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Is OpenStack a Game Changer for Cloud?

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For those of you that haven’t heard of OpenStack, well please read on. I will try and explain what the latest buzz in the Cloud world is and where you can position yourself in the future with this very exciting topic.

Wikipedia`s definition – OpenStack – “a cloud-computing project, aims to provide the “ubiquitous open source cloud computing platform for public and private clouds.”Predominantly acting as an infrastructure as a service (IaaS) platform, it is free and open-source software released under the terms of the Apache License. The project is managed by the OpenStack Foundation, a non-profit corporate entity established in September 2012 to promote OpenStack software and its community.

Easy to understand? Maybe for the technically minded amongst us – but not all.

After attending the Paris OpenStack in Action 4 event (allegedly the biggest in Europe), it was made relatively clear. However first I think you need to understand what Cloud means (and that’s quite difficult with current Cloud washing) to really understand OpenStack.

..you need to understand what Cloud means… to really understand OpenStack.

Cloud technology

So you have some services that are delivered via the cloud. Maybe an online backup of data, applications that are launched through a web browser or even some servers that are hosted in a datacentre? Just to confuse you the Cloud terminology will now kick in and these are called BaaS (backup as a service), SaaS (or software as a service) or IaaS (infrastructure as a service). There are infinite more acronyms for Cloud services than these few (PaaS – Platform as a Service, SaaS Software as a Service, DaaS – Desktop as a Service etc etc) but let’s keep it relatively basic for the moment.

In essence Cloud Services are anything delivered via online methods (centralised computing of old for the over 40`s amongst us). All of you reading this are probably taking some form of this type of service, maybe not be a complete outsourced model but in part at least (email is a good example).

So where does OpenStack enter the arena I hear you ask?

Well OpenStack is a little bit different from all of the above (cringe as I open myself up for criticism), as it’s quite literately an Open Source developed standard (memories of Linux when first released) and what I mean by this is this:

[APIs] allow seamless connectivity and modified source code to a virtually unlimited list of vendors/providers for Cloud services…
OpenStack has a different licensing model to traditional methods (which is a relief from traditional MS overcharging, and others) in the sense that developments and certain additional functionality become features and not necessarily additional costs. This, as well as taking away a typical “lock in” adopted by the majority of SW providers, makes absolute sense, but it’s not just about software. There are open API`s (application programming interfaces) that allow seamless connectivity and modified source code to a virtually unlimited list of vendors/providers for Cloud services which puts you, the consumer, in control of what you want, where you want it and for how long ! It doesn’t stop there, what about compute power, virtualisation, data storage, KVM`s and Linux, these can all be managed and integrated within OpenStack (the three main areas – Object Storage, Open Compute and Open Image).

Imagine a time when you can have your data stored where you want it to be (UK, US – your country of choice) and have compute power from IBM (VMs spinning up) and your data running to inexpensive NAS devices elsewhere as well as other VMs launching from yet another location or provider and all of this with you having control? Well it’s available now and there are many providers gearing up for a very big play (IBM, VMware, Rackspace, HP, Oracle and many others). Why are the bigger players looking to OpenStack? Well hardware sales will certainly increase and with the integration of application stores, managing the compute/storage availability makes this so much easier (and cheaper). Let’s face it, Amazon has been working towards this for years but they don’t have the lead on this anymore.

Amazon has been working towards this for years but they don’t have the lead on this anymore.

However (and a big however), it is open source and the consumer market needs to catch up with the vendor led trends. Make no mistake, this is the future for Cloud within the next few years without a doubt, but the adoption is relatively slow, mostly because of the lack of understanding from a client perspective as well as how to sell this new service (same problem when selling cloud services). Personally I feel the consumer needs more education on Cloud in general before we see OpenStack really taking off due to a over advanced vendor led market, but it’s only a matter of time. It’s a bit techie really and requires a lot of explanation to the uneducated Cloud consumers prior to wining confidence.

Personally I feel the consumer needs more education on Cloud in general before we see OpenStack really taking off …
At the Paris OpenStack 4 Expo there were many providers trying to get this point across. I spoke to a few and tried to get an understanding of the differing products/services they were offering. One in particular was HEDERA (writing an article for us in the very near future). What they boasted (and demonstrated to me) was impressive and consisted of giving you, the end client, the ability of piloting your multi-IaaS from one platform, deploy and provision in a few minutes not hours, adapt in real-time for RAM on demand with a typical 30% reduction on usage as well as being able to cater for SUSE, VMware and Hyper-V environments. I must say, I was very impressed with their offering, but don’t just take my word for it, visit pimpmystack.net and sign up for a free trial to see for yourself. Furthermore, they offer this as an on premise solution too, allowing you to calculate your own budget lines and IT charge backs for larger enterprises.

Don’t get me wrong, there are ways to achieve most of this now, but with several cobbled together products (many Cloud orchestration firms on the market) – But with OpenStack you achieve this and certain standards are achieved too!

Don’t get me wrong, there are ways to achieve most of this now, but with several cobbled together products…

To summarise, I feel that OpenStack will be a game changer for Cloud over the next few years and one to watch avidly. I also believe that this may force the standardisation for Cloud that is so much needed at present. Whatever your stage of current Cloud awareness may be at the moment OpenStack should be on your horizon.

Are you utilising OpenStack at the moment? If you are we would love to hear from you and listen to your experiences.