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May 25, 2017

The Future of OpenStack

Kevin Jackson, Principal Engineer at Rackspace and Packt author, looks at the future of OpenStack, where it is now, and where it’s going.

By James Nunns

Founded in 2010 as a joint project by Rackspace Hosting and NASA, OpenStack is widely used by businesses and organisations all across the world (HMRC, PayPal, Volkswagen, and CERN, to name a few) to build their own cloud storage. 

Kevin Jackson, Principal Engineer at Rackspace.

Today, cloud computing is essential even for small companies or those who have very little in the way of an IT department. For lots of businesses, private cloud is the way forward; statistics show that expenditure in the private cloud market is increasing, with OpenStack leading the way. 7 years after its inception, where is OpenStack headed? What can cloud operators, developers, and business leaders expect from it next? Kevin Jackson, Principal Engineer at Rackspace and Packt author, looks at the future of OpenStack, where it is now, and where it’s going.


Under the hood – how has OpenStack improved in its recent incarnation?

The latest version of OpenStack was released after a very short development cycle, and includes features such as improvements to network QoS to overcoming limitations in previous driver architecture. But what does Jackson think has improved in its latest release?

“OpenStack essentially allows operators and users to leverage the power and flexibility of cloud while administrators retain control over the hardware. The latest release, Ocata, has been about performance and stability,” he says. “Ocata helps improve adoption of bare-metal and containers as well as ease upgrades between releases.”

“Ironic, the bare-metal service, is becoming more robust – giving users the ability to consume physical servers, but controlled as if they were like an instance – and Telemetry (Ceilometer) is stabilising in this release,” continues Jackson. “Cells, which was designed to help the larger-scale deployments by sharing out parts of the core OpenStack infrastructure into repeatable, scalable, smaller chunks, is now enabled by default. This means that deployments that start small, but previously scaled past the limits of efficiency, can now continue to grow because of the underlying deployment architecture.”


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The changing landscape of the public vs private cloud market – will OpenStack continue to dominate the private cloud?

IDC predicted that this year, spending on IT infrastructure products for deployment in cloud environments would increase by 18.2% to $44.2 billion. While private cloud adoption is increasing, public cloud still dominates the market. So what does the future hold for OpenStack?

The cloud market has matured to the point that every IT architecture conversation involves the word at some stage,” says Jackson. “However, IT is about choice. There was a fervent push to evacuate the datacenter, but there have been many studies that have come to the conclusion that one-size does not fit all,” he explains.

“In terms of the cloud, we are seeing people make bold choices and going all-in with public cloud, but others that have learned what normal looks like from early adoption are bringing some workloads back to a private cloud.”

So the good news is that private cloud isn’t going away, despite expenditure in public cloud options continuing to grow. But is OpenStack?

According to Jackson, OpenStack is right there at the forefront of the race. “What we see here is tools like Ansible, Puppet, Chef, as well as the PaaS-like software such as OpenShift and CloudFoundry being used efficiently as a layer that allows hybrid and multi-cloud to exist,” he says. “Increasingly, we’re seeing OpenStack running side-by-side to the once-dominating opinion that public cloud was the only way to run your IT business.”


How is the competitive pricing of public cloud players, such as AWS and Azure, tempting customers – and should they be tempted?

“AWS, Azure, and Google are very attractive to customers for many different reasons,” starts Jackson. “But, if a CTO or CIO’s decision to run on a public cloud is purely down to price, then not all of the crucial factors have been taken into consideration,” he warns.

“AWS is the run-away success for the early adopters who have grown up enhancing their own applications with its many features and attractive pricing. Azure is seen as in second place, with its rich heritage from Microsoft at the heart of a lot of on-premises computing. It has matured into a viable target for workloads that integrate more seamlessly into a hybrid enterprise world. And Google has computer science efficiency at the heart of its world. It was late to bloom but perfectly timed into a world of containers, and its home-grown Kubernetes make it stand out today against a jack of all-trades.”

“However, not all decisions are about which public provider serves you best,” continues Jackson. “Where people are wanting the same control and like-minded features, OpenStack picks up the conversation as a cost-effective, efficient solution that allows your IT department or OpenStack managed service provider to enhance the capabilities of your datacenter, whilst your core-business continues to consume IT in a faster, more economical way.


What should we expect from OpenStack in the short term and long term?

OpenStack has matured into being a first class citizen when it comes to IT architecture”, argues Jackson. “What was once seen as just an Open Source project is now a $ multi-million dollar business for many large, well known service providers.”

“In the short-term expect more announcements around stability, operational enhancements like upgrading and managing complex, secure networks, as well as features such as managing containers,” he says.

“Longer-term, expect more development helping to further up the stack at the ‘developer’ and ‘user’ level. More and more enterprises and telcos are adopting OpenStack – and their demands cross the boundaries between ‘design for cloud’ and ‘infrastructure must be available’. OpenStack meets these demands but helps users improve the way they work by giving businesses a path to being less reliant on hardware, providing app resiliency, and stability. This potentially unshackles businesses from costly hardware vendor contracts by giving their developers and users a cloud-first mentality, but with the control of a private cloud.”

Kevin Jackson’s latest book, OpenStack: Building a Cloud Environment, is available now from Packt.

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