For OpenStack to succeed, the open source cloud platform will need a big ecosystem of trained experts and channel partners. Enter Rackspace (NYSE: RAX) and MIT, which this week are training 20 students as part of a 12-hour introduction to OpenStack.

Although that's a small group, it's the latest wakeup call for channel partners that are trying to get their arms around public and private cloud business opportunities.

During a recent Tech Data TDCloud conference near Tampa, Fla., very few VARs and MSPs were familiar with OpenStack and its channel implications. At that conference, Hewlett-Packard officials described how HP's public cloud is built on the open source platform. And over time, it will become easier and easier to move workloads between corporate networks and the HP Cloud, the company asserted.

Students of the Cloud

Rackspace, meanwhile, is working hard to build and expand the community of OpenStack experts. This week's MIT classroom features a “Cloud in a box”, consisting of 24 Dell laptops, ethernet switches, cables, and power adapters.  The students will receive a 12-hour introduction to OpenStack from the OpenStack training team, according to a Rackspace spokesperson.

The OpenStack consulting industry also is starting to take shape. Mirantis, one of the largest systems integrators focused on OpenStack, recently raised $10 million in financing from Dell Ventures, Intel Capital and WestSummit Capital. The influx of cash is intended to help Mirantis accelerate its growth in its OpenStack cloud business.

Next up, thousands of partners and developers are expected to attend the OpenStack Summit (April 15-18, Portland, Ore.)

Still, OpenStack isn't the only open source cloud game in town. Developers and partners also are keeping close tabs on CloudStack, Eucalyptus and OpenNebula.

But this week at MIT, student eyes are on OpenStack. Here comes Generation Y. Are channel partners ready?