The upcoming OpenStack Summit in Barcelona builds on a familiar theme: The unprecedented momentum that OpenStack has gained (and continues to gain) amongst firms of all shapes and sizes: enterprises, cloud and telecom services providers and hyperscalers. At the summit, the community will seek to showcase the fruits of streamlining product development and project coordination, maintaining currency with market trends, and more importantly that it is actively listening to its constituents of developers, end-users and vendors. IDC anticipates that their release message for the “Newton” release “One versatile platform” backed by key themes such as scalability, resiliency and user experience, will resonate stronger and louder with attendees, setting the stage for an even bigger footprint for OpenStack in 2017.
The OpenStack Summit in Barcelona to be held from October 25-27th 2016 could not been held at a more opportune time for the community. As 2016 draws to a close, it will no-doubt get labeled as a year that saw noteworthy mergers, splits, spin-offs and even “spin-mergers” – all of which will collectively leave an indelible mark on the industry landscape. Call it what you may, the fact is that much of the IT industry is being disrupted, and is responding accordingly. In such trying times, this industry is largely putting their weight behind open communities like OpenStack in an effort to reinvent themselves, and transform an industry that is struggling to maintain relevancy.
Digital Transformation and OpenStack
As firms accelerate their Digital Transformation initiatives (IDC defines Digital Transformation or DX as a technology-centric business strategy), they are embracing (IDC) 3rd platform technologies. For many firms adopting Innovation Accelerators such as Internet of Things, Robotics, Cognitive Systems, Augmented and Virtual Reality are mandatory for maintaining competitive differentiation in the years to come – and the time to act is now. Needless to say, for most firms the success of DX essentially comes down to how they transform their relationship with Information Technology.
Accordingly, their IT apps and infrastructure portfolio – generally seen as a drag on the firm’s ability to undertake major transformational initiatives – have to undergo a major overhaul. As firms embrace next-gen apps, they also have to embrace next-gen infrastructure that is agile and service-based, and is software-driven and managed as code. This in-turn changes the balance between operators (administrators) and consumers (developers and end-users).
Enter OpenStack. Firms who wanted this transformation done yesterday, cannot wait to build such a transformative infrastructure platform on their own. Instead they can adopt cloud frameworks like OpenStack, and focus on what matters most – building and deploying apps that form the lifeblood of their DX strategy.
The OpenStack journey and why end-users and developers matter equally
Over the past couple of years, the OpenStack community has been steadfast in making OpenStack enterprise-ready – adding features that matter most to firms. At the same time, they continue to focus on maintaining currency with market trends, and making the platform as versatile as possible. The Newton release of OpenStack exemplifies the efforts of the community in introducing new projects and initiatives, managing the lifecycle of new and existing projects, and streamlining product development and project coordination between these projects. Findings from the OpenStack Foundation’s latest end-user survey indicates that:
- The top three reasons for choosing OpenStack are cost savings (save money over alternative infrastructure choices), increased operational efficiency and innovation acceleration (the ability to compete by deploying applications faster). In fact, seventy-two percent of OpenStack Users Cite Cost Savings as their number one business driver.
- Users also commonly selected “avoiding vendor lock-in with an open platform and ecosystem with flexible underlying technology choices” and “standardizing on the same open platform and APIs that power a global network of public and private clouds” as top business drivers.
- Other popular responses included attracting top technical talent and achieving security and/or privacy goals with control of their platform.
Additional findings from the user survey and noteworthy trends:
- Containers continue to lead the list of emerging technologies, as it has for three consecutive survey cycles. In the same question, interest in NFV and bare metal is significantly higher than a year ago. Kubernetes shows growth as a container orchestration tool.
- Year-over-year growth of 20 percent in the number of production OpenStack deployments. Seventy-one percent of deployments catalogued are now in “production” versus in testing or proof of concept. The install base is becoming diverse too - nearly one-quarter of users are organizations smaller than 100 people.
- The number of OpenStack public cloud providers has grown to more than 30 worldwide, and established providers like Internap and City Network are expanding their firms into new regions.
- OpenStack is truly global. China has been a fast growing market for OpenStack with major financial services, manufacturing and telecom users including China UnionPay, DongFeng Motors, China Telecom, China Mobile, Lenovo, Hengfeng Bank, Post Savings Bank of China and the State Grid of China. There is also a strong startup community, including two Chinese Gold Members EasyStack and UnitedStack.
