Since its start in the summer of 2010, the OpenStack open source cloud computing project has been the subject of a lot of hype. Today, the technology, backers and use of OpenStack are giving substance to all of that sizzle and skepticism is giving way to service provider and enterprise use cases across the globe. OpenStack is still relatively immature and still requires a high degree of technical aptitude to deploy, but its community continues to grow in both providers and users, both of which are focused on making the software easier to deploy, manage and scale.
*Coming of age
The OpenStack project itself is not even three years old, but thanks to maturing technology, growing membership and the OpenStack Foundation formed last year, OpenStack has matured to the point it is getting attention from large service provider and enterprise users, including companies in telecommunications, retail and research. Large supporters of OpenStack such as Cisco, Dell, HP, IBM and Rackspace are using OpenStack internally and also in new cloud offerings. We also see vitality in the number of startups and smaller players bringing OpenStack to the market, including Cloudscaling, eNovance, Mirantis, Morphlabs, Nebula and Piston Cloud Computing. We’ve also seen large vendors make acquisitions of key OpenStack players, such as Red Hat’s acquisition of scale-out storage specialist Gluster for $136m in October 2011, VMware’s acquisition of open source networking player Nicira for $1.26 billion in July 2012 and Oracle’s acquisition of cloud management vendor Nimbula in March 2013. We have no doubt as the OpenStack technology and market matures, it will present additional acquirers and targets along the way.
The fact that there were already open source cloud computing options in the market when OpenStack was established helped contribute to a discussion of open source software, open standards and open clouds. We expect OpenStack and other open source cloud options, such as CloudStack, Eucalyptus, Joyent and OpenNebula, will continue to co-exist in the market and will all benefit from the increased credibility they all bring to open source cloud computing. Just as different Linux distributions and different open source hypervisors have helped drive one another in the industry, we are likely to see open clouds do the same thing.
*Components mature, emerge
In addition to its foundation and growing support among vendors and implementors, OpenStack is also gaining traction because the technology of the open source project is maturing and advancing. The main OpenStack components for compute (Nova), networking (Quantum) and storage (Swift) are becoming more credible for enterprises and service providers beyond bleeding edge users. Where there are some of the biggest gaps in OpenStack, such as dashboard/UI, identity services, orchestration or metering, additional components and sub-projects are emerging. While OpenStack continues to require a good degree of technical aptitude to deploy, the OpenStack community seems to be scatching the right itches for broader enterprise and service provider use.
OpenStack users have also indicated that although the OpenStack technology may be lacking in certain features and functionality, they appreciate the ability to be part of the community that solves issues and having more control of their own IT destiny.
OpenStack is being driven largely by the growing number of enterprise and service provider organizations that want to put more of their operations and offerings in the cloud. Many companies are seeking the scalability and elasticity of public clouds, but desire more control and want private clouds, where OpenStack is finding some traction. this is particularly true for continuous integration and continuous deployment or devops implementations that combine application development and IT operations for greater efficiency and speed. We are seeing two types of adoption of devops: more proactive efforts that center on speed and iteration and more reactive effors that focus on providing IT resources to developers, productivity and business units so they do not go outside the organization for public cloud, free or low-cost options, also known as ‘shadow IT.’
Other OpenStack drivers parallel the advantages we’ve seen for open source software: cost savings, flexibility and avoiding vendor lock-in. OpenStack users have also indicated it has been helpful to be able to access OpenStack source code and customize it for integration with existing infrastructure and systems. We’ve also heard from some OpenStack implementors that their developers and engineers prefer open source tools and frameworks that give more flexibility.
Despite the size and number of OpenStack supporters and vendors, the open source cloud computing software still represents a technical challenge for many organizations. Baseline features and functionality, such as metering and billing, are just now taking shape in OpenStack and while issues are being rapidly addressed, the software is not ready out of the box by an means.
Another challenge with the project and its use among more enterprises and service providers is the fact that OpenStack talent is in short supply. This is one of the biggest challenges of deploying OpenStack and while users may seek third-party help, their options are somewhat limited. This facet of OpenStack is quickly changing with more training and certification efforts in the works as well as a new OpenStack Operations Guide that was published last month.