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What’s the fuss about OpenStack?

Written By: langdon on February 6, 2014 No Comment

What’s the fuss about OpenStack?

OpenStack may be justly proud of the size and growth of its community. The number of companies involved in the foundation grew from 148 to 189 over the past quarter: the number of individual members jumped from just under 7,000 to just over 9,000. Meanwhile, the OpenStack Foundation signed up 47 new sponsors and supporters, including Arista, Comcast, Fusion-io and VCE. Awareness is skyrocketing, and the Foundation has licensed a placeholder logo to certify third-party training businesses, a program scheduled to kick off in Q3.

What’s all the fuss about? OpenStack is no longer a software layer designed to let non-Amazon entities clone Amazon Web Services. It’s an effort to build a platform ecosystem in the cloud, one that’s modeled pretty explicitly on the resounding success of Linux as a server operating system. The strength of Linux was never only technical – indeed, for years it trailed other variants of Unix, such as AIX and Solaris, in features and functionality. The strength of Linux was global user footprint and its innovative ecosystem. This is what the OpenStack Foundation aims to reproduce.

The value, as OpenStack sees it, is in the overlap between the three domains. Platforms need users and tools. Tools and applications need to build on widely adopted platforms. And users need platforms that support rich tool and application development ecosystems. OpenStack aims to build all three at once by combining its open, community-driven platform with an increasingly engaged user and developer community and broad, global support from companies.

Can this ambitious scheme possibly pan out? Committed OpenStack enterprise end users believe it can. Best Buy uses the software for cloud test environments, offering development teams a self-service API. The company plans to expand its compute cloud and add a second. Cisco now hosts and manages its WebEx SaaS application on OpenStack. Having embraced the devops philosophy for application development and deployment, Comcast is demoing its OpenStack-based video development stack. The same technology underpins eBay’s on-premises cloud. In the coming weeks, we hope to publish User Deployment Reports on each of these.

Where’s all this growth coming from? Joshua McKenty, cofounder and CTO of OpenStack distributor Piston Cloud Computing, says his customers include companies ‘fleeing Amazon.’ For a CIO that wants to run Amazon-like infrastructure services on on-premises equipment, OpenStack is still a pretty good choice. But there’s another rival to be considered as well. Enterprises are starting to talk about three pools of internal resources: legacy or bare-metal systems; the VMware deployment; and the OpenStack internal cloud. As OpenStack grows, these early adopters are starting to take another look at their VMware licenses, and to think again about whether to renew.

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