The Havana release of OpenStack was launched on October 17, about three weeks prior to the OpenStack Summit in Hong Kong.  As always, there are many new features -high availability, load balancing, easier upgrades, plugins for development tools, improved SDN support, fiber channel SAN support, improved bare metal capabilities- and even two new core components, Ceilometer -metering and monitoring- and Heat -orchestration of the creation of entire application environments- to admire. Without any doubt, OpenStack is becoming more enterprise ready with each new release .

Progress Indicators

While these features new capabilities are important, what really matters are two key facts that are more prevalent than ever.

  • Vendor support: Big name vendors, such as IBM, HP, RedHat, Ubuntu, Dell and Cisco are heavily investing in OpenStack from a technology as well as a marketing perspective. On the other hand, there are numerous startups that are built around OpenStack, such as PistonCloud, MetaCloud, SwiftStack, Inktank and Nebula. The list of sponsors for this year’s OpenStack Summit is accordingly impressive and an excellent indication of the fact that OpenStack is here to stay.
  • Customer adoption: Much has been written about the lack of true production customers of OpenStack. Major names, such as PayPal and Workday were waved around, but the initial use cases were underwhelming. Now, when looking at the list of customer case studies present at the Hong Kong Summit, there seems to be progress in this area. The fact that the official summit website features eBay, Paypal, Yahoo!, Concur, Workday, Wikimedia, Huawei and other major enterprises right in the top banner is evidence  of the organizers understanding the importance of showing enterprise traction. Especially, demonstrating how OpenStack adopters find solutions to address common enterprise IT challenges such as scalability, reliability, usability and monitoring will be essential for the Hong Kong event.
  • How OpenStack Fits In

    Every time a new technology is introduced to the data center, there has to be a business case, that answers the seemingly century old question of the CFO: “Why should I care?”. Making the business case for OpenStack is indeed non-trivial, as there are many factors to consider and scenarios to plan for. Simply putting out OpenStack for developers to play with, will not make them abandon Amazon Web Services. To be successful, OpenStack must be part of a comprehensive  and application-centric IT strategy and should not even aim at fully replacing AWS. It is important to understand that OpenStack is only one destination for specific enterprise workloads and works best when embedded within the existing enterprise IT context. There are very interesting sessions at OpenStack summit that will demonstrate how early adopters have successfully integrated OpenStack with their DevOps processes that are based on Git, Gerrit, Jenkins and other standard development and test software.

    The Vision Goes Much Further

    Ultimately, the OpenStack vision comprises of a much more application centric list of tasks, such as configuration management, continuous deployment, auto-healing and scaling of entire application environments. That said, it is essential to note that these capabilities will all remain basic and focused on integration capabilities with a wide range of enterprise IT management tools. At the end of the day, we must not forget that the vendors supporting OpenStack cannot be interested in OpenStack replacing their own IT management tools and hardware platforms. The reason these vendors are supporting OpenStack lies in the common desire to  make their software and hardware available to a broader customer base.

    OpenStack – Standard or Platform: It’s all about Achieving Interoperability

    Participants in recent EMA research projects have repeatedly noticed that we have classified OpenStack more as a standard than an actual IaaS software platform. This was a deliberate decision by EMA, as we see the key value of OpenStack in creating a common standard that will help customers integrate currently existing siloes in storage, network and compute. To achieve this integration, hardware and software vendors must agree to making their products available to be accessed by the individual OpenStack modules (Nova, Cinder, Swift, Glance, Neutron, etc.). Ultimately, OpenStack delivers the ability to mix and match 3rd party solutions, based on application requirements. Therefore, we regard OpenStack as a standard.

    Three Interesting Questions to Speculate About

    Finally, here are some questions that remain to be answered in the near future:

    • As an OpenStack “supporter” VMware is making the argument that ESXi support will help OpenStack popularity. However, the OpenStack appeal largely results from freeing customers from the costly VMware ESXi/vSphere embrace, by bringing in the free KVM hypervisor platform. How will this relationship between VMware and OpenStack evolve and will customers actually buy into the “OpenStack on VMware” story?
    • OpenStack is and will remain a patchwork solution that requires significant experience and skill to deploy, operate and maintain at an enterprise-level. While the community of contributors is constantly growing (currently over 900 individuals), hiring help (new employees or service providers such as Mirantis), is expensive and negates much of the benefits of this free IaaS platform. The question now is at what point will OpenStack be a polished and easy to install, yet basic, cloud platform, similar to CloudStack?
    • The relationship between Amazon AWS and OpenStack is an interesting one. The simple story in favor of OpenStack would be to come in as the knight in shining armor and salvage enterprise workloads from the evil dragon named AWS. However, the Amazon cloud has many advantages that cannot be denied or replaced by simply standing up OpenStack. Taking away AWS from corporate developers will only end well if it is replaced with something that is as easy to handle, as scalable and as elastic as AWS. Can OpenStack live up to Amazon’s scalability, elasticity and ease of use?
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