OpenStack is the open source project that's attracted as many critics as it has supporters in its three year lifespan. It is developing quickly and has an undeniable pedigree and impressive membership list. In addition, the broader Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) cloud services market is gaining momentum.

Strategy Analytics predicts that it will more than triple in revenue from $12.2 billion in 2012 to $43.9 billion by 2017, and claims the availability of open source platforms, such as OpenStack, affect VMware's current dominance.

Despite its momentum, there is a perception that OpenStack is not ready for commercial deployment, and it regularly comes in for criticism from prominent analysts and other industry observers. Some of the criticism attacks vested interests, while elsewhere the target is a lack of dynamism.

AWS problem

For example, David Linthicum of Cloud Technology Partners commented that the growth of OpenStack within traditional IT shops had been lacklustre when compared to Amazon Web Services, arguing that "while the tech world has accepted OpenStack, most enterprises looking at cloud computing still have questions around its long-term viability and maturity".

But what does this mean for service providers? Any service provider looking to develop its cloud solution business wants a service that can be brought to market quickly and cost effectively. It needs to provide differentiation, and to be able to scale as the service grows.

Service providers using OpenStack have traditionally taken two approaches, and both have their limitations. The "do-it-yourself" method consists of service providers taking the OpenStack toolkit and using its in-house developers to build a solution.

DIY approach

Although there has been some success with this approach it has generally been with large providers with big development teams.

For other service providers, developing OpenStack in a "do-it-yourself" way can lead to high costs, missed revenue opportunities and a failure to get to market quickly. For most, there is a lack of in-house skills, resources and experience to build a cloud service.

The second approach, taken by a number of service providers without the requisite in-house skills to deploy cloud services with OpenStack, is to use OpenStack experts and vendors. This method has the advantage of delivering a custom-built solution which is unique to the service provider.

However, it can take a long time to get this bespoke solution to market and leaves service providers tied to ongoing and expensive consultancy, making it a non-viable option for most service providers. To commercialise the cloud, a flexible orchestration platform is needed to launch highly differentiated cloud services.

By combining this with OpenStack, service providers can spin out fully functional feature-rich cloud services and get a differentiated cloud service to market in weeks, rather than months or years. This makes OpenStack commercially viable, turning it into a revenue generating platform for service providers.

  • Flexiant CEO George Knox has successfully started, grown and sold a number of innovative software companies over the past 20 years. Knox started his career at Computer Associates, and has since served as Chief Executive and Executive Chairman of Vamosa, Executive Chairman of Eclectic Group and Managing Director of Gamut Technologies.