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The rise of OpenStack in the cloud

Could the OpenStack model be right for your business?
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Organisations are constantly told that they need to be leveraging the cloud and all the apparent business advantages it brings.

But the wealth of services and infrastructures on the market makes devising an appropriate cloud strategy a complex challenge. Just what is the best fit for your business?

The answer may be the scalable, versatile OpenStack model that's proving increasingly popular in the enterprise. David Fishman, global VP of marketing for cloud vendor Mirantis, told us where the technology is currently at and where it's heading.

TechRadar Pro: How has OpenStack got to where it is now?

David Fishman: Many companies have wanted to build a Google- or Amazon-like infrastructure for their operations, but didn't want to outsource for several important business reasons.

For example, they saw the value of cloud infrastructure, but they felt that Amazon could not guarantee data privacy and security, or they had limited opportunities to tailor the infrastructure to their specific needs, such as SLAs.

That "closed garden" makes AWS analogous to the Apple of the cloud; by contrast, OpenStack is the equivalent of Android, helping organisations tailor it to their specific needs, and avoid being locked into a single vendor's cloud solutions.

TRP: A range of software, hardware and service companies have joined OpenStack. What's in it for them and for end‐users?

DF: For the end-user, the benefits of OpenStack are rapid deployment, easier scalability of cloud infrastructure, and importantly there's no vendor lock-in because it's open. It provides tremendous flexibility, allowing customers to configure their infrastructure exactly to their needs and to integrate with existing systems.

We also recently benchmarked how quickly private clouds could be provisioned using OpenStack, and hit a rate of over 9,000 virtual servers launched per hour for 8 hours in a multi data centre set-up.

The result was 75,000 virtual machines running, which is the scale required by the largest banks (such as Barclays), or mobile telecom infrastructure (such as Ericsson).

For software, hardware and service companies, they realise that their customers increasingly want cloud infrastructures that enable rapid change. That works in two ways. First, the transparency and common interfaces that span compute, network, and storage, mean that companies can more easily update and automate the software that serves their customers, and improves the ROI on the infrastructure.

Second, the common standards that OpenStack enables means that vendors can continuously compete for a piece of that infrastructure, without being locked out by their rivals.

TRP: It seems enterprise adoption has been a little slow so far – is this true?

DF: Naturally, organisations have been approaching cloud deployments with an element of caution, but I believe momentum is building very quickly now. For example, Ericsson has committed to using Mirantis OpenStack as the foundation for its telecoms networks, internal data centers and cloud computing services for its customers.

Cisco recently announced its huge InterCloud initiative will be OpenStack-based. So we think there's a great deal of pent-up demand for faster, more agile infrastructure.

TRP: Some argue there is a lack of clarity about what OpenStack does. Do you agree?

DF: One of the key points that needs to be communicated about OpenStack is that it's more than just open-source cloud software. It's commoditising cloud infrastructure, so that cloud deployments can become more vendor-agnostic, with broader interoperability.

The aim is to make it easier for customers to build their cloud the way they want, with the best tools for the job, and adapt to marketplace opportunities over time.

One of the things that will help this is open-sourcing OpenStack cloud certifications, to remove the traditional software vendor ecosystem lock-in that says "we only certify this particular solution with our software."

Désiré has been musing and writing about technology during a career spanning four decades. He dabbled in website builders and web hosting when DHTML and frames were in vogue and started narrating about the impact of technology on society just before the start of the Y2K hysteria at the turn of the last millennium.