OpenStack Summit 2017: Hosted Private Cloud Demand Reflects Both the Popularity and Problems of OpenStack

C. Drake

Summary Bullets:

  • OpenStack cloud deployment continues to grow, with the main business drivers among enterprise users including the desire to avoid vendor lock-in and the potential to enhance innovation and operational efficiency.
  • Specific criticisms of OpenStack focus on the current six-month release cycle, as well as the complexity of the installation process for new releases and insufficient support for containers.

The May 2017 OpenStack Summit in Boston highlighted continued growth in the number and size of OpenStack cloud deployments, as well as evidence of increasing maturity for the technology. It also illuminated some of the ongoing challenges facing the OpenStack movement.

A plethora of presentations and demos by OpenStack Foundation members such as Red Hat, Mirantis, Deutsche Telekom and China Mobile, and from OpenStack technology users ranging from GE and Verizon to eBay and the U.S. Army Cyber School, were backed up with figures from OpenStack’s ninth user survey. These figures reflected input from over 1,300 users in 78 countries and indicated that, in the first two months of 2017, there were almost 600 OpenStack deployments. As of February 2017, the total number of OpenStack deployments was up by 44% year-on-year, with the vast majority (79% of the total) consisting of on-premises or off-premises private cloud deployments.

During his keynote, OpenStack Executive Director Jonathan Bryce argued that recent trends, as indicated by the user survey, pointed to a revived interest in private cloud deployment and usage. He contrasted this view with predictions from a few years ago, which envisaged a slow and steady death for private cloud (and for OpenStack) as more enterprises shifted more of their IT operations to Amazon or Azure. However, Bryce also highlighted some variations in the type of OpenStack private cloud deployments. So while 33% of OpenStack survey respondents claim to have a self-managed private cloud and 32% have an OpenStack-based public cloud (they include various service providers in Europe and Asia-Pacific), 35% of respondents use a hosted private cloud. The hosted private cloud model has become particularly popular among enterprises that want a dedicated OpenStack-based private cloud but lack the in-house IT skills and resources to manage it themselves.

The main business drivers and motivations among enterprise users for deploying OpenStack include the desire to avoid vendor lock-in and the potential for OpenStack to enhance their ability to innovate and increase operational efficiency. Other attractions of OpenStack include the modularity of the technology and the ability to scale out infrastructure at a fraction of the cost compared with traditional alternatives.

Red Hat, Canonical and Mirantis lead the way as the most popular OpenStack-powered solutions according to OpenStack survey users, with Cisco, Dell EMC, HPE, IBM and SUSE all featuring prominently as suppliers. Rackspace continues to report strong demand for its OpenStack-based hosted private cloud and has emerged as a market leader serving this segment.

Despite growing demand for and increased confidence in OpenStack as a platform for cloud deployment, users and vendors alike continue to identify plenty of problems and challenges with the technology. Specific criticisms focus on the OpenStack technology release cycle, with some enterprise users calling for releases to occur once every two years, rather than every six months. Criticisms also focus on the complexity of the installation and deployment process for new releases, including the need for a common release deployment and management framework and the introduction of increased automation and standardization in the release deployment process. Containers top the list of emerging technologies that are of most interest to OpenStack users, and going forward, calls for a clear and strong container support strategy from OpenStack are also likely to increase.

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