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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.

Many OpenStack deployments today are exploratory; others are small production use cases, community vendors and analysts have said. Many companies start using OpenStack for test and development of new products and applications, for example, or as the basis for a more rapid application development environment (devops). "There's a lot of tire-kicking," says Sinclair Schuller about OpenStack.

Schuller is CEO of Apprenda a .NET-focused platform as a service (PaaS) that can integrate with various underlying IaaS platforms, such as those from AWS, Microsoft Azure, and OpenStack-based clouds. "I see (OpenStack) on a lot of strategy boards of enterprises we talk to. We see it in the wild, but we're not seeing it in production a whole lot yet."

Linux, all over again

OpenStack backers say this progression is completely normal. Repeating an analogy many have made, Paul Cormier, president of products and technology for Red Hat, says OpenStack's development is just like the process of building up Linux. This time the transition to a cloud-based architecture is an even bigger technological transformation than replacing proprietary operating systems with Linux. "It's where Linux was in the beginning," he says about OpenStack's current status. "Linux was around for a while before it really got adopted in the enterprise. OpenStack is going through the same process right now."  

Joshua McKenty, one of the founding fathers of the OpenStack from his work at NASA and now the head of Piston Cloud Computing, says virtualization started the same way too. Virtualization software was used first in some test and development areas. Now, by some estimates, more than half of enterprise workloads are virtualized; change is hard.

Gartner analyst Lydia Leong, one of the foremost cloud pundits, says OpenStack is currently being deployed by its first round of early adopters, which is a critical phase for the project. Only after there have been many successful deployments of OpenStack will the traditional enterprise market, the broader swath of the Fortune 500 companies and beyond explore OpenStack.

In an event titled "OpenStack: Breaking into the Enterprise," during the opening keynote, Leong notes that private cloud in general has had slow adoption in the enterprise. And OpenStack is a sub-set of the private cloud market. As private cloud adoption grows, so too likely will the number of OpenStack clouds being managed by enterprise end users.

Even OpenStack's biggest vendors are still in the early stages of productizing the platform. Red Hat was the leading contributor of new code to OpenStack's latest Icehouse release and has its own distribution of OpenStack that it has been selling for about a year now. But, the company doesn't even judge its sales staff on creating revenue from OpenStack yet, Cormier says. The goal is to turn customer proof of concept projects into production environments.


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