It's official: OpenStack, the open source cloud platform, has formed an independent entity, the OpenStack Foundation, to promote the project and open source cloud computing more generally. Here's the scoop, and what it means for the open source channel.

Founded in 2010, the OpenStack project has enjoyed broad support from a host of big names for some time. In addition to Rackspace Cloud and NASA, which launched the project, several major companies in the open source channel and beyond have worked closely with it for a while. The platform provides the main cloud computing solutions for the Ubuntu and Red Hat (NYSE: RHT) Linux distributions, and is endorsed by Cisco Systems (NASDAQ: CSCO), Dell (NASDAQ: DELL), Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ), IBM (NYSE: IBM), Intel (NASDAQ: INTC) and AMD (NYSE: AMD), among other organizations.

OpenStack Foundation

The OpenStack Foundation, which officially debuted Sept. 19, 2012, provides an independent entity for the various big name backers of the project to combine their resources with those of smaller organizations in the interest of promoting open source cloud computing based on OpenStack.

According to its website, the Foundation already counts 5,600 individual members spread across 87 countries, whose primary task will be to provide technical contributions to the platform and help build the community. These individual members are in addition to the eight "platinum" and 13 "gold" members, which represent major organizations committed to OpenStack. The Foundation also boasts $10 million in funding.

Open source vendors are already eagerly seizing on the launch of the OpenStack Foundation to promote the cloud computing solutions they offer based on OpenStack. Red Hat issued a statement affirming its commitment to helping channel partners turn the open source platform into a commercial solution.

Similarly, Canonical, the company behind Ubuntu, declared itself "No. 1 for OpenStack" by touting the platform's close integration with Ubuntu Server 12.04, including the recent announcement of a special OpenStack software archive for the operating system.

Meanwhile, SUSE, another major name in the world of Linux distributions, has secured its piece of the OpenStack pie with the election of SUSE executive Alan Clark as chairman of the OpenStack Foundation board.

Like most partnerships in the open source world, the ones developing around the OpenStack Foundation will involve a particular synthesis of cooperation and competition by various organizations that have much to gain by working together, but which also compete with one another for business. For the open source channel more broadly, however, the Foundation is poised to play an important role in helping to ensure the continued development of the open cloud, which is good news for a whole host of channel partners.