The mid-year OpenStack temperature check


The OpenStack Summit took place this week in Atlanta. As chronicled in the OpenStack blog, “The theme of the OpenStack Summit today is centered on learning, education, and development. Attendees are flocking to the ‘how to’ panels — from ‘Scaling Out OpenStack Clouds in the Enterprise’ to the ‘Hitchhiker’s Guide to DevOps Tools on OpenStack.’ Sessions focused on OpenStack use cases are garnering a good deal of attention as well, including stories from users at Georgia Tech University, Time Warner Cable, Van Budd Lines, RGB Networks, Seagate and more.”

These days, the news flowing out of OpenStack and OpenStack Summits seems to be pretty encouraging. The standards organization that’s about to turn 4 years old has some pretty strong players on the team, such as Red Hat, HP, and IBM. Many of those players are betting the cloud-computing farm that OpenStack is the right wagon to hitch to.

Red Hat revealed three OpenStack projects at the Summit this week:

  • Kicking things off, Red Hat and NetApp are working on an open hybrid cloud reference architecture that leverages the latest version of OpenStack-OpenStack IceHouse. This architecture allows customers to integrate Red Hat Enterprise Linux OpenStack Platform with NetApp storage and data management.
  • Also, Red Hat will work with ManageIQ to create an Open Source community. This will include contributing software acquired from ManageIQ, and providing integration and orchestration content for lab automation. Red Hat hopes the community takes the next step to bring together developers, service providers, system integrators, etc., for collaboration toward an open management platform for OpenStack and open hybrid clouds. I would not give this hope much of a chance, considering that these sorts of efforts often die out as the community is unable to find focus for their efforts.
  • Finally, eNovance and Red Hat are partnering up and focusing on OpenStack development. This includes the delivery of OpenStack integration services and the continued contribution of code to OpenStack upstream for Network Functions Virtualization (NFV) innovation.

Other announcements included Internap’s AgileCLOUD that is  available in OpenStack Marketplace. This encompasses server performance tiers and custom configurations.

Networking solutions vendor, Brocade, and Chinese networking and telco equipment vendor, Huawei, also announced the creation of a proposal for a new OpenStack service to support inter-data center multi-tenancy.

But the big news that nobody seems to care about is the fact that HP plans to invest $1 billion in the development of cloud services over the next two years, hoping to rebuild faith in its own business model. That’s nothing new, considering that IBM has proposed the investment of more than a billion dollars in cloud-based services as well. Both IBM and HP need to provide results behind that kind of investment, both are off to a slow start in the cloud.

However, HP rolled out Helion. This is a portfolio of private and public cloud solutions built on open source technology, and includes a free distribution of OpenStack. A commercial version is scheduled to launch soon. Also included is a PaaS based upon the VMware-backed Cloud Foundry.

What’s new about Helion is that nothing is actually new. The cobbling together of different cloud-based technologies and calling it something innovative is getting a bit tiresome at this point. While OpenStack is a great foundation for larger providers, HP needs to innovate beyond the open source offerings and quickly get to some unique value to draw the market away from AWS, Google, and Microsoft.

While OpenStack, including Rackspace, HP, IBM, and many startups, is clearly the darling of the cloud tech community, the number of installations within traditional IT shops has been lackluster. This is something I stated last year, and I will continue to stand by this statement until I seem more penetration and success stories. While OpenStack can boast some big names, including Best Buy, Bloomberg, Comcast, Fidelity and PayPal, the overall numbers are relatively weak when measured against the growth of their competitors, Amazon Web Services (AWS), Google, and Microsoft.

The OpenStack standard and strategy, generally speaking, are everyone else’s response to the market momentum behind AWS. The project provides an open-source alternative that gets many companies on the same page, in terms of how to build and deploy private and public cloud computing systems. This means you can attack AWS as a collection of technologies, and not just duel it out one-on-one.

However, much of what OpenStack has become is a cloud strategy in-a-box for many of the larger enterprise software and hardware companies that missed the cloud boat and are now swimming as hard as they can to catch up. The problem is that those who drive the market now are not slowing down for others to jump onboard. HP and IBM have about a year or so to get more traction in the cloud computing space before enterprises just go with the top public cloud players.

Other issues include the fact that OpenStack has been focused on the private cloud side of things. Private cloud was popular in the early days of cloud computing when enterprises struggled with security and control issues. These days, public cloud dominates, as revealed in the recent “State of the Cloud Study” from RightScale. As name-brand public clouds become more popular, AWS, Google, and Microsoft will continue to grow, and more enterprises will move away from OpenStack-based private and public clouds.

The upside for OpenStack is around the fact that, as technology users, we like open source-based solutions, and OpenStack is evolving in the right directions in that regard. The ability for a community of users to drive OpenStack is attractive to those who feel disenfranchised by the larger cloud players that supply mostly closed technology. However, as the larger public cloud players continue to grow, the size of the user community and also third party support could be too big to ignore, and those betting on OpenStack are left farther behind.

Other positive signs include the support that OpenStack gets from Red Hat, as now Cisco tossing their hat into the OpenStack ring as well. The list of OpenStack supporters seems to continue to grow, and the odds are that somebody will do something big with the technology in the remainder of the year, or perhaps early 2015.

So, if the question is: “Should you bet on OpenStack?” the answer is “Perhaps.” While there are issues with this standard, enterprises that value open source solutions are likely to find what they are looking for with OpenStack and a private or public OpenStack distribution provider.

If I were the king of OpenStack, I would shore up the core platform before I added more functions with each new release of the code tree. That does not make the technology news cycle as much as brand new features and functions, or new projects and partnerships. However, when it comes right down to it, enterprises need the OpenStack platform to be very solid, doing its job as a good foundation for private and public clouds. Seems that OpenStack is on its way, but much work remains to be done.