Breaking Down the Resistance to OpenStack: Laying the Cloud Foundation
As the look and feel of the cloud evolves, matures, and hedges toward main stream adoption, the Solution Architects, Developers, and Infrastructure engineers of Enterprises face the challenge to determine what technologies to consume. Should I go with something that requires vendor licensing? Or should I look to Open Source technologies, such as OpenStack? Then if you do decide that OpenStack solves for your technology needs, how best could someone layout its pros and cons to their senior leadership.
Those of us who have ever had to stand in front of their Director/CTO/CIO and figuratively 'fight' for a particular technology/product completely understands that this task is not for the meek of heart. I can remember very vividly holding index cards in my hands with bullet points, as I was attempting to lay out all the reasons why OpenStack should be the company's next major infrastructure shift. Being prepared for this conversation is critical to the overall enterprises architecture, so you need to articulate clearly why OpenStack is the best choice. You can never be too prepared. There will always be questions that you as a technology advocate, will not even think of. In my opinion, being prepared is key. So let’s start on our technology layer cake.
Why the Cloud? Why OpenStack?
The foundation of your cake has to be rock solid, or else it will all fall down. Therefore, it is fundamental to find statistical evidence around the topic. I would imagine, in this day and time, it is not hard to show the value the cloud can have on an IT organization. Just in case some are still on the fence, here are some stats from a recent report by RightScale published on Forbes.com.
93% of organizations surveyed are running applications or experimenting with infrastructure-as-a-service
82% of enterprises have a hybrid cloud strategy, up from 74% in 2014
88% of organizations are using public cloud while 63% are using private cloud
Although the cloud has many advantages, I like to emphasize the following ones:
- Flexibility - The cloud helps you to scale up and down to meet your organization’s requirements. You no longer have to build for the future, or be constrained by decisions made in the past.
- Security - The cloud maintains security levels, not in terms of getting more, but by providing equal security measures that currently existent within virtualization platforms.
- Capacity – The cloud helps mange overall capacity. People costs and DC footprints may be reduced.
- Predictable Cost/Cap-Ex Free – Using cloud technology can mean reduced operational costs. No more Cap-Ex expense; predictable spend with base subscription fees.
- Scalability and Elasticity - With the cloud, the environment can grow and stretch on demand
- Reduce Recovery Time - The cloud can cut in half the time to recover from an Infrastructure related outage. No morespending hours troubleshooting a VM.
Despite all this positive, the RightScale report still has some not-so-positive stats. This one stood out the most to me:
68% of enterprises run less than a fifth of their application portfolio in the cloud
55% of enterprises report that a significant portion of their existing application portfolio is not in cloud, but is built with cloud-friendly architectures
Is something missing from the cloud? Are organizations just dipping their toe in to test the temperature? I'm not 100% sure, but what is sure is that there is plenty of room for growth around cloud adoption. Tools like OpenStack provide that additional value, which will help grow the overall cloud adoption.
Tell OpenStack's Story and Evolution
Part of the power of OpenStack is its story and how it has evolved just over a short 5 years. Personally I am, to this day, very impressed on how OpenStack came about and who really controls the progress. For the sake of time, here are the cliff notes:
- July 2010 - Rackspace sought to create an open source cloud platform, initially focused on fully distributed object storage (now known as Swift).
- October 2010 - the OpenStack project was launched
- January 2011 - NASA was empowered by the US Government to assist in the Open Government Initiative, instructing all Federal agencies to break down barriers to enable transparency, participation, and collaboration between the federal government and the American public. The output of this was NASA creating a computing platform called Nebula (now known as Nova).
- September 2012 - the OpenStack Foundation was created. For the first two years the project was closely managed by Rackspace and its 25 initial partners. Then the intellectual property and governance of OpenStack project was transferred to the non-profit member-run foundation, which has managed the software and its community ever since.
- The OpenStack community collaborates around a six-month, time-based release cycle with frequent development milestones. During the planning phase of each release, the community gathers for the OpenStack Design Summit to facilitate developer working-sessions and to assemble plans.
OpenStack Pros & Cons
Let’s be honest, there is no perfect software or platform in this world. Leading with a technology's flaws is another way of gaining back a small bit of power.
Being transparent, it is an Open Source technology that is community driven…and at times this can cause pain when implementing, updating or migration to new services.
- Initial install/implementation can be painful
- Services mature over time (do not jump the gun!)
- YOU have to tell OpenStack what you want it to do; certain remediation actions are not automatic and require forethought or automation
- Fully Distributed Architecture
- Scale horizontally using commodity hardware to add additional compute resources
- Add OpenStack control plane nodes to handle needed capacity
- Availability Zones provide compute isolation
- Multi-DC Support via Regions
- OpenStack meets High Availability requirements for its own infrastructure services
- Multi-Tenancy Isolation provided by robust Role Based Access Control (RBAC)
OpenStack's Market Presence
These stats prove that OpenStack is very much an ‘active’ community platform with improvements happening daily, by the people who actually use and believe in the system.
Another point that really grabbed my attention was the over all IT industry focus on OpenStack this and last year. Here are some of the recent announcements that all have one deep rooted thing in common, OpenStack:
- EMC acquires Cloudscaling
- HP buys Eucalyptus
- Cisco acquires Metacloud
- Red Hat buys eNovance and InkTank
- Citrix Sponsors OpenStack Foundation
Have Answers for the Hard Questions
As mentioned earlier, someone in your leadership will begin to pose some ‘in your face’ questions about OpenStack. Working through the answers in your mind will ease this process for you AND your leadership.
Based on my personal experience, I decided to write down some of the questions I was asked.
- This software is Open Source, who is going to support us?
- We are not interested in supporting yet another hypervisor?
- We want to use the cloud but, it has to be in our DC?
- It’s too new for us to use it?
- What are the hardware requirements?
- What Enterprise organizations actually use it?
Now that you have the questions, you can develop some answers. To help you down the path, I thought it would be helpful to share my opinionated feelings on the matter.
OpenStack is NOT a Hypervisor - OpenStack Nova is a direct manager of hypervisors and built to manage multiple types of hypervisors
Flexibility is Power - The flexibility around designing and deploying OpenStack is the power all Infrastructure admins want/need
Commodity Hardware - OpenStack likes all hardware equally; No more worrying about matching server specs
IT Moral Booster - Internal IT will have an opportunity to learn a new technology; increasing their value and increasing productivity
5 Years & Going - The OpenStack Community has been up and running for 5 years this year Managed Cloud built on OpenStack - Support for OpenStack can come from Managed Cloud providers like Rackspace (it would be our pleasure!)
Foundation Has Been Laid
You have now been armed with all the ammo to go get your OpenStack cloud. This last and final slide normally drives home the point flawlessly.
It is very hard to deny any of the logos displayed here and challenge their success around technology decisions. It is the IT equivalent of ‘dropping the mic’ on stage. Boom!