OpenStack initially emerged as a platform for running a new generation of “cloud native” applications on premise as an alternative to VMware. A few years later it became apparent that carriers and cloud service providers (CSPs) were pouring a lot of engineering resources into OpenStack because using commercial software at that level of scale is simply cost prohibitively.
These days, OpenStack is being used mainly by developers and engineers as a platform for creating new applications. It still takes a fair amount of expertise to stand up an OpenStack cloud. As a result, there is still quite a bit of VMware software running on premise in the enterprise because from a management perspective the VMware environment is significantly more mature.
OpenStack investments start to pay off
But all that OpenStack effort by carriers and CSPs is starting to pay off in a way that is trickling down to the enterprise. At the OpenStack East conference this week, for example, it was apparent that OpenStack is now being more widely considered for a broad range of enterprise applications, including both SAP and Oracle application deployments.
For IT services providers, that’s a significant development. Once more enterprise applications start showing up on OpenStack, it becomes more cost effective to drive hybrid cloud computing deployments. The big dream surrounding OpenStack was to create a set of open application programming interfaces (APIs) in the cloud to counter proprietary APIs from Amazon Web Services (AWS) that have become de facto standards. Following the rise of the Microsoft Azure cloud, the collective weight of OpenStack has been even further reduced. The good news is that carriers lead by AT&T and Verizon are gearing up to deliver a raft of 5G networking services based on hardened implementations of various components of OpenStack.
During a session on “The Maturing Cloud: Misconceptions & Obstacles” at OpenStack East it was made apparent that OpenStack still has a long way to go in terms of being able to deliver services that the average enterprise expects to be able to invoke routinely. But as a framework for delivering a programmatic approach for managing IT infrastructure at scale, OpenStack has come a long way.
In fact, when it comes to delivering hybrid cloud computing services OpenStack might be the best game in town. AWS doesn’t directly support private clouds running on premise, and Microsoft has pushed back the on premise edition of the Azure cloud well into next year. Of course, most IT service providers have the expertise to create a hybrid cloud across heterogeneous clouds. The real issue is at what cost and complexity that goal can be achieved.
Dealing with remaining challenges
Naturally, there are still plenty of OpenStack growing pains when it comes to, for example, supporting multiple versions of OpenStack that wind up running simultaneously in the enterprise. Plus, OpenStack gets updated every six months. It’s all but a requirement to make use of a curated version of OpenStack that isolates IT organizations from updates that typically arrive every six months in ways that are not always as polished as they might be.
There’s also plenty of debate concerning how relevant OpenStack may be in a world full of containers and microservices. OpenStack traces its lineage back to the management of virtual machines, which might ultimately be replaced by containers running on bare metal servers. For now, however, significant efforts are being made to integrate containers and OpenStack more tightly at the orchestration level.
Regardless of the type of virtualization technology being employed, OpenStack provides a layer of innovation insurance that makes it possible for IT organizations to deploy a mix of virtual machines and containers as they see fit. Obviously, that requires a certain amount of expertise to deploy and manage. Fortunately, the tools surrounding OpenStack are automating the provisioning of most of its components in a way that make is feasible for most IT service providers to build a managed service around OpenStack in all its many forms.