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How to use OpenStack in your small business

Paul Mah | May 16, 2014
The OpenStack cloud platform works well for companies that aim to deploy software or infrastructure as a service but remain wary of doing so using public cloud services. Here's how to find out if OpenStack is right for your business.

You may be tempted to modify the open source code in OpenStack for the best fit possible, but it may not be a good idea in the long run. "Don't plan a 'Franken-cloud,'" Ionel warns. Organizations that download the community version of OpenStack, "make a ton of changes" and then proceed to implement it in a way that's unique to them will "pay for it very dearly," he says.

Alan Perkins, CTO for Rackspace in the Asia-Pacific region, suggests that businesses looking to start small with OpenStack could deploy it in a laptop in a virtual machine. When it comes to a real production or internal commercial environment, though, he suggests at least two servers. "These two computers can serve as controllers with 64GB of RAM and 32GB of RAM, respectively. You add additional computers from there," he says.

Companies looking for capabilities that have yet to make it into an official distribution of OpenStack, as well as firms looking to avoid inadvertently creating a Franken-cloud, should "keep an open eye" on the OpenStack user community, Perkins says, adding, "If you feel you want to make a change to the core offering, then you can get involved in that."

Deploying OpenStack: Use Your Imagination

There are two ways to implement OpenStack. You can work through a service provider, or you can download an OpenStack distribution onto on-premises servers.

OpenStack offers tremendous flexibility, both in terms of migrating among multiple cloud providers according to changing needs and in accordance to the dictates of prices and market conditions. This flexibility, though, can make it challenging for the uninitiated to adequately visualize the practical use cases available to OpenStack.

On this front, Ionel outlines several scenarios by which you could make use of OpenStack in your organization:

  • OpenStack is particularly well-suited for building any software-as-a-service applications, either as new developments or as improvements upon existing solutions.
  • OpenStack can serve as a base for delivering self-service storage and service on demand to users who need IT services.
  • OpenStack can be used to deliver objective storage or block storage on demand, as OpenStack Swift delivers scalable, low-cost and easy-to-manage storage.
  • Finally, by switching virtual machines or services running on VMware to the OpenStack-supported KVM hypervisor, businesses can save on licensing fees.

The flip side is that businesses looking for push-button simplicity will be left disappointed. IT departments should prepare to roll up their sleeves and adopt a "DIY" mentality when rolling out their first OpenStack infrastructure. In addition, Perkins acknowledges that initial versions of OpenStack weren't easily upgradable, though he adds that "it has become a much easier task."

Kyle MacDonald, a director at enterprise data and storage networking specialist Brocade, says deploying OpenStack is more than just adopting a platform. "It's about adopting a new model for agility within the infrastructure. Starting with [new] applications lets an enterprise experience the technical and business benefits of OpenStack while also leveraging their existing application and infrastructure architecture."


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