OpenStack: the most important cloud platform

Published by Rodolphe Wilhelm, 25 Jun 2015

IBM’s and Cisco’s recent acquisitions of Blue Box and Piston Cloud Computing, respectively, just top the list of big names closing deals that position OpenStack as the coming standard for cloud solutions.

Although the smaller OpenStack-based cloud companies now being acquired had the edge on nimble, early-stage innovation in the early years of the open-source project’s development, IBM and Cisco, along with HP, EMC, and Oracle are now taking the lead. Their investments in OpenStack mean two things: 1) they see open standardized cloud architecture as the impending future and don’t plan on getting left in the dust, and 2) by bringing their financial, IP and R&D resources to bear, they will hasten the maturation of OpenStack to meet the demands for large, scalable cloud solutions.

Even as independent OpenStack solutions provider Nebula found it too difficult to survive (it shut down in April), Oracle was quick to snatch up 40 of its former employees to bolster its own cloud capabilities. These IT giants recognize that there is strong potential for enterprise-class capabilities with OpenStack that aren’t readily available with other architectures. Whereas companies moving their operations to the cloud previously had only two options — either to set up a private cloud or go to large public cloud operator — OpenStack gives them a third option: to burst to a compatible public cloud for scalability nearly instantaneously. Support from big names has already helped OpenStack get past several hurdles and will only continue to develop as the backbone for enterprise cloud in the near future.

Interoperability is OpenStack’s great strength, allowing for seamless scaling from private to public as well as easier transition and connectivity across vendors and networks. In Cisco’s announcement of its acquisition of Piston Cloud, it cited its capabilities for enhancing cloud automation, availability, and scale for hybrid cloud solutions as playing a major role in its new Intercloud network. HP sees similar value, using OpenStack to facilitate its Helion Network, a vendor-neutral cloud network that will extend workload portability across the span of its participating partners’ data centers. In the case of Nebula, which was certainly unfortunate news, things could have been much worse. As OpenStack is open-source, supported by many companies, it won’t be too difficult for former Nebula customers to find another OpenStack solution provider to move to. Open architecture means less vulnerability for vendor lock-in, which is extremely good news for new cloud adopters, whether they are small developers or large enterprise customers.

We can expect that the bigger players entering the market will use their access to powerful resources, strong customer bases, and brand trust to accelerate enterprise adoption of OpenStack and help mature the market.

This corporatization of OpenStack doesn’t mean it will lose its free, open-source roots but rather that it’s growing up to further its influence on IT. The landscape is changing for data management, moving away from commodity hardware and closed architectures. Propelled most by demand from ISVs for pay-per-use and hybrid cloud capabilities to deploy their SaaS products, large enterprise will eventually transition to this more practical, cost-effective model as it is proven to safely handle their complex needs. With cloud services available on a pay-as-you go basis and infrastructure as a service (IaaS) removing the factor for investment in commodity hardware to run clouds, the market is transitioning to a model more akin to utilities, with customers making decisions based purely on performance, pricing, and quality of service. And customers will be more able to switch providers when a new option makes better sense for them.

Cloud means everything to the future of business IT, enabling compute, network, and storage with unlimited capacity and scalability without the costly overhead and commitment requirements of yesterday. There is no question that open standards and interoperability will become the standard, and OpenStack is quickly becoming the architecture for delivering this next-generation model for business computing.

Orlando Bayter is chief executive of cloud solution provider Ormuco.