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May 9, 2016updated 05 Sep 2016 11:47am

How hybrid cloud poses a threat to the idea of open and interconnected clouds

Briefing: Businesses are likely to stick with one cloud provider from a vendor they already know.

By James Nunns

During the recent OpenStack Summit in Austin, Texas, Stephen Wanless, senior strategist, Open Source Cloud, Dell, spoke to CBR about his hopes for a change of OpenStack focus, simplicity and the realities of hybrid cloud.

The hybrid cloud approach has received a great deal of attention over the past couple of years, with companies such as HPE, Microsoft and IBM all stating that the future is hybrid. While there is growing evidence for a mix of private and public use, Wanless questions whether customers are mixing technologies or just sticking with one.

Wanless said: "I have never yet spoken to a customer that has been talking about building hybrid clouds out of different cloud technologies."

His experience with OpenStack customers is that they are typically using a hybrid environment for when they exceed requirements of the private cloud, so a public cloud is being used as a kind of insurance policy.

The problem with this is that users have to be careful with what cloud they spill on to. Wanless questions whether it would be onto an Azure cloud because "I don’t know because I don’t know if they even share the same applications," he said.

Wanless said that he believes this will drive a technology divide of customers just sticking to the technologies they know. So a Microsoft house would likely stick with the cloud options from Microsoft, while a Linux or Unix house may opt for OpenStack as that is what they know.

There is also the question of billing: "How could you ever get to a common standard of billing across a hybrid cloud? You are back to that positon that applications wont spill from one technology to another so you won’t bill for them because they just won’t have moved," said Wanless.

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Although some partnerships are arising to more simply connect private to public clouds, the customer’s desire for simplicity may create a cloud market of disparate technologies.

It is simplicity which Dell and Wanless has been working on within the OpenStack community, hoping to move the conversation forward from the stability of the infrastructure to one that is focused on use cases.

Although the recent OpenStack Summit began to focus more on business use cases, there is still work to be done for the majority of the conversation about the technology to be on this.

Wanless said: "Right now because the emphasis has been so much on the infrastructure my work is trying to make sure the infrastructure with our partners is as solid and reliable as possible.

"OpenStack still gets dinged when you sit and listen to user groups about its difficult to install, deployment still comes up as the number one challenge to implementation."

The deployment challenge clearly still exists for OpenStack, partly because there are so many options to choose from. "I think the deployment challenge is there because there are so many options. That flexibility drives complexity," he said.

Wanless would effectively like OpenStack to move to having more reference architectures that tell a user what exactly the choices are, how to deploy them and the complexities involved.

This would mean that the customer would have the choice between flexibility and the time it would take to deploy.

"I think the value to the customer is, if I’m building this myself and it takes three months, that’s three months’ worth of operation budget to get this operational.

"But if I can trade off that flexibility for less complexity and can have something that I can boot up in the afternoon then I’ve got that three months of operational budget back."

The issue of OpenStack complexity caused by the large amount of deployment options is something that the technology community is increasingly being forced to deal with, as the community grows so do the number of technology choices.

Wanless said once a very definitive set of workloads can be seen to be deployed on top of OpenStack then companies such as Dell can make recommendations to its customers on how to configure, tell them what is important and document what would be given up or gained by going down a more rigid path.

The idea of narrowing the number of options available in the open source community may be antithetical to what it stands for, but it could significantly help to improve its commercial success.

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