IDC reckons that developers are crucial to the success of OpenStack. OpenStack is all about treating “infrastructure-as-code” i.e. the ability to deploy and manage infrastructure via APIs, thereby supporting broader collaborative development methodologies such as DevOps. At the same time, OpenStack needs to appeal to the keepers of the infrastructure, who at the end of the day have to support it. Security and Compliance top the list of requirements for such folks. The fact that OpenStack was awarded Core Infrastructure Initiative (CII) badge should come as good news for both these groups. It signals the commitment by the community to embrace security-conscious development practices.
The role of an open community in shaping the future of OpenStack
The community is – and rightly so – touting OpenStack as the “one platform to manage VMs, containers and bare metal capable of handling more workloads across more industries, and offering greater range and choice.” IDC anticipates that the community’s key release message for the “Newton” release “One versatile platform” supported by key themes such as scalability, resiliency and user experience will resonate stronger and louder with summit attendees.
The Newton release is noteworthy for the following reasons (these reasons cited by the Foundation as key message themes):
- Scalability: Enterprise-class scale, the ability to scale up or down, cross platforms and geography. Key features here include: scaling up or down with Nova, Horizon, and Swift, Cells V2, Heat convergence by default, and multi-tenant Ironic.
- Resiliency: Provides high availability and adaptability, self-healing, ensuring stability regardless of workload demands. Availability/ High Availability improved with Cinder, Neutron, Trove and Ironic; Keystone security upgrades (PCI compliance & encrypted credentials).
- User experience: Enhanced ease of use for operators and app developers, making OpenStack easier to set up, operate, change and fix, with greater automation. Nova mutable configuration settings (reload certain configuration parameters without restarting the node), get-me-a-network simplifies network configuration, Ease of deployment via Kolla (Containerized OpenStack)
IDC believes that many of these features have been added in direct response to the skepticism and negative reviews provided by early enterprise adopters. More importantly this clearly indicates that the community is listening to its principal OpenStack constituents of developers and end-users – who as a proxy for their respective firms are demanding a platform that is easy to deploy and maintain, and supports their key business drivers.
Speaking of Computing Platforms
From a computing platforms perspective, this release of OpenStack will seek to showcase how it is a singular platform for bare-metal, virtual machines and containers. Specifically, for bare-metal and container the following features are noteworthy:
- Ironic, the bare-metal provisioning engine now offers more streamlined operations, support for multi-tenant Networking, tighter and better integration with Magnum, Kubernetes and Nova. Additionally, Kolla now supports deploying to Ironic
- Magnum, the container provisioning engine now offers better integration with container orchestration tools like Swarm, Kubernetes and Mesos, support for pluggable drivers, Ironic support for Kubernetes clusters, and the creation of asynchronous clusters creation. Additionally the community has created an operator-centric Magnum Install Guide
- Kuryr, the networking engine for containers now brings Neutron networking capabilities to containers. The Newton release is the first release for Swarm and Kubernetes integration. It also supports nested VMs through integration with Magnum and Neutron.
So where am I going with this? Everyone knows that virtual machines are a mainstay in most enterprises. However, as firms roll-out next-generation applications (many of which run in containers), they need the flexibility to choose the appropriate computing unit (bare-metal, virtual machines or containers) to host the application. In many cases, they don’t want to host containers inside virtual machines, or need the flexibility to run apps directly on bare-metal. As a singular cloud system, OpenStack needs to be flexible and versatile.
The OpenStack Foundation is making it the community’s mission to be responsive to the needs (read user experience) of current and prospective OpenStack operators, developers and end-users. They are seeking to make OpenStack “the de facto integration engine” for the next-generation infrastructure, whether it be in the enterprise, in small and medium firms, at service providers, at telecom operators or at public cloud providers.
IDC believes that this is certainly an achievable goal – as the Newton release indicates. IDC also believes that the community needs to strike a balance between introducing too many new projects vs. ensuring stability and maturity of existing projects – which are the mainstay of most OpenStack deployments. They also have to pay special attention to fully hashing out “stack-wide” capabilities like turnkey upgrades and parity across all stable projects in terms of maturity. They have to be careful not to let the vendor community dilute the mission for OpenStack or make it a conduit to pursue their own interests. The Foundation with support from the community will be well served in maintaining a balance between end users and vendors in projects, on the board and in the developer base.
Barcelona will be a critical waypoint for this journey.