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September 8, 2015

OpenStack complexity creates limited appeal, says Canonical execs

CBR spoke to Canonical execs John Zannos and Mark Baker about the complexities of OpenStack and hybrid cloud.

By James Nunns

OpenStack has been given a helping hand to make it more appealing to enterprises, with Intel and Google recently getting on board. But two major challenges remain; the first being the complexity created by a large number of choices, and the other being OpenStack’s complex nature.

Baker, said: "OpenStack is a complex thing because it’s a framework that is set to replace or compliment your network. Your storage, your computing, your network, your data centre is comprised of storage, computing and network and OpenStack is a framework that encompasses all those things.

"So it is in its very nature complex and because it’s very distributed in a big OpenStack cloud you’ll be running thousands of VMs and potentially hundreds of nodes in your cloud.

"All of those things done right, software defined networking, software defined storage – whether you’re using containers or hypervisors they are all complex things."

However, he doesn’t believe that it can’t be presented as a simple thing. Take driverless cars for example, they are hugely complex but it is simple to get in and go wherever you want, this is what the community is trying to crack.

The community is working to hide much of the complexity with tooling, but it needs to be careful not to be prescriptive in what it offers, as Baker says that people don’t like that.

Baker said: "What we have to say is this is how it is but if you want you can change that bit to blue and that bit to red then you can.

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"That’s the challenge we are presented and I think the point that has been made is, software goes through phase changes and we’re entering this new phase change where we’ve got this framework that actually encompasses a ton of different things."

This is a big challenge for the community and how widely embraced it will be by enterprises, Baker: "Unless we fix that problem, OpenStack is going to have a limited appeal to enterprises, we haven’t fixed it yet but we are working extremely hard to do it."

Zannos said: "We want to move out of science projects and into production."

Hybrid cloud is another topic that must deal with complexities, but as stated by Zannos, most companies of any size already have complex IT structures and will continue to have complex IT structures even if they believe it simpler to have a single strategy.

Complexities such as how to optimise to compete in order to gain even a 0.5% advantage over competition and to operate a little faster are realities that create a hybrid cloud world.

Zannos said : "I think those realities create a world where the hybrid cloud is a reality for a long, long time. Does it create some complexity? Sure. But I don’t think it’s artificial complexity that isn’t there anyway."

Baker took a different approach to describing hybrid cloud: "Hybrid cloud is kind of bullshit really, in that what you’re saying is you’re going to have some applications you want to run on premise and do that in an agile and flexible way and some apps are going to run somewhere else in an agile and flexible way."

For Baker, the idea of bursting capacity from internal clouds onto a public cloud may one day be a reality but isn’t really now.

"Very rarely do you see companies that are running stuff on premise and then burst out onto cloud, it may be that they’ve got some of the web front end pieces sitting out in AWS… maybe that’s hybrid cloud."


John Zannos is VP, Cloud, business development, at Canonical and Mark Baker is Ubuntu server product manager, Canonical.

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