What the OpenStack Cloud Platform Brings to the Channel
Businesses large and small have been experimenting with and using the open source OpenStack cloud deployment and management platform since it was introduced in 2010 as a way to make it easier to run pubic and private clouds.
That was the goal, at least, but it hasn’t always been very easy for businesses to use as an open-source platform. That’s where companies including Red Hat, Rackspace, SUSE, Canonical and Mirantis stepped in to offer their own commercial versions and related services to help smooth the way for more businesses to adopt and use the platform in their infrastructures.
OpenStack evolved from separate initiatives started by Rackspace and NASA in 2010 which were quickly brought together. That groundwork soon became what was called OpenStack. In 2012, the OpenStack Foundation (OSF) was formed to support the project’s efforts.
At a recent OpenStack Summit, several OSF leaders talked about how the group is now working to recharge the project’s momentum as it has lost contributors to other open-source projects in recent years. The OSF leaders also said they continue to hear constructive feedback from businesses which ask for more help making OpenStack easier to use with other related and emerging technologies such as Kubernetes, containers and more so they can streamline and improve their IT infrastructures to serve their critical business computing needs. In response, the OSF is trying to forge stronger ties with businesses that want to use OpenStack to control their pools of compute, storage and networking resources in their data centers and the cloud.
With that in mind, Channel Futures talked with several IT analysts about how OpenStack’s developing efforts to make the open-source version of the platform easier to use by businesses and by channel partners so they can provide services and support.
Paul Parker-Johnson, the practice lead for cloud and virtual system infrastructures at ACG Research, said he sees the OSF “taking proactive steps to engage the different portions of their expanding user community successfully.”
One thing that makes that goal tougher is that the OpenStack user community includes a wide range of cloud platform users with varying needs, such as research institutions, enterprises IT service providers that are supplying services based on the underlying code, and vendors who are incorporating the open-source distributions into offerings for end users, said Parker-Johnson.
“I would say the OSF and its community have come a long way in getting its solutions to be more straightforward to assemble and consume,” he said. “The progress on the Open Lab infrastructure, and the organization of modules into collections that work in different use cases are good examples of how this progress is being made.”
Still more progress is needed to make the platform easier for users and channel partners, but the moves being made by the group appear to be well-focused, said Parker-Johnson.
“I think with continued influence from the end-user communities, those additional clarifications and refinements can get made.”
Another analyst, Jean Bozman of Hurwitz & Associates, said she also sees OSF’s developing efforts to better communicate with users and the channel as a smart strategy.
“This stuff is developing from the bottom up,” said Bozman. “It’s good to make it easier to use OpenStack so it’s easier for it to be used with other applications.”
A key part of this, she said, is to ensure that OpenStack can more efficiently be used with other open-source and enterprise applications so it doesn’t cause secondary software problems for users and can be helped along by the channel.
“Many companies can benefit by directly getting involved in the OpenStack community and contributing code and making suggestions and requests … they can help make OpenStack do more for their own businesses,” said Bozman. “Big companies, like China Railways and American Airlines, likely have the people to jump into these projects, and that’s good. But for smaller companies, they need to be more accessible or more automated to make it easier for them to adopt OpenStack.”
Rhett Dillingham, an analyst with Moor Insights & Strategy, told Channel Futures that he is definitely seeing progress with making OpenStack easier to deploy, configure and use in the open-source project’s most recent release cycles, as well as in the commercial distributions from vendors such as Red Hat, SUSE and Canonical.
“However, there is still significant expertise needed to operate and scale any private-cloud deployment, which is why I continue to see growth in adoption of managed services from providers such as Rackspace and Mirantis,” he said. “These providers are also offering management of Kubernetes on and alongside OpenStack, which offers enterprises a lot of flexibility as they work through their strategies in [which] applications to develop or shift over to a container-based platform.”
The next OpenStack Summit will be held in Berlin, Nov. 13-15.