The OpenStack Tipping Point – new report

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 Drivers
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.

*OpenStack Hurdles
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.

We at 451 Research have also fielded more inquiries and questions on OpenStack. In response, we’ve published an extensive report on OpenStack available to 451 Research subscribers here.

DevOps and PaaS, yes, but now No-Ops?

We continue to closely watch the devops trend, with some new offerings and new nomenclature, but also validation of our contentions this would begin washing over more mainstream enterprise IT.

Some of the most recent discussion of devops is coming in context of VMware’s Cloud Foundry announcement and offering, an open source PaaS that gives developers another option for building, testing and deploying cloud applications and services. While I do believe Cloud Foundry and VMware’s decision to opt for an open path in PaaS is further evidence that cloud computing may be opening up.

Based on some of the initial Twitterverse reaction to Cloud Foundry, it is also further evidence that devops is contending with another term that has emerged in the discussion of deploying applications in and among today’s cloud computing resources and environments: ‘no-ops.’ The idea is that infrastructure – servers, storage and network — as well as its configuration and maintenance are so automated, there is really no need for the ‘ops’ or system administration part of devops. However, in the larger picture and in the long run, particularly at greater scale, there is undoubtedly need for system administrators. One of the bottom line findings of my research on devops is that the trend is very much about a dramatically changed purpose and role for system administrators, who are typically freed up of mundane OS maintenance and other tasks, but who must also embrace openness and transparency in their operations and scripts, which can be very foreign. While no-ops may be one way to respond to developers cries of ‘give us root,’ I believe that devops with the ops is required for a successful approach. That ops part may indeed be handed off to someone else, and the options and ability to do so have never been greater — again thanks mostly to readily-available cloud resources and infrastructure. Another perspective on devops is that it is bringing some of the agile and automated practices and procedures of software development into the datacenter and operations team, which have previously been focused on their own scripts and stability above all else.

So when I’m asked does devops mean devs doing more ops? Is it ops doing more dev? I say this: devops is the confluence of roles and duties among both software developers and IT operations professionals — many of whom are increasingly working in both jobs at various points or together in their careers. No-ops may emerge as a preferred option as organizations use and grow confidence in various PaaS offerings, as well as more openness in the clouds in general, perhaps. Still, I think that the ops folks still have a tremendous role to play, and I wonder about the PaaS innovation that will be possible when we see the same style of collaboration and communication in operations that we have had on the development side, in large part because of open source, an example being Facebook’s recent move to open up on its datacenters.

Linux and open source no puff in the clouds

UPDATED – I had to update this post after a conversation with RightScale founder and CTO Thorsten von Eicken and for Sun’s Open Cloud announcement, which are both now included below.

There has been some substantial technology and news regarding open source software in cloud computing lately. More proof that open source is reaching into nearly all aspects of enterprise and broader IT, and also reinforcement of the idea that open source software will continue to have a pervasive and disruptive impact on the way organizations of all shapes and sizes do their computing and deal with their data.

First up is RightScale, which as detailed by 451 colleague and Principal Analyst William Fellows, is up and running across the pond on Amazon’s EU EC2. As WiF reports, RightScale started with Red Hat Linux clone CentOS, but is seeing demand and traction among its users with Canonical’s Ubuntu Linux, which it recently began supporting in full. Our report also highlights Ubuntu packaging and integrated AWS-compatible Eucalyptus APIs. For its part, RightScale says its cloud infrastructure now includes cloud-ready ServerTemplates for Ubuntu — pre-built templates for common cloud configurations.

In my recent conversation with RightScale founder and CTO Thorsten von Eicken, he indicated as ISVs and others contemplate how to publish, sell, support and monetize applications in the cloud, they can benefit from the lessons and advantages of open source software. von Eicken and I agree that open source represents a different usage and payment model that is more conducive to cloud computing than traditional software licensing and payment models.

Next up is my own coverage of Cittio and its initiation of Project Zeppelin to create a standard, open agent and open source instrumentation for cloud monitoring. One of the most interesting aspects of Zeppelin is its intent to provide a standard way to compare clouds — both public ones from Amazon and others and internal deployments — and match applications to infrastructure by looking at discovery, monitoring, evaluation and auditing data. Monitoring of the clouds is also a place we see Hyperic, the most cloud-centric of the systems management and monitoring vendors centered on open source.

We’re also hearing a lot about the Apache Hadoop Project, most notably the new commercial play around it – Cloudera (covered recently in Matt’s latest CAOS Links and late last year in a blog). With Hadoop in use at places such as Facebook, Google and Yahoo! and recent $5m in funding from Accel Partners and others, the company certainly has some opportunity that is not pie in the sky. Indeed, Hadoop, which is also a focus for Cittio, and Cloudera are all further evidence of how real open source software is for cloud computing.

Although it may be getting lost in the noise around the potential IBM-Sun acquisition rumors, Sun Microsystems made a significant cloud announcement involving open source, as well. With its release of the Sun Cloud aimed at ‘developers, students and startups,’ Sun is relying on several open source components such as Java, MySQL, OpenSolaris and Open Storage.

So while many Linux and open source fans and followers have, unfortunately, grown used to hearing about Linux in this or open source in that when it turns out to be just for the buzz and attention created by those key words, Linux and open source in the clouds is more than mere mist.