Making the enterprise look more like the public cloud

OpenStack, Rackspace, Cloud2014 is well underway, and one of the most hotly debated topics in IT right now surrounds the opportunity for open source in the enterprise. Companies want to know how they can use open source to look more like the public cloud. What role will OpenStack, the open-source cloud computing platform, play in helping enterprises to do this? Will 2014 be the year for open source—and OpenStack—to find a permanent home in the enterprise?

More and more, open-source tools are being commercialized and adopted for enterprise use today. There are key thought leaders who are leading the innovation, exchanging ideas at recent industry events to drive the trend forward. Also, we’re seeing the role of software (aka, “software-defined” infrastructure) expanding in the enterprise as well. But challenges remain before open source can truly go mainstream in the enterprise sector.

Here, we will take a brief look at two open source-focused industry events and the innovative thought leaders who have shared their insights there, as well as software’s expanding role in the enterprise. Plus, we’ll examine a couple of remaining challenges that need to be addressed before open source can truly make the enterprise look more like the public cloud.

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OpenStack Enterprise Forum

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Last week, siliconANGLE’s founder John Furrier and Wikibon’s founder Dave Vellante traveled with theCUBE on site to capture the rapid exchange of ideas from industry thought leaders gathered at the OpenStack Enterprise Forum (#OEForum), which took place on January 29 at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, Calif.

The OpenStack Enterprise Forum explored the innovative ecosystem that vendors are building to accelerate adoption of OpenStack into the enterprise. The event was moderated by Lydia Leong, Research Vice President and Analyst at Gartner. Industry thought leaders who spoke at the event include Jonathan Bryce, Executive Director of the OpenStack Foundation; William L. Franklin, Vice President of OpenStack Technology Enablement & Cloud at HP; Chris C. Kemp, founder and Chief Strategy Officer at Nebula; Ken Pepple, Chief Technology Officer at Solinea; and Dave Wright, founder and CEO at SolidFire.

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Open Compute Project Summit

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Also last week, the Open Compute Project (OCP) Summit V took place from January 28-29at the San Jose Convention Center in San Jose, Calif. siliconANGLE’s theCUBE cohosts Furrier and Vellante covered this event live on-site as well. They were joined by Wikibon cofounder and CTO David Floyer and Wikibon Senior Analyst Stu Miniman.

At the Open Compute Project Summit, there were a number of speeches given from some of the industry’s most influential thought leaders. Speakers included Frank Frankovsky, Chair and President of the Open Compute Project Foundation, Marc Andreessen, cofounder and General Partner at Andreessen Horowitz; Andy Bechtolsheim, founder and Chief Development Officer at Arista Networks; Martin Casado, Chief Architect of Networking at VMware; Ian Drew, Chief Marketing Officer at ARM; Greg Huff, Chief Technology Officer at LSI; Andrew Feldman, GM and CVP at AMD; Bill Laing, CVP of the Windows Server and System Center Group Development at Microsoft; Tim O’Reilly, founder and CEO at O’Reilly Media; Jay Parikh, VP of Infrastructure at Facebook; JR Rivers, cofounder and CEO at Cumulus Networks; and George Slessman, CEO and Product Architect at IO.

theCUBE cohosts Furrier, Vellante, Floyer and Miniman interviewed industry innovators as they exchanged their ideas about the latest developments in open source in the enterprise. “The Open Compute Summit is the place where they’re open-sourcing hardware design and development, very similar to open-sourcing software,” Furrier observed.

Open Compute was an initiative started at Facebook “[It’s] really looking at the changing infrastructure, both the hardware of the data center and all the pieces of the environment in the data center,” Miniman said. “And it’s interesting to see it sponsored by Facebook because [they’re] not a company that you usually think of as an infrastructure company. But they are…letting this open-source initiative and this project—which is now owned by the Open Compute Project—drive this forward.”

Open Compute was really born out of the whole Facebook revolution because they were so unique in their requirements, according to Furrier. “They had to have a unique infrastructure that they built themselves, buying hundreds of thousands of servers,” he explained. “Amazon Web Services are in a similar boat [and] Google assembles their own data centers. This new trend is going to change the world.”

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Thought leaders and innovators

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The innovators in this space include (but are not limited to) AMD, Arista Networks, ARM, Cumulus Networks, Facebook, Google, HP, IO, LSI, Microsoft, Nebula, Solinea, SolidFire and VMware. But, when it comes to the initial leader in this space, Amazon was the first company to innovate. Vellante said that it’s basically Amazon’s world and we just live in it. “The world wants to replicate the Amazon public cloud,” he said, “and I think a lot of the activity here [at the Open Compute Project Summit] is designed to do that.”

The community at large is trying a lot of different things, according to Vellante. “You’ve got the ARM piece [and] their version of converged infrastructure. You’ve got stuff that’s going on at Facebook. You now have Microsoft coming into the fray, offering their configuration,” he said. “Again, at the end of the day, I think the whole world is playing catch-up to Amazon.”

