OpenStack Is Ready For The ‘Explosion’ In Infrastructure Demand

OpenStack COO says OpenStack will be a major player in helping customers scale for IoT and the connected world, but only if it continues to collaborate

The OpenStack Foundation believes its open source application is prepared for the surge in demand for cloud infrastructure that will arrive with the advent of the Internet of Things.

It plans to position OpenStack as the “integration engine” for the connected world, according to Mark Collier, OpenStack’s chief operating officer..

“There’s a lot of demand that’s growing very rapidly for infrastructure,” he told the OpenStack Summit in Austin, Texas. “I think everybody knows that connected devices are growing, but if you think about some of these estimates, like Cisco’s estimated 50 billion devices around the world connected by 2020, what’s driving that?

“Obviously connected cars are growing very rapidly. And of course, medical devices, which are increasingly changing the landscape for the medical profession. What do these all have in common? We still need to process, move, and store data, so the fundamental infrastructure needs are the same, but growing very rapidly.”


OpenStack, according to Collier, will be able to help companies scale up their infrastructure needs for the boom in IoT and cloud. With an estimated 400 million new servers needed by 2020, OpenStack will play a large part in scaling up for demand.

openstack“The real challenge is to think about how to manage that. There’s no way you could possibly manage hundreds of millions of new servers the way they’ve been managed before. We know when we talk to users, and talk about the patterns emerging to manage servers at scale, what people want is something programmable, and that gives them access to bare metal virtual machines and containers.

“I think we believe the role OpenStack can play is as this integration engine. When we think about the tools and technologies that are going to happen and emerge to manage that massive scale, of course it’s going to be a huge opportunity for OpenStack and we’re all excited for that.”

But Collier knows that the OpenStack Foundation needs to grow its community to achieve this.

“We here in the OpenStack community can’t do it alone,” he admitted. “There’s no way with just one piece of software are we able to solve all these problems and manage scale at that level. We have to look back at how open source projects have come together and created a huge opportunity that is bigger than the individual projects on their own.”

Some of OpenStack’s largest users include Walmart, AT&T, and Volkswagen. China’s largest telco, China Mobile, also uses OpenStack to help serve its 800 million subscribers. However, as the customer base grows, Collier also admitted that OpenStack will not be the sole technology to help with the growth in scale.

Read: Volkswagen chooses Mirantis for OpenStack cloud 

‘Collaborate or die’

“These companies recognise that it’s collaborate or die,” said Collier. “Really what I want to leave you with is how this applies to us. So if these companies can look outside their walls, and they can think bigger than their own massive customer, and they can engage in open source communities and put together technologies that are bigger than just what they develop in-house, then all of us in the OpenStack community should take a lesson from that.

“We should really make sure we haven’t got our blinders on and think that OpenStack is the only thing that matters. The fact is, it’s going to be OpenStack and a number of other technologies. This is our opportunity to collaborate going forward with all these other communities.”

One such large infrastructure partner OpenStack is working with, especially with container technology, is Google.

Craig McLuckie, a product manager at Google, came to the stage after Collier to discuss Google’s relationship with OpenStack and its Kubernetes technology.

Intel on-stage at OpenStack's Austin keynote
Intel on-stage at OpenStack’s Austin keynote

“Our first port of call is finding ways to bring these technologies to adjacent communities,” said McLuckie. “And to work with the adjacent communities to use the amazing technology they already have to accelerate.

“And OpenStack is a really interesting first port of call. It’s important for two reasons. One, because there’s some really great technology we can use. Two, OpenStack is a community that can absolutely benefit from the same set of technologies that I had access to when I was building [Google] Compute Engine.”

Despite OpenStack and Google Cloud Platform essentially being rivals, this interoperability is something Gina Longoria, analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy, thinks could be a recipe for success for OpenStack.

“There are also many who are trying to figure out how to bring Amazon Web Services (AWS)/Google Cloud Platform (GCP) etc. into the fold by providing management solutions that are “cloud agnostic”, so users have flexibility to use multiple cloud options under the same umbrella depending on the needs of their workloads,” she told TechWeekEurope.

“This could be very attractive for IT organisations who want to go to OpenStack, but don’t want to abandon the idea of using a AWS or other large public cloud for some of their workloads.”

Scale solo?

But despite collaborating with other cloud giants, OpenStack still aims for providing the scale that Collier described in his keynote. TechWeekEurope asked Longoria if she thinks that growth from OpenStack is possible.

“I believe that this one of the key questions at the top of everyone’s minds here at the show. However, the industry momentum here at the show is impressive. Users truly want choice and to avoid vendor lock-in by the big public cloud providers, which is one of the key reasons for all of the OpenStack momentum,” she said.

“A common goal by many of the industry leaders in the OpenStack community is to provide a hybrid cloud model (public & private) that can effectively compete with AWS and GCP.  The question will be whether or not they can provide the public cloud economics needed to compete. I think this is possible long-term, but will not happen overnight.”

One issue Longoria did raise was that of cost. With OpenStack effectively providing a free cloud platform, this has been the main attraction for many of its users. But Longoria said it’s not always about cost, as OpenStack can provide tailored applications for customers who need them.

“It is not all about cost for some buyers. There are some verticals that are well-served by specialty players who have vertical specific solutions,” she said.

Europe“Things like data governance and regional and vertical-specific services may allow some vertically, regionally targeted public cloud providers to differentiate.”

One of these data governance-orientated OpenStack users is Cloud Team Alliance in Europe, which won a tender to provide cloud services to the European Union last year.

Late in 2015, Cloud Team Alliance (CTA) won the Lot 2 tender to provide OpenStack based public infrastructure cloud services to 52 European institutions, including the European Union Parliament, the EU Council and the EU Commission.

The European Direction Generale IT (EU DIGIT) wanted to choose OpenStack to power cloud in the EU because of its “openness, portability, and transparency”, with the aim of avoiding proprietary solutions and vendor lock-in.

This demand was further exacerbated by the NSA PRISM scandal, claims CTA, and the OpenStack framework allows the EU to keep compliant with local data regulations country-to-country.

Datacentred, based in the UK, is also an OpenStack user concerned about data governance. Datacentred uses OpenStack in its Salford data centre to provide the HMRC with its tax cloud services.

OpenStack ultimately showed off a number of its users during the second day’s keynote in Austin. The list included Cisco, OVH, Time Warner Cable, Intel, and the Texas Advanced Computing Centre, all users who will benefit from scale.

Cisco’s chief technology officer Lew Tucker was particularly evangelical about OpenStack during the keynote.

“We can really work together as a community of open source projects to create something even larger than OpenStack itself,” he said. “Over the years we’ve grown in size and scale and the number of contributors, and those who are new the community: get active, review, and also have some fun.

“But one thing that we are serious about is that this is hitting the enterprise today.”

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