OpenISR is cool.

Max and I were in Pittsburgh earlier this week for the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new Red Hat Computing Lab at Carnegie-Mellon. (In the Bill Gates building, muwahahaha! Jack, your vision lives!) CEO Jim Whitehurst and Senior VP / General Counsel Michael Cunningham wielded the gigantic scissors (and I mean SCARY BIG SCISSORS) for the cutting, and then Jim gave a great talk. Lots to share from the visit, but the first thing to share is a project called OpenISR.

The ISR stands for “Internet Suspend and Resume”. It runs on top of kvm and other virtualization platforms. They demoed it to us in the new lab. Here’s how it works:

1. Greg goes to a computer with an ISR-enabled client and logs in.

2. Greg sees a list of “parcels” — i.e. running VMs that are stored on an ISR server somewhere.

3. Greg picks a parcel, and that parcel is downloaded to the local machine. Greg happily works with his VM, which is now local and therefore awesomely fast!

4. Greg finishes his work and saves his parcel.

5. Greg goes to another ISR-enabled machine, logs in, picks his parcel up again, and continues to do cool stuff.

Now I know this use case isn’t super-exciting — for most of what I do, this is a job for ssh and/or vnc. In cases where low latency is required, though, it looks like a pretty awesome tool. Most importantly: the ability to move these parcels around *reliably* has a lot in common with a lot of cloud use cases, and a lot of the magic is in optimizing how these VMs are sliced, diced and julienned.

Or, as the CMU folks put it, “by layering a virtual machine on distributed storage, the ISR system lets the VM encapsulate execution and user customization state; distributed storage then transports that state across space and time.” Stateless computing.

Also: all components of OpenISR are licensed either GPL, LGPL, or EPL. (Which means getting this into Fedora would be a great idea — the latest release has already been tested on Fedora 12!)

Here’s the real point: a lot of smart people are working on interesting, practical projects that nibble at the edges of the gigantic beast called Cloud. I think it’s common sense to get as many of these projects into the hands of our lead users as we possibly can. The innovation in this space is already spreading widely, because the tools are now good enough to encourage those innovations. (Wouldn’t you agree, Mr. McGrath, hint hint?)

Anyway. Go play with OpenISR. It’s cool.

OpenISR is cool.

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