Why OpenStack matters

OpenStackI’m excited about OpenStack. “But you’re a cloud computing nerd anyway,” you say. “Why should we care?” I’ve worked in a few cloud businesses over the years in both London and Sydney, watching cloud computing evolve from niche technology to mainstream buzzword. So, yes I can get disproportionally excited about things that may seem boringly technical and nerdy to others.

You’re probably not that interested in the capabilities of an Intel 12 core Xeon E5-2697v2 CPU, for example. But I think OpenStack is different, and something all businesses should be aware of, because it’s going to change the way you manage your business data and hosting. This open source cloud platform is on the cusp of disrupting the cosy, established world of the proprietary cloud providers, just as they themselves disrupted the traditional IT vendors of the ’90s and ’00s. Now is the perfect time for OpenStack.

Open source technologies are widely accepted and supported by industry and big business — partly because it plays well with other systems (interoperability), but also because open source technology is a more cost-effective way of meeting the ever-growing demand for cloud services.

The rise of OpenStack is going to place more pressure on cloud providers to be more cost-effective and more flexible, without compromising the increasingly high levels of performance you require. And that has major ramifications for all businesses. These are your expectations we need to exceed. In short, OpenStack means there are fewer excuses for providers offering merely average performance in return for high management fees.

The OpenStack community

OpenStack is a collaborative group of open source projects that provide the building blocks for a cloud ‘Infrastructure as a Service’ (IaaS) platform. IaaS is the engine that supports all modern software development and delivery. The flexibility and scope of these projects make OpenStack ideal for building public, private and hybrid clouds. It can adapt to pretty much any cloud architecture you need.

Meanwhile, the vibrant and rapidly growing community of developers behind OpenStack means it continues to build momentum. Every six months, a week-long OpenStack community summit decides the roadmap for the following six months. Just recently, 4,500 developers, customers and vendors from all over the world came together for the May 2014 summit; up from around 1800 attendees only a year before.

This followed OpenStack’s ninth release in April, codenamed Icehouse, which included code contributed by more than 1,200 active developers from around the world. Not many proprietary platforms can draw upon that kind of backing or scope of expertise. The Icehouse release includes more than 300 new features and 3000 bug fixes. Juno, the 10th release, will be available in October 2014, and is rumoured to include improved support for Docker (containers), Hadoop, Trove Database as a Service, a new Queue service and bare metal server provisioning, among other things.

Like Linux before it (one of the most successful software implementations in history), the success of OpenStack can be largely attributed to these open source foundations.

Widespread Industry Support

OpenStack has deep support across a range of industries; including academic partners, enterprises, non-profits and massive technology companies. Hewlett Packard, Red Hat, IBM, Ubuntu, AT&T, Ericsson, NASA, Rackspace, Cisco, Dell, VMware, Intel, Samsung, NEC, Hitachi, Juniper — all have adopted OpenStack. And now Anchor joins the list.

These companies each invest enormous amounts of time and money into the OpenStack ecosystem, validating and extending the adoption of OpenStack’s open standards, further driving the growth of the platform. There can be no greater example of the sheer scalability and power of OpenStack than CERN, the European Organisation for Nuclear Research. CERN deals in very, VERY big data, stored, managed, rendered and processed in a private cloud powered by OpenStack. The CERN cloud is so large, it is expected to grow to 15,000 hypervisors and up to 300,000 virtual machines within the next 12 months.

Competition and Innovation

The wide range of vendors joining the OpenStack community further drives innovation. And today, software innovation is critical to build and preserve competitive advantage, no matter which industry you are in. The open standards and open source foundations of OpenStack allow for rapid innovation, unfettered by proprietary systems, corporate secrets and closed business models.

Openness means you, me or anyone else can develop, move, integrate and deliver applications however we see fit. No fear of restrictions and no chance of becoming locked into a particular vendor. OpenStack may be four years old, but the IaaS sector is still an evolving technology. As IaaS continues to mature, standardisation becomes increasingly important. Open source standards and APIs are now the accepted norm in the IT industry, placing OpenStack in a powerful position. That means OpenStack is defining the cloud infrastructure standards of the future. And that affects all of us.