Can OpenStack Rescue the Hybrid Cloud?

    Hybrid cloud architectures must serve two masters at once. They have to integrate smoothly with legacy enterprise data infrastructure while at the same time enable seamless connectivity to the equally complex, and often proprietary, systems on the public cloud.

    It’s small wonder, then, that both sides of the cloud are turning to OpenStack to bridge their differences. Indeed, the interest in open source solutions is particularly keen among top public providers like Amazon and Microsoft now that it has become clear that the enterprise has no interest in pushing substantial portions of its workload to third-party resources – at least not yet.

    So it’s no surprise that, as OpenStack Chairman Alan Clark put it recently, both the platform itself and the community that nurtures it are on the cusp of a new era. Clark notes that while the OpenStack Foundation has tackled many of the early technology and knowledge barriers that once inhibited adoption, the recent surge in deployments is forcing a shift to a more sophisticated and organized development program. To that end, the foundation has embarked on a new mapping strategy that offers greater guidance on the development path ahead, and is fostering a new approach to co-development and integration to ensure that all the pieces of the platform function in a more cohesive manner.

    This can be seen in the latest version of the platform, Pike, which is more about shoring up the basics of multi-cloud operations than adding new features, says Windows IT Pro’s Christine Hall. For instance, the new version of Nova Cells is easier to provision and upgrade for both virtual and bare metal environments, while incorporation of the etcd distributed key value store makes it easier to store data across CoreOS clusters. Meanwhile, support for Swift object storage enables a set of globally distributed erasure codes that can be used to store and retrieve data through a simple API.

    Nevertheless, argues CRN’s Joseph Tsidulko, it is clear that the hype over OpenStack is over, so the question for the enterprise remains: Is it still a worthwhile investment in an increasingly diverse and competitive cloud landscape? In the first place, the new focus on deployment and configuration is necessary for a system that has earned a reputation as being complex and difficult to work with. Leading IT vendors like HPE and Cisco have stepped back their support for the project, and even Linux developers like Mirantis and Canonical are trying to find ways to smooth over the platform’s rough spots. But like many emerging technologies, this may be a simple matter of expectations for OpenStack running too high, followed by the inevitable acknowledgement that it is not the answer to all of the enterprise’s cloud concerns.

    Indeed, says Canonical’s Mark Baker, the problems that many enterprises encounter with OpenStack are of their own making. Early adopters had a penchant for modifying the software in what seemed at the time to be benign ways only to find out later that these code changes conflicted with later releases. As new versions were released by the foundation, these legacy systems were left open to security flaws and other issues, which often required substantial recoding to correct. It’s been estimated that more than three-quarters of OpenStack users are no longer using a stable version. Within Canonical, these systems are known as “Stuck Stack.”

    So is this a new beginning for OpenStack, or will the enterprise continue to face seemingly insurmountable hurdles to a seamless, distributed data ecosystem?

    Right now, it seems that without an industry-wide open cloud layer, such a vision will be forever out of reach. It’s up to the OpenStack community, which includes developers, vendors and users, to come up with a viable alternative.

    Arthur Cole writes about infrastructure for IT Business Edge. Cole has been covering the high-tech media and computing industries for more than 20 years, having served as editor of TV Technology, Video Technology News, Internet News and Multimedia Weekly. His contributions have appeared in Communications Today and Enterprise Networking Planet and as web content for numerous high-tech clients like TwinStrata and Carpathia. Follow Art on Twitter @acole602.

    Arthur Cole
    Arthur Cole
    With more than 20 years of experience in technology journalism, Arthur has written on the rise of everything from the first digital video editing platforms to virtualization, advanced cloud architectures and the Internet of Things. He is a regular contributor to IT Business Edge and Enterprise Networking Planet and provides blog posts and other web content to numerous company web sites in the high-tech and data communications industries.

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