OpenStack Silicon Valley: At Five Years Old, Is OpenStack Ready?

There are the early adopters and the customer success stories, but OpenStack is still fighting Goliaths

OpenStack is five years old this month. The open source cloud computing platform, originally developed by NASA, has come on leaps and bounds in offering up an alternative Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) offering to its big public cloud competitors such as Azure and Amazon Web Services (AWS), but it still seems it has some way to go in truly removing the monopoly those competitors have in the future of cloud.

TechWeekEurope is here in California for OpenStack Silicon Valley 2015- its most high profile and media-savvy conference yet.

OpenStack can now boast more than 25,000 members, spread like a cloudy jam over 167 countries in 523 organisations. This week, OpenStack has even finally been recognised by the United States’ Internal Revenue Service as a non-profit organisation, meaning its exempt from tax.


Yet, two hours of this morning’s presentations were still angled towards convincing users of the viability of OpenStack, despite claims from vendors left, right and centre that it is already ready. What’s the truth?

“The speed at which we are moving is incredible,” says Alex Freedland, Mirantis’ co-founder. “There is huge demand to show it all off.”

Forrester research said earlier this year: “Despite its headway into the Fortune 100 and long list of notable vendor supporters, coverage thus far has been limited to media articles and vendor propaganda that disproportionately inflate both the strengths and shortcomings of OpenStack.”

But the analyst house is strong in its opinion that OpenStack is indeed ready for the mainstream.

openstack“[OpenStack] is viewed by the community as the fifth cloud platform,” says OpenStack Foundation Executive Director Johnathon Bryce.

The other four, Bryce says, are Amazon (AWS), Google Cloud, Microsoft (Azure) and VMware when it comes to migrating to the cloud with on-premise platforms.

“At the age of five, OpenStack is one of the most important platforms. It can lead migration of the world into the cloud.”

Bryce pulled up multiple use cases of early adopters such as Walmart, which ran 50 percent of its 2014 Christmas traffic through OpenStack, and the NSA, which was interested in the ability of OpenStack to haul tidbits from Big Data.

There is a true belief in the room, a theatre housed in Santa Clara’s Computer History Museum, about OpenStack’s legitimacy and future.

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Google’s view

“OpenStack has democratised IaaS,” reckons Google’s Craig McLuckie, a product manager at Google.

openstackHe sees the future of OpenStack relying on the platform being one of the only platforms that can truly support Kubernetes and containers, in other words, supporting the fast-changing startup scene that is slamming into cloud computing at rates that have investors rubbing their hands with glee.

McLuckie looked to container platform Docker, and its operability with OpenStack, as firm evidence of this.

“Docker is magic in three parts, “ thinks McLuckie. He claims it has real portability, reuse and longevity credentials, and it’s incredibly easy to access. These three “magic” parts, linked with OpenStack, is a sure fire way to an OpenStack win.

“Kubernetes and OpenStack are the path to cloud native success,” he says. “We need to work together as a community.”

This community, this future, is part of what Bryce called one of the pillars of OpenStack. He argues that implementing migration to cloud, or even building cloud platforms, is doomed to fail unless you’re doing it for a good reason, and doing it to plug a hole.

“Do cloud for a good reason,” says Bryce. “Do things for the right reasons, don’t just build a cloud because you can. Companies who are successful with cloud have good reasons to do it.”

Bryce listed reasons such as cost cutting, time to market, speeding up product developments cycles. All of which, he claims, can be achieved with OpenStack.

“You need to find a reason, make sure it’s clear why you’re doing this. Use OpenStack to build a platform for innovation.”

IT departments

But then James Staten comes on to the stage and highlights issues, not around OpenStack’s feasibility, but rather its adopt-ability.

openstackStaten, an ex-Forrester analyst, now works at Microsoft as a cloud strategist. Staten argues IT departments arebsimply not prepared for OpenStack yet.

“Most of you in this room wouldn’t be here if you thought OpenStack wasn’t ready for implementation,” says Staten. “But the challenge is most IT departments aren’t ready. And part of this comes down to the relationship that IT departments have with developers. More often than not, they really don’t have a very strong knowledge about what developers are looking for, and why they consume the public cloud services that they do.”

Staten points to the problem of shadow IT as a main sign of this disconnect, with developers circumventing platforms to achieve desired results.

“The first thing IT admin tams should do is concentrate on understanding why employees are circumventing what you provide,” he says.


But the funding keeps on coming. Just this week OpenStack pure player Mirantis announced it’s receiving $100 million (£63.7m) from a group of investors, led by Intel and Goldman Sachs.

The investment is part of Intel’s strategy to increase its presence in the open source community, supporting OpenStack as the alternative cloud platform.

openstackEarlier in August, Mirantis and CoreOS announced integration of Mirantis’ OpenStack distribution with one of the first commercial platforms for Kubernetes 1.0: CoreOS’s Tectonic container platform.

The integration will bring enterprise-grade support and manageability for customers who want to choose Mirantis’ OpenStack product whilst benefiting from the portability of Kubernetes containers.

“Now that Kubernetes is production-ready, companies using Tectonic and Mirantis OpenStack can have a Google-like infrastructure at their fingertips,” said CoreOS CEO, Alex Polvi.

Intel’s also teamed up with Rackspace to open an OpenStack-dedicated ‘innovation centre’ to try and heighten interest in advancing OpenStack code.

According to the companies, the mission goal is this:Accelerate the development of enterprise capabilities and significantly add to the number of developers contributing to upstream OpenStack code.”

These investments, these flaunts of cash and trust, prove that it’s all systems go at team OpenStack. With just four months left of 2015, TechWeekEurope doesn’t anticipate a sea change just yet, but this time next year we can be assured OpenStack will be on the lips of thousands more.

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