Will OpenStack Usher in a Cloud Revolution?: Page 2

OpenStack is seen by many as the project that will, finally, make the cloud enterprise ready. Detractors don’t believe it and point to political in-fighting, domination by large vendors and a lack of maturity.
Posted September 20, 2012

Jeff Vance

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At the very least, the threat of vendor-lock, a very real cloud concern, is lessened with OpenStack.

Complaint two is trickier.

Cloud storage startup Nasuni has tested all the major bulk cloud storage service providers for performance, stability and scalability. “We’re neutral about OpenStack,” said Andres Rodriguez, CEO of Nasuni. “But we’re going to rigorously test any product or service we may offer to our own customers.”

Rodriguez pointed out that Nasuni didn’t specifically test OpenStack, but since Rackspace developed and uses OpenStack, Nasuni regards Rackspace Cloud as the OpenStack showcase. Based on benchmarks Nasuni set, only six out of the sixteen cloud storage providers they tested passed.

Rackspace did indeed pass, but the cloud storage test found that Rackspace lagged far behind leader Amazon in a number of key metrics, including speed, both read and write errors, and stability.

“Remember, cloud storage is all about scale, and there’s a huge gap between Amazon and everyone else, just based on scale alone. Most of Rackspace’s business is still colocation. Their cloud storage footprint is dwarfed by Amazon,” he said.

While cloud storage is new to most vendors, Amazon has been working away on this problem for the past twelve or fifteen years. “By the time they went public, they’d already accumulated seven years or so of real-world operational experience. Challengers are coming in a decade late,” he added.

The Future of OpenStack

Storage is only one part of OpenStack, and arguably one of its least mature parts. It’s premature to write it off as something that will never challenge Amazon, especially as storage demands continue to skyrocket.

And not all storage is the same. Mission-critical storage is much different than, say, backups of non-critical media files.

McKenty, the OpenStack co-founder, said that his next major step for OpenStack is to get the separate projects better joined beneath a common framework. With so many developers working independently, the projects can grow apart. “It’s a challenge to figure out how to keep the projects loosely coupled, so you don’t stifle the creativity of developers, yet linked, so everything works well together,” he said.

He believes it’ll be another release or two before they reach that goal, but when they do, OpenStack will have a single command line that will ensure interoperability at the most basic level.

“We’ve learned plenty of lessons along the way,” said Wayne Walls, one of Rackspace’s key OpenStack developers. “We quickly learned that you could have about a billion different variations of an OpenStack cloud where you tell people to download it and go run it as they see fit. But that’s very hard to support at scale.”

Walls believes that OpenStack is nearly past its awkward “immature” phase. Companies are taking OpenStack and developing products around it. If you look at some of the startups in the OpenStack Foundation, including Mirantis and Piston Cloud Computing, all of their messaging focuses on OpenStack. You would have a hard time getting much VC funding if OpenStack was a doomed science project.

“OpenStack has 550,000 lines of code today, with close to 500 developers around world contributing code,” Walls said. “This model pushes best of breed to the top. Whether it’s networking or storage or whatever else, the world’s top experts decide how things are done.”

The other key variable that Walls pointed to is the fact that no matter “how deep in the weeds” you get with OpenStack, it’s very easy to pick up your assets and move them. It’s not nearly as easy to do so with closed APIs.

Of course, this is important if enterprises are ever going to gain confidence in public clouds, but it’s equally important for private clouds. This kind of portability means an OpenStack cloud, almost by definition, is a hybrid cloud, allowing you to move back and forth between private and public environments almost at will.

That’s a competitive advantage that OpenStack is gaining that competing solutions will have trouble keeping up with.

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Tags: open source, cloud computing, OpenStack

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