OpenStack survey reveals potential, potholes

Demand for OpenStack increases, but challenges persist.

earth stack
Credit: fdecomite/flickr

OpenStack is rapidly gaining adoption and maturity, with 60% of deployments in production compared to just 32% reported less than two years ago, according to OpenStack's October 2015 user survey. It is the biggest open source IaaS (infrastructure as a service) player, with backing from major IT vendors, including Red Hat, SUSE, Canonical, Rackspace, HP, IBM, CISCO, Mirantis, VMWare and AT&T, to name a few. And it competes head-to-head against the likes of Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, and Google Compute Engine.

A new survey, commissioned by SUSE and conducted by Dynamic Markets, surveyed 813 IT professionals at senior manager level and above in large companies about enterprise adoption of OpenStack.

Regarding private cloud in general, the survey findings were very positive:

  • Universally adopted: 90 percent of enterprises have already implemented at least one private cloud within their business.
  • Trusted: 96 percent of respondents said they would use a cloud solution for business-critical workloads.
  • Increasingly open source: 96 percent of respondents believe there are business advantages to implementing an open source private cloud.The most common reasons for adopting private clouds were to reduce costs and/or because of budget constraints (67 percent), and to increase agility/innovation (77 percent) – advantages associated with open source solutions.</block>

And so it was not surprising to see that, according to the survey, “81% of senior IT professionals are planning to move or are already moving to OpenStack private cloud.”

But challenges persist.

  • High degree of difficulty: Half of all enterprises that tried to implement an OpenStack cloud have failed, and 65 percent of companies report they have found the implementation experience difficult. In addition, nearly half (44 percent) plan to download and install OpenStack software themselves, potentially adding to the degree of difficulty.
  • Vendor lock-in constraints: 92 percent of respondents have concerns about vendor lock-in when it comes to choosing a private cloud infrastructure solution.
  • Skills shortage: 86 percent of respondents said the lack of skills in the market is making their companies reluctant to pursue private cloud. In addition, 78 percent of companies that have yet to adopt private cloud are deterred by the skills shortage.

 On implementation difficulties

“Due to the complex nature of the projects, managed services and OpenStack distributions are increasingly the deployment choice for those users that remain supportive of the platform after struggling to find success with the do-it-yourself approach," said Al Sadowski, research director, Service Providers, for 451 Research. "We continue to see OpenStack becoming the de facto open source option for deploying private clouds. However, this will accelerate only after more OpenStack-trained developers enter the workforce and a simpler user experience is realized for deployment and operations that does not need an army of technical resources.”

On vendor lock-in

A common perception is that open source means freedom from vendor lock. That’s not entirely true. As Kamesh Pemmaraju, Vice President of Product Marketing at Mirantis, explained "Vendor lock-in actually means two things: 1) Lock-in means you are buying proprietary hardware or software that only the vendor controls -- things like road map, pricing, APIs. That means features and other issues can only be fixed by the vendor. So customers are really at the mercy of the vendor to a great extent, they can increase price as much as the market bears and include only features that the market bears; 2) Lock-in also means having a technology so embedded in your environment that you can’t get out of it. Open source doesn’t guarantee that you will be free from lock-in. OpenStack has a number of components – if all (or most) are coming from a single vendor, THAT is lock-in. Some even lock in the hardware.”

Alan Clark, Director, Industry Initiatives, Emerging Standards and Open Source at SUSE told me in an interview during SUSECon that there are many vendors who offer their own hardware, their own tools to manage, deploy and do different things with OpenStack cloud. And if these components – whether hardware or software -- are proprietary, even if you are deploying open source OpenStack, you are locking yourself into their tools.

So while it’s true that open source doesn’t guarantee freedom from lock-in, it does make freedom possible, something you can’t expect from proprietary technologies. “Those [users] that maybe have very simple workloads, or want just one throat to choke, may want the single vendor model," said Pemmaraju. "But for those with complex workloads or who are looking for innovation, choice and flexibility matter. Don’t get locked in – give yourself a choice – across the board. OpenStack has a ton of different components and, depending on your requirements, you should be able to move much more easily, and take advantage of innovation.”

Clark explained that SUSE doesn’t believe in building its own stack and works with different partners. SUSE offers support for a majority of open source components so users can pick and choose whichever vendor and tools they want without worrying about getting locked in.

Similarly, with Mirantis "the risks of lock-in are much less ... because of our philosophy of upstream first," said Pemmaraju. "Our distribution is as close to the open source trunk you can get, and the software itself is free and is 100% open source. The infrastructure components such as network, compute, or storage can be easily swapped because of the pluggable nature of OpenStack itself and because of the ease of deployment via Fuel and Fuel plugins. We also perform extensive certification and validation on all the partner components.”

On the skills shortage

Considering that OpenStack is relatively new technology it is not surprising to see a shortage of skills. In fact, Pemmaraju sees it as a good thing, “…demand for skills reflects a market demand for the technology. The OpenStack Foundation plays an important role by managing a training marketplace, and plans to launch a professional certification program."

Organizations like the Linux Foundation offer OpenStack courses. Mirantis is also adding more OpenStack classes to its training programs. And SUSE also offers many OpenStack training courses.

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