The OpenStack Foundation invited me to be a part of its Hong Kong Summit on November 5-8. While the event traditionally has focused on developers, this year the Foundation also made it a point to include leading adopters. The OpenStack-based cloud service providers community consisted of innovative start-ups, medium-small sized companies, and the big boys, such as Blue Box, Canonical, Cisco, Cloudscaling, DELL, DreamHost, eNovance, Gigaspace, HP, IBM, Mirantis, Nebula, NetApp, Piston Cloud, Rackspace, Red Hat, RightScale, SwiftStack, VMware, and Yahoo.
While my work spans global technology and IT services, with a wider area of interest than only cloud (or OpenStack), I was happy to be a part of this event and witness the passion, commitment, and real investments being made in OpenStack.
So what did the Summit tell the market?
- Despite being only three years old, OpenStack has made significant progress as one of the leading cloud platforms for infrastructure services
- The OpenStack community, comprised of developers, sponsors, and users, is rapidly growing (over 1,600 developers and 250 companies)
- There is a growing intent within the OpenStack foundation to communicate with the outside world about the increasing adoption and maturity of the OpenStack platform
- Different technology companies are now integrating OpenStack and its support in their product strategy, even though some of these organizations believe that OpenStack may disrupt their business model
- Various buyers from technology companies are asking these providers about their OpenStack strategy, and even pushing them to support it
What are the challenges?
- As technologists at heart, OpenStack developers are