns to the open source community.

NASA and Rackspace(RAX) launched the OpenStack project 5 years ago, to be an open-source alternative to Amazon (AMZN) Web Services in the public cloud arena and VMware inside company data centers. AWS was seen as a black box into which companies had little visibility and VMware’s proprietary software was seen as closed and expensive. (VMware (VMW) has since joined the OpenStack Foundation.)

Since then, it has been embraced by hundreds of vendors, many of which are building their own private and public clouds on it. The sheer number of backers, however, is a double-edged sword. While they all pledge that their respective clouds will meet open standards and follow OpenStack protocols, they’re also jockeying for competitive position by adding their own special sauce. That differentiation worries people who think it will break compatibility and thus negate much of OpenStack’s promise that customers will not have to lock into any one vendor.

IBM (IBM), Hewlett-Packard (HPQ), Rackspace (RAX), Cisco (CSCO) all offer OpenStack-based clouds.

With Google now throwing in with the foundation, the two most obvious holdouts—and the only major tech providers not participating—are Microsoft (MSFT) and Amazon.

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