As Vellante noted, Microsoft is now contributing to the open source community, donating their resources to the Open Compute Project. And Furrier singled out some more industry-leading “alpha geeks” including Marc Andreessen. Furrier said Andreessen and the others are a part of today’s version of the Homebrew Computer Club, an early computer hobbyist group in Silicon Valley that met in the 1970s and 1980s. Back then, the Homebrew Computer Club was a forum for sharing ideas; many of its members later became leaders in personal computing.

Just as the open exchange of ideas at the Homebrew Computer Club’s meetings helped launch the personal computer revolution, so, too, are today’s open source and OpenStack contributors helping to launch another world-changing paradigm: the public cloud. In this modern era, these open-source innovators are the “tinkerers, they’re [the] software engineers,” Furrier said. “This is how the Mac came about, and this is what’s happening in the data center.” .

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The expanding role of software

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The role of software in the enterprise is expanding; this is giving rise to “software-defined” trends. “One of the things that’s changing inside the [enterprise] is that software is becoming much more of a core piece of…business now than it ever has been before,” said Jonathan Bryce, Executive Director of OpenStack, during the OpenStack Enterprise Forum.

“There are drastic changes happening in the hardware, the software, the infrastructure [of the data center], it’s really a hot trend and one to keep a close eye on,” added Stu Miniman, Senior Analyst at Wikibon, in his analysis of the event.

This is the year of the cloud, Vellante said. “The hype is over,” he explained at the OpenStack Enterprise Forum. “We had the draw of disillusion but now the meat is on the bone, as we always say. This is the year of the cloud and what is going on under the hood is a technology change around the hardware.”

Vellante said that apps that should be in the cloud are going to the cloud. “Some harder to move than others,” he pointed out. “My prediction: more workloads will reside in the cloud than on-premise.” .

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Remaining challenges for open source

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It’s clear that more and more vendors are realizing that the open source movement is something to actively encourage. Take, for example, industry innovator Rackspace, one of OpenStack’s founders and Open Compute Project contributor. Rackspace believes in open source’s potential to tip the industry dynamic in favor of community-led development so much that it’s practicing what it preaches, so to speak.

The company recently announced a change of policy that allows Rackspace employees to contribute to any open-source project in the ecosystem—even if it directly competes with initiatives officially backed by Rackspace. “One way that we want to encourage sharing and collaboration is by contributing to open-source projects and building open communities,” wrote Van Lindberg, President of Intellectual Property at Rackspace, in a January 31, 2014 blog post. “We’re changing Rackspace policy so that ‘Rackers’ are free to contribute to, and participate in, any public open-source project of their choice that has an established open-source license.”

Challenge No. 1: OpenStack’s public perception

But, before open source can go mainstream in the enterprise sector, there are challenges that must be addressed and solved. The first challenge has to do with the perception of OpenStack. People are wondering if it is ready for the enterprise. At one OpenStack Enterprise Forum panel, moderator Lydia Leong was joined by OpenStack’s Bryce and Solinea’s Chief Technology Officer Ken Pepple. The three discussed some frequently asked questions by companies who are considering OpenStack.

“How do I deploy it?” Leong began. “Do I do it myself or do I work with a service provider?” Other questions Leong posed were, “What’s the level of effort required to install this? How do I operate, upgrade, update and so on? What else am I de facto adopting in the ecosystem along with OpenStack? How much choice do I have between the vendors? What’s the future for hybrid cloud?”

These are just some of the most common questions that companies need answered before they can feel comfortable adopting open source in their business.

Challenge No. 2: APIs and interoperability

The second challenge for adopting open source in the enterprise relates to application programming interfaces (APIs) and interoperability. At the OpenStack Enterprise Forum, William L. Franklin, VP of OpenStack & Technology Enablement, Cloud with Hewlett-Packard, touched on the importance of interoperability and the APIs. “I’ve been dealing with OpenStack and other open-source products for a really long time,” he said. “There’s still a lot of debate in the community regarding which is best. But I think, sooner or later, you will see OpenStack becoming very large and very strong, with a massive degree of adoption.

“If you went one way to support AWS capability, Amazon could go in a total different direction and make it really hard for the community to maintain anything because we don’t control those APIs. There’s no open way. Every six months we come to those Design Summits and talk about how can we advance stuff. If the APIs are going to change, they are changing because the community makes a decision about them changing.”

Because the tech environment is changing at such a rapid pace, Franklin admits that, in a number of ways, HP is taking a wait-and-see position. “We’re certainly doing some things in the public cloud, but we don’t want to stifle the debate, he said. “I think, once the dialogue is finished, we’re going to see multiple vendors moving immediately into that. We are interested in tracking the interoperability of OpenStack.” .

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About Suzanne Kattau

Suzanne Kattau (formerly Suzanne Harnos) is a veteran computer journalist based in New York. She has been on staff at CommunicationsWeek, InternetWeek, eWEEK, Software Development Times, and is currently Cloud Technology Editor at SiliconANGLE Media. She‏ covers consumer cloud (services, news, trends, etc.). Email her at suzannekattau@gmail.com. Follow her on Twitter @SuzanneKattau. View all her posts at suzannekattau.com.