David Fishman, VP marketing at OpenStack firm Mirantis, takes a rather tongue-in-cheek look at why a business wouldn’t want OpenStack
Sure, OpenStack is the ‘cool kid on the block’ these days, and everyone’s talking about how it’s invading the enterprise space, taking over where virtualisation and public cloud now hold sway. That doesn’t mean that you have to do it. If all the other companies were jumping off a bridge, would you do that too? Of course not. After all, you may have some very good reasons to hold off on implementing OpenStack.
You don’t mind vendor lock-in
You understand why virtualisation is a good thing because you want to wring every last bit of resources out of your gear, so you’re willing to pay for that. So what if that software doesn’t do something you want it to? After all, the software vendors are the experts; if they haven’t thought to put a feature in, it must be because you don’t need it.
OpenStack, on the other hand, is open source, which means, in this context, a few things:
- If there’s a particular feature you want or need that’s not available, you can simply build it yourself, or have someone build it for you. You’re not locked into the vendor’s roadmap.
- If you don’t like your current OpenStack vendor, as long as you’re not relying on proprietary extensions that vendor may have added, you can change to another without changing how you interact with your systems.
You don’t mind paying fees that grow when you do
No, those fees aren’t a disincentive to growing. I mean, business costs money. You should expect to pay more to grow your business. So what if these are expenses for resources that haven’t actually done anything for you yet, such as blocks of VM licenses, or public cloud servers that are just used for development or testing. It’s just the cost of doing business.
On the other hand, because OpenStack doesn’t involve license per-CPU or per-core license fees, you can spin up or down the VMs you want in your private cloud as you want without having to fool with licenses.
You don’t need to move any faster
You don’t have any competitors, and even if you do, you’re so far out ahead that you don’t need to worry about coming up with products and solutions faster than you already do. They’re your customers. They’ll wait until you’re ready to provide them with something. It’s not like they’re going to go to your competition.
With Infrastructure as a Service, on the other hand, your developers will be able to spin up a server to work on at a moment’s notice, so when an idea or a request comes up, they can be working on it in minutes, not weeks or months. This is even more true if you have your own OpenStack cloud, so they won’t even have to break out their credit cards.
You don’t worry about performance and uptime
You use the public cloud because you don’t want to have to worry about little things like uptime and availability. It’s OK if your application shares a server with someone else’s; you don’t worry about the security risk. Who cares if your application slows to a crawl when they run a big job? It’s still available, right? Oh, it’s not? Well, it will come back eventually, that’s the public cloud provider’s problem and not yours.
One of the advantages of a private cloud is that you don’t have to worry about some random person or company sharing resources with you, but there’s still the issue of keeping things running. One of the options for OpenStack, on the other hand, is managed private cloud – also known as Private Cloud as a Service – in which the vendor is responsible for uptime, but you still get all the advantages of private cloud.
You don’t want to change
You’ve been building applications this way for a long time, and you don’t want to have to learn this new ‘cloud’ stuff. Pets? Cattle? Applications that can go on even if servers crash? That’s crazy. Who wants to do that? No you’ll stick with good old reliable client server, thank you, and if something happens to a server you’ll nurse it back to health, whatever it takes.
OpenStack, on the other hand, gives you the option to move into the world of resilient applications, though doesn’t force it on you; if you want to spin up a VM and drop a client-server database on it, that’s certainly an option. Or you can take advantage of an architecture that lets you simply shut down a machine that isn’t working and spin it up somewhere else without your users even noticing.
Your people aren’t ready for this
Your people are used to things as they are. They like things as they are. They don’t want to adopt cloud principles, or they’d have gone off and done it. If they leave for somewhere else that’s more challenging and gives them the opportunity to acquire new skills and be worth more in the marketplace, then good riddance to them. You don’t need such forward thinkers on your team anyway.
OpenStack, on the other hand, provides your IT staff the opportunity to participate in the next wave of computing without leaving you – and taking their experience in your business processes and products with them. The days when the IT department was the biggest barrier to change are waning quickly. Professionals know which way the technology is moving and they want to be there.
You don’t need devops
Your operators are special people, and they do special jobs. They will always want to do things ‘by hand’ rather than scripting and standardizing so that processes are repeatable and documented. Who else wants to know that much about how a system works, anyway?
OpenStack, on the other hand, enables you to turn your IT operation into a well-oiled machine, where tasks can be not only reliable and repeatable but also version controlled. This provides visibility into what goes on, sure. More importantly, it frees up your operators to do a better job of serving your organisation, as they can spend more time thinking about (and designing) the big picture and less time spinning up servers for the hundredth time this week.
You’re never going to need additional capacity
These ideas about “bursting” capacity to the cloud when necessary are ridiculous. You’ll just keep all the capacity you will ever need on hand in your data centre, thank you. So what if it sits idle 95% of the time. It’s an operating expense, you can take it off your taxes. That includes all the electricity, cooling, operations, and everything else you need to do to maintain the systems while they’re doing nothing.
OpenStack, on the other hand, enables you to keep on hand only the resources you know that you need – or that you need to keep in house for security or regulatory reasons – while knowing that if you need additional capacity, it’s there. You can even burst to Private Cloud as a Service rather than public cloud, keeping all of OpenStack’s advantages while still availing yourself of the benefits of hybrid cloud.
Alright, so maybe you DO want to move to OpenStack. How do you go about it? In general, the process looks like this:
- Decide what it is you want to accomplish. This is just like any other IT project; you don’t want to be floundering around without a clear direction.
- Start small, then grow. Start with a small proof of concept cloud so that users and developers can get used to the concept. Yes, you can download OpenStack directly and implement it yourself, but unless you already have expertise on staff, you’re better off using one of the many distributions available to get started.
- Make sure your people are on board. Sometimes it’s management who doesn’t ‘get’ why this is important. Sometimes it’s IT, clinging to the old ways out of fear. In both cases, involve the nay-sayers in the research so they feel comfortable moving forward.
- Involve a vendor who can support you. There’s nothing wrong with simply growing your cloud organically, but once you move beyond the proof of concept stage into pilots and larger implementations, having a vendor who understands the architectural implications and can guide you will save heartache (and money) later.
- Re-evaluate at periodic intervals. As your people get used to what the cloud has to offer, they’ll adapt and start making better use of it. Periodically evaluate whether you’re serving their current needs, and how you can do better.
Change is never easy but in the end, smart changes such as moving to OpenStack are more than worth the time and effort you put in.