In case you haven’t heard, OpenStack is the new black.
OpenStack is an open source software initiative for building clouds. Announced in July 2010 as a joint venture between Rackspace Hosting and NASA, the infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) venture has been heralded as the ideal for the cloud computing universe.
This week’s OpenStack Summit – a four-day conference for OpenStack Cloud Software developers and users – opened in Hong Kong with a Lion Dance, perhaps emblematic of OpenStack’s arrival on the cloud computing universe. Silicon Angle does a good job of recapping all the vendor action from the summit, including movement from Red Hat, NetApp, DreamHost and Rackspace.
CIOs might be feeling OpenStack OverLoad right about now. But we have to wonder how many real world organizations are utilizing OpenStack in their private clouds currently. According to the vendors who support the initiative, pretty much everyone wants open source stacking and wants it now.
In a recent survey funded by Red Hat, IDG asked 200 IT decision makers whether OpenStack will be part of their future private cloud plans, and a whopping 84% indicated that they planned on implementing OpenStack. Only 2% declined the open source software, according to the IDG survey.
That seems like some pretty hefty statistics in favor of OpenStack, but don’t be fooled. Compare the IDC survey to Wikibon’s own multi-hypervisor survey earlier last quarter that revealed only 33% were either testing OpenStack, currently using OpenStack or considering using it. This is a very far cry from the Red Hat-sponsored IDG survey results.
Could OpenStack be suffering under its own hype?
“OpenStack’s core competency, above all else, has been marketing,” writes Andrew C. Shafer. “Press releases trumpet a new release of OpenStack as if this was working software and the naive ‘Enterprise buyer’ would rush headlong into that assumption hopped up on adrenaline and hubris.”
Mark Shuttleworth, Ubuntu and Canonical founder, preached business value through interoperability in the opening keynote at the OpenStack Summit this week. However, not everyone feels OpenStack exemplifies those goals. Shuttleworth seemed to be speaking directly to OpenStack critics. One, Gartner analyst and vice president Lydia Leong, wrote in a 2012 report titled "Don't Let OpenStack Hype Distort Your Selection of Cloud Management Platform": “Don't assume that ‘open source’ equates to open standards, broad interoperability and freedom from commercial interests. In reality, OpenStack is dominated by vendor interests, where they want customers to adopt their own offerings, potentially to include proprietary lock-in.”
We questioned whether vendor choices were driving some of the Wikibon survey respondents’ choices. For instance, perhaps the survey respondents who were shying away from OpenStack were doing so because their cloud infrastructure wasn't participating? Not so. The Wikibon survey respondents currently using OpenStack were primarily VMware shops, while a third were using KVM. Similarly, those testing OpenStack mimicked the general marketplace figures reported by David Floyer in that about 3/4s were VMware shops, with the remainder opting for KVM and a handful using Hyper-V. Of those who had never heard of OpenStack, 2/3s were VMware users. Obviously, vendor involvement has little bearing on whether or not users will lean toward OpenStack adoption. (VMware was unable to provide a comment on this story by press time, but promised to respond after the OpenStack Summit.)
However, with OpenStack’s incompatibility with the widely-adopted AWS platform, one wonders how much of OpenStack adoption is really a tempest in a teacup. After three years, OpenStack still seems to be treading water. Is it forever doomed be a fanboy ideal with little bearing on the real world?
“OpenStack is becoming a vast matrix of plugins, mix-ins, drivers, hypervisors, proxies, and other configurable systems, held together with a loose collection of shared services,” writes Geoff Arnold, cloud solutions architect at Brocade. “For people seeking to put together a homegrown replacement for VMware, it’s an attractive (if complicated) proposition. For interoperable NIST-inspired clouds, not so much.”
In some ways, OpenStack is becoming the Woodstock music festival of cloud computing initiatives – a lot of confusion, a lot of waving hands and bright lights – but at the end of the day, the mainstream enterprises and smaller businesses are just left scratching their heads.
“As long as OpenStack succeeds at [focusing on marketing], there will be no shortage of funds for a foundation, summits and parties,” said Shafer. “Ultimately, if that is OpenStack’s primary accomplishment, Amazon (and perhaps others) will run away with the user driven adoption as service providers until there is nothing left of OpenStack but bespoke clouds and mailing list dramas.”
Action Item: Get the full scoop on OpenStack but don’t buy into the hype. Assess future cloud initiatives with potential to engage in open source activities in the future but don’t bet the farm on it.