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OpenStack grows up: But is it grown up enough for enterprise IT?

Brandon Butler | April 11, 2013
Less than a year ago the cool thing for IT vendors to do was jump on the OpenStack bandwagon.

Less than a year ago the cool thing for IT vendors to do was jump on the OpenStack bandwagon.

Everyone was hopping on: Red Hat, IBM, and even VMware signed on as partners to the open source cloud computing platform, joining Rackspace, HP, Cisco and Dell that were already backing the project. All these companies had a unified goal, says Marc Brien, an analyst at Domicity, who tracks the movers and shakers of the cloud world. They wanted to stave off the fast-growing dominance of Amazon Web Services in the cloud.

But Brien questioned exactly how OpenStack would work out. Would Rackspace, an original creator of the project, have problems relinquishing control to a newly-formed OpenStack Foundation? Were there too many cooks in the kitchen, meaning that each of the growing number of member companies would fork the OpenStack trunk code into different directions, fragmenting the initiative? Would interest among open source developers wane as corporate interests continue to bandwagon onto the project.

Brien says we now have the answers: No, no and no. "It's a year later and OpenStack has such momentum that virtually all the major server-side vendors now feel the need to have a foot in the OpenStack camp, and to make an effort to play nicely," he says.

Earlier this month OpenStack released the seventh iteration of its code, each one delivered on-time in the six-month cycle. The latest version, code-named Grizzly, incorporates the three major components for building a cloud: Compute, storage and network, while attention has increasingly been paid to integrating the software with existing technologies and scaling it for larger deployments. Organizers, meanwhile, are preparing for the project's semi-annual summit, set to be held next week in Portland, Ore., and with more than 2,500 contributors, vendors and users signed up, it's set to once again be the biggest conference in OpenStack's short history, more than double the size of the project's most recent October show.

But despite all the momentum, there still seems to be a general question among regular IT folks: OpenStack is clearly growing up, but it is grown up enough for enterprise IT to use it in a significant way?

Yes, but...

Experts who follow the cloud and OpenStack specifically say yes, the platform has matured to a point where enterprises can consider using it, but with a caveat or two.

Using an open source cloud computing platform is the way to power next-generation computing, says Lew Tucker, Cisco's cloud computing vice president and co-chairman of the OpenStack Foundation. OpenStack should be the platform of choice for both public cloud service providers to build commercial cloud offerings on, and for business end users to power their own private clouds. "It's a new technology," Tucker says. "The enterprise naturally takes some time to understand how these new cloud platforms can be applied in traditional types of data centers." But OpenStack is a complication of software components specifically designed for operating a cloud computing environment. For vendors, it allows them to leverage the work of a community of hundreds of developers who have worked to advance the code. For users, OpenStack allows the potential to have the same platform for your private cloud as multiple different public clouds, enabling a federated hybrid cloud.


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