A Turning Point for OpenStack in the Enterprise


Recently I attended the CONNECT Expo in Melbourne, which included an OpenStack conference, where I participated as a speaker & panelist.

The focus of that conference was about whether OpenStack is ready for the enterprise, and included contributions from Dave Medbury from Time Warner Cable, Mike Dorman from GoDaddy, and Rik Harris from Telstra, who presented their real-world experiences with OpenStack in commercial settings.

One of the things that was very clear from the conference is that OpenStack is ready for the enterprise. This is probably not news to many who have been following the project for the past few years, but there definitely seems to have been a turning point in recent times, especially enterprise versions of the Juno release (such as SUSE OpenStack Cloud 5) that have become available in the past few months.

The turning point I’ve really noticed is that OpenStack is becoming much less of a developer’s toy or interesting plaything, where new features are the most important aspect of development, and is transitioning (in the core areas at least) to a more practical enterprise-class framework, where component stability, infrastructure high-availability, and robust support options are necessary.  This was reflected in the composition of the audience for the event, which included many more “enterprise architect” types than have been present in the past.  It was also reflected in the questions asked during the panel sessions, which often seemed focused as much on business & organisation as on implementation and technicalities.

So OpenStack is definitely ready for the enterprise, yet as with any complex system and organisational change, there are a few considerations to bear in mind (and many of these are relevant, regardless of the private cloud infrastructure software to be used):

  • Implementing cloud computing is an organisational as well as operational change, and should be handled carefully
  • Successful cloud implementations rely on an existing IT operations mindset that includes automation & policy-driven deployment (see my previous article).
  • Executive-level sponsorship (ideally CIO-level or more) is required to effectively marshall all the disparate IT disciplines towards making cloud deployment a success
  • Integration with the lines of business is critical – internal customers of the private cloud have to agree to use the standardised cloud resources, rather than expecting bespoke IT services at cloud prices.
  • Not every workload is suitable for cloud deployment right now, as applications really need to be well suited to that kind of environment; this is OK – it’s all about using the right tool for the job, so it’s best not to try to force the issue and encounter failure.
  • The OpenStack control plane must provide High Availability (99.999%+ uptime). Without a highly-available control plane, access to the cloud resources disappears, and even cloud-aware services can fail.
  • OpenStack deployment and management can be difficult without the right tools and support, so it makes sense to work with an open source infrastructure software vendor (such as SUSE) to provide the technology, integration, support and training necessary to build up your own capabilities.

There is a growing number of enterprises (including PayPal and BMW) that have adopted OpenStack as a significant part of their IT infrastructure, and this trend will continue as the framework becomes more mature, and as the vendors and other members of the OpenStack Foundation build the body of knowledge in terms of documentation and training.

On that note – SUSE is hiring. At the time of writing there are at least 13 roles open at SUSE related to OpenStack & Cloud. Check https://www.suse.com/jobs for details.

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