Rackspace and NASA are open-sourcing code and technology for people anywhere to create their own cloud environments.

Called OpenStack, the initiative is one of the most substantive efforts to support interoperability in the cloud. As part of the initiative, Rackspace is donating the code that powers its files and servers, the foundation for its public-cloud offerings. NASA will contribute technology used to power its Nebula Cloud Platform.

Twenty five companies have signed on to support OpenStack. These include Intel, Dell and Citrix. Discussions have started with companies like Microsoft. The goal is to create an ecosystem of open-cloud environments.

OpenStack will feature several cloud infrastructure components including a fully distributed object store based on Rackspace Cloud Files.

NASA Nebula is one of the world’s most powerful cloud computing platforms. For instance, Nebula is processing the images from a camera that is orbiting Mars and taking images of the planet for use in the WorldWide telescope, a project of Microsoft Research. Nebula processed – and now hosts – more than 100 terabytes of high-resolution images, the equivalent of 20,000 DVDs worth of information.

This level of computational capability makes Nebula viable for any enterprise or government agency.

A Rackspace representative said the lack of interoperability is slowing down adoption of the cloud. Customers are asking about how they can move data around. When they don’t find answers, they’re having to make technology and architectural trade-offs.

Those trade-offs should not be happening. If all the cloud providers used the same core technology then customers could shop around based on the value of the different cloud services. It would create a market where the core technology is not the core differentiator.

All the cloud providers use open-source components. The need is for a Cloud OS that ties it all together.

Coming into this week at OSCON, we were starting to speculate if the open-source movement had lost a bit of its clout or its will to protect the cloud as much as it had the open Web.

It had been a tough week. The Oracle acquisition of Sun Microsystems is proving to be a brutal blow for OpenSolaris. And the future of MySQL is still a question mark.

Further, there have been few if any efforts to make interoperability a high priority.

Disclosure: Intel is a sponsor of ReadWriteCloud.