Ask Wikibon: What did we learn from OpenStack Summit 2016?


The OpenStack community has reached a tipping point. The project is branching out in multiple directions, away from its original premise as an infrastructure-as-a-service environment to rival the private cloud.

But just how mature is OpenStack today? Are OpenStack private clouds now a realistic option? And how well is OpenStack itself aligned to the demands of today’s marketplace? These are just some of the questions Wikibon analyst Brian Gracely attempts to answer in his latest post “Five Key Takeaways from the 2016 OpenStack Summit”. Here a few highlights of the report.

Consolidation takes root

In his post, Gracely writes that OpenStack’s development has essentially mirrored that of the Linux project, noting how the number of vendor-specific distributions has been whittled down from more than a dozen to just a handful leading platforms due to a combination of acquisitions and natural, market-driven reductions. Linux was much the same, Gracely writes, with more than 15 established distros in the late 1990s and early 2000s contracting to just a few main versions today. This consolidation is healthy for the market, Gracely believes, bringing the OpenStack community and its developers closer together, and forcing some vendors to rethink their revenue and go-to-market models.

Complexity is melting away

One of the long-standing issues with OpenStack has always been its complexity. It’s a hard beast to tame at the best of times, and the lack of suitably qualified personnel who are able to manage and maintain OpenStack installations has been repeatedly cited as one of the main obstacles to its adoption.

But at the OpenStack Summit it was apparent that these complexity challenges are quickly melting away. The last two releases of the platform (OpenStack Kilo and OpenStack Mitaka) have done much to simplify the process in which admins can upgrade existing installations. Additionally, we’re seeing the emergence of new consumption models that attempt to circumvent the complexities of managing OpenStack, Gracely writes. Platforms including Cisco Systems Inc.’s MetaPod, IBM Bluebox, Platform9 Systems, Inc.’s Platform9, Rackspace Inc. and ZeroStack Inc. now all offer what’s called “programmatic infrastructure-as-a-service,” allowing enterprises to have resources located either on-premises or in the cloud, with OpenStack services being centrally maintained and managed. The net effect is that OpenStack’s infrastructure becomes “invisible,” allowing enterprises to focus on the critical applications that drive business revenues.

Ajay Gulati, founder and CEO of ZeroStack, appeared on theCUBE at OpenStack 2016 to discuss with Wikibon how his company is delivering OpenStack-as-a-service in a bid to eliminate complexity.


OpenStack revenues must be more transparent

One of the biggest unanswered questions around OpenStack has to do with revenues, Gracely writes. In his alert, he notes that none of the major OpenStack vendors directly report on their revenues associated with the business, and Gracely believes this is becoming a concern for customers. As the public cloud market (and especially Amazon Web Services LLC) becomes more transparent in its financial reporting, OpenStack vendors will need to do the same if they’re to maintain their customers’ confidence.

The rise of network functions virtualization (NFV)

One of the hottest topics at the OpenStack Summit was the rise of NFV, an architectural movement wherein edge services like caching, load-balancing and proxying are virtualized and run on servers instead of networking hardware. Gracely notes that telecommunications firms are at the forefront of the NFV movement, which is fast-becoming a compelling use-case as they gear up for the spread of 5G networks, which will be driven by growth in the Internet of things (IoT).

“The NFV use cases make sense for the telcos because they require the ability to orchestrate on-demand network-services as device usage continues to grow, and the OpenStack and OPNFV working groups may prove to be a path of lesser complexity to define new standards rather than going through existing standards bodies” Gracely writes.

Chris Emmons, director of network infrastructure planning at Verizon, appeared on theCUBE to discuss how Verizon is rolling out NFV using OpenStack:


Interoperability breeds success

Another central theme at OpenStack Summit 2016 was the need for greater interoperability with upcoming cloud technologies like containers, Gracely writes. With that in mind, the OpenStack community introduced a new concept called “Stacknetes” wherein OpenStack’s control plane becomes an “application” that runs atop containers scheduled and managed by Kubernetes. The thinking behind this, Gracely says, is that it allows OpenStack to better focus on managing localized services and resources, leaving Kubernetes to take care of availability. According to Gracely, this re-imagined design will allow the OpenStack community to focus more resources on “creating a stable, operator-friendly IaaS framework”.

Gracely’s full report, “Five Key Takeaway’s from the 2016 OpenStack Summit”, is available to Wikibon Premium members.

Photo Credit: Stevebidemead via pixabay