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OpenStack Making Progress, but Manageability Remains a Concern

By Scot Petersen (Send Email)
Posted May 24, 2015

VANCOUVER, British Columbia—There was a lot of news that came out of the OpenStack Summit, held here last week. New products, reference implementations and application interface announcements were plentiful.

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The best news, however, was that there were other hot technologies that everybody wanted to talk about, particularly Docker, Kubernetes and other container technologies.

Among the new announcements was a new service, dubbed Magnum, to help developers deploy and manage Docker and Kubernetes container apps. The best news about Magnum is that it treats both container apps as equals. The last thing the OpenStack community wants to do is take sides in the container wars.

"Containers are an opportunity for OpenStack," said Ryan Floyd, managing director of Storm Ventures, who was speaking on a panel of OpenStack investors. "Containers are a [bigger] threat to PaaS [platform-as-a-service]. No one is moving apps to containers. They are developing new [containerized] applications. It's all green field."

In a kind of roundabout logic, the discussion about containers is welcome because it means users are actually doing with OpenStack what it was designed for in the first place—developing and deploying cloud applications—rather than being preoccupied by the usual rhetoric of whether OpenStack is ready for prime time or has a future at all.

Oh, there was plenty of that talk as well—and it continues to dog OpenStack. In fact, Subbu Allamaraju, chief engineer for cloud at eBay, one of the largest OpenStack users, had a few things to say about OpenStack's ability to meet the demands of the enterprise going forward.

In his Day 2 keynote speech, Allamaraju talked about how eBay's use of OpenStack has grown incredibly over the past two years. eBay runs the Havana (October 2013) release, with 12,000 hypervisors, 300,000 cores, 10 availability zones, 15 virtual private clouds, 1.6 petabytes of block storage, and 100 percent KVM and Open vSwitch deployment.

PayPal runs 100 percent on OpenStack, while eBay is at 20 percent and growing. The eBay test and development environment is 100 percent on OpenStack. Clearly, eBay trusts OpenStack on highly sensitive financial transactions that need to be available 24/7. That's all good.

But Allamaraju switched gears toward the end of his speech and made a direct appeal to the community as a whole to continue to improve OpenStack's manageability and the OpenStack process.

"We need help," he said. "Every decision you make has a huge impact on how we do business. You need to raise the bar for the core. A lot of operators are participating in the community, but most are running core [OpenStack] that is at least 6 months old. Fifty-five percent are running core at least 12 months old, 24 percent are running core at least 18 months old."

Allamaraju said these cloud operators "are not thinking about Liberty [the next OpenStack release due in fall 2015], but about daily worries. This is an example of manageability missing in action. How do you manage large deployments? How do you manage upgradeability?"

He contends there is more work to do. "You need to innovate beyond open interfaces," he continued. "We want to see more of that."  

I don't think there was anyone in the room who disagreed with him. OpenStack is at a critical juncture. OpenStack serves a great need by providing an open platform for cloud services. It doesn't matter if it can compete with Amazon. It really doesn't have to. There are enough large organizations out there that don't need Amazon to be able to put together cloud-scale systems. And OpenStack can provide the interface for those cloud applications and services, but it needs to start innovating faster and more aggressively.

There are many in the OpenStack community—the vendors, users and particularly the developers—who understand this. The question is, how will it get done? I think the takeaway is that the future really hasn't been written yet. OpenStack has accomplished a lot in five short years. Yet in that time, new paradigms like containers have begun to take hold among the developer community.

The important thing to remember is that OpenStack is a community, warts and all. It takes time for issues to get resolved. Enterprises that are still on the fence about OpenStack or cloud in general could take a lesson from eBay. Despite the issues involved with OpenStack over the years, eBay still took a leap of faith, deployed it, stuck with it and is reaping benefits now.

Scot Petersen is a technology analyst at Ziff Brothers Investments, a private investment firm. Prior to joining Ziff Brothers, Scot was the editorial director, Business Applications & Architecture, at TechTarget. Before that, he was the director, Editorial Operations, at Ziff Davis Enterprise, While at Ziff Davis Media, he was a writer and editor at eWEEK. No investment advice is offered in his blog. All duties are disclaimed. Scot works for a private investment firm, which may at any time invest in companies whose products are discussed in this blog, and no disclosure of securities transactions will be made.


Originally published on eWeek.
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