The Complete Magazine on Open Source

‘The community drives OpenStack’s innovation curve’

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In the world of open source, OpenStack has emerged as the ultimate solution to manage the cloud. It is an alternative to all the existing proprietary cloud management platforms and is considered to be easier to deploy than traditional offerings. But what are the prime advantages of opting for OpenStack in today’s fast-moving IT world? Mark Collier, co-founder and COO, OpenStack Foundation, describes those advantages in an exclusive conversation with Jagmeet Singh of OSFY.

Q What was the original idea behind developing OpenStack?
OpenStack was launched in 2010 through the initial contributions of Rackspace (a Swift Storage project) and NASA (the Nova Compute Project) as an open source cloud infrastructure management project. It quickly grew to include projects for block storage, networking, authentication, dashboards, container management and much more. Today, OpenStack is in its 14th release, called Newton. It is in production use worldwide by hundreds of companies, supporting a wide diversity of applications, and has emerged as the de facto private cloud standard as well as a widely deployed public and hybrid cloud platform.

Q What factors helped Rackspace and NASA to jointly bring the OpenStack movement into the open source ecosystem?
One defining characteristic of the two founding organisations was the lack of any desire to directly monetise the software through an ‘enterprise’ version. Neither were software companies, per se. Instead, they simply wanted to see the technology develop rapidly. This helped build a large and thriving ecosystem fast, because it was easier to establish the trust that no one company would dominate the stack.

Q How is this OpenStack movement different from the initial development of Linux?
The biggest difference between Linux and OpenStack lies in the way each one’s community is structured. Linux is guided almost exclusively by its creator, Linus Torvalds. It is a model that has worked really well for Linux. OpenStack, by contrast, is governed by a technical committee and board of directors, who are guided and informed by an active and engaged group of developers and users from a diverse collection of companies and organisations. It is a model that is not without challenges but has on balance worked well for open source cloud management and is a prime factor in the success of the project.

Q What is your opinion on Microsoft Azure, Amazon Web Services and Google Cloud? How is OpenStack distinct from these major cloud platforms?
The major difference, of course, is that OpenStack is open source and capable of deployment both as a service and on-premise, while the others are proprietary and only available as a service—at least for the moment. OpenStack works with each of these platforms in a hybrid cloud context, either through APIs or via tighter degrees of integration. Vendors in our ecosystem have developed a variety of products and services to complement OpenStack with these public cloud providers, making the hybrid cloud real and productive for a growing number of users.

Q Why should one opt for OpenStack over VMware or any other proprietary cloud platform?
OpenStack is an open source cloud management solution, which means you control your own destiny, with the support of a wide community rather than a single service provider. Many users want that kind of assurance underpinning their cloud strategies.

Q How does OpenStack ease the transition from a public cloud to a private or hybrid one?
The OpenStack community has worked hard to simplify these transitions with projects like the Interoperability Challenge. Also, OpenStack has emerged as the leader with its renewed focus on transitioning from the public cloud to private and hybrid clouds as public cloud deployment sizes grow to the point that they become economically unviable.

Q What are your views on the recent open source adoptions by Microsoft?
It is great to see a growing group of legacy IT players like Microsoft embracing open source. We think vendors who make responsible, participative open source a part of their product roadmaps and go-to-market strategies will achieve better results for their customers compared with those who cling to the proprietary-only model.

Q Do you consider Microsoft’s Azure stack as a close competitor to OpenStack?
It is hard to say since it is still in development.

Q What are your plans to ensure the continuous popularity of OpenStack in the cloud world?
The community drives OpenStack’s innovation curve. You will notice the growth in the popularity as well as the functionality of OpenStack through any of its developer-focused summits.

Q How can OpenStack play the role of the saviour in this mobile-first world?
Saviour is a big word. Instead, let us look at how OpenStack is solving a very real, existential problem for carriers and operators of big networks that form the backbone of our mobile-first world. That problem is providing reliable, agile networks to support the explosive market growth of mobile devices of all sizes and types. Carriers and service providers in the OpenStack community have used the software to create a powerful solution for network functions virtualisation (NFV) powered by the cloud management platform and technologies like OPNFV. As a result, companies like AT&T are building their networks to run on OpenStack.

A recent survey by Heavy Reading claims that 86 per cent of global telecoms consider OpenStack important to their success.

Q What makes OpenStack the perfect choice for companies like Dell, HP and IBM?
The demand for infrastructure continues to grow, which means more servers, switches and other hardware. OpenStack is the automation software that makes all that infrastructure programmable. As a result, we can say that OpenStack is helping each of the companies that supply the infrastructure market, deliver it in a way that is much easier to manage at scale than ever before.

Q Where does India stand in the worldwide adoption of OpenStack?
We do not have precise adoption metrics. However, India is among the top three countries when it comes to our website’s traffic. It indicates how important a region the Indian market is for OpenStack.

Q How does the OpenStack Foundation plan to make Indian startups aware of various open source cloud management offerings?
The OpenStack Foundation provides support in a number of ways, including helping the local community organise an ‘OpenStack Day’ in India each year, and by publishing case studies.

Q What does the OpenStack Foundation offer developers around the globe?
The OpenStack Foundation provides online and location-specific training models for all levels of expertise to enrich developers with enough skills to get work on various cloud developments. Also, we conduct a Certified OpenStack Administrator (COA) exam that is the first professional certification offered by the non-profit body.
Enthusiasts and developers who want to learn about OpenStack and its operations in a cloud premise can catch the latest from Superuser Magazine. This online publication has a range of how-tos, case studies and news on the organisational culture.

Besides, the OpenStack Foundation maintains Web forums to let developers interact directly with those who operate and develop OpenStack.

Q Do you foresee OpenStack becoming the most dominant solution in the future of cloud computing?
OpenStack will be a major player in a set of technologies and solutions that will drive the next wave of innovation in IT. As OpenStack’s current role in developments like NFV and containers shows us, it is just impossible to know what the future holds. That is why the community is focused on creating an agile and flexible platform that can adapt to and support a diversity of innovations in cloud computing and infrastructure management.