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OpenStack: Still waiting for the users

Brandon Butler | May 20, 2014
OpenStack has an impressive list of corporate backers. Red Hat, Rackspace, HP, IBM and AT&T are contributing thousands of lines of code to the open source project and helping deliver an updated version of the cloud computing platform twice a year to allow for easier installation and better manageability.

Ben Kepes, an industry analyst/pundit and blogger, recently asked, "Where are the massive Openstack deals?" In describing the Ericsson deal, he wrote: "The fact that $30M could even be claimed to be one of the larger sized OpenStack deals is a pretty sad indictment of where the initiative is at with all the collective vendor resource being thrown at OpenStack, and with all the hype it's generating, it's a fairly paltry deal for something with so much promise."

But until the past few months, it seemed that most of the OpenStack announcements were coming from service providers and vendors establishing their cloud platforms based on OpenStack, leading some to question whether the project is for end users or vendors? OpenStack backers say both.

There has been a whole wave of companies started around selling OpenStack, including Piston Cloud Computing Co., Cloudscaling and Mirantis. The Linux distribution companies, Red Hat, SUSE and Ubuntu are each attempting to package OpenStack distros as well. And companies like HP, Dell, Cisco and Rackspace are all using OpenStack in a significant way in their cloud plans. HP, for example, recently rebranded its cloud portfolio to be named Helion and announced a $1 billion commitment to developing its cloud based on OpenStack. HP will have its own distribution of OpenStack, and it's committed to developing its public and private cloud platforms based on the open source technology.

But Forrester cloud analyst David Bartoletti says while news from HP and Ericsson are great for OpenStack, what the project really needs are enterprise end users. "Where OpenStack is right now, it's still more about getting vendors to round out their cloud strategies than customers using it for the cloud," he says. But, given the amount of big-name vendors involved in OpenStack, "it's not going away." OpenStack will be around for the long haul.

And the OpenStack community is growing. Two years ago OpenStack conference attracted about 1,200 attendees. This month more than 4,500 members of the OpenStack community met in Atlanta for one of the organization's bi-annual meetings (they're now held twice a year, with one being in the U.S. and another being held in an international location). At the event, OpenStack officials announced news such as the release of the OpenStack Marketplace, which is meant to be a central place for users to learn about OpenStack products, including the ability to compare various distributions and OpenStack applications.

The other main push at the summit was the trotting out of enterprise end users who spoke about their use of OpenStack. Glenn Ferguson - the head of cloud enablement at Wells Fargo Bank - said he sees great advantages to using OpenStack. He spoke about the ability to control infrastructure and bake security and compliance needs of the bank into that infrastructure layer. That allows software developers to build web-scale applications running on that infrastructure. "OpenStack is a corner-stone," he said. But Wells-Fargo is not ditching its existing infrastructure in favor of OpenStack. Instead, Ferguson said he shared his story at the Summit to encourage his existing vendors to support OpenStack.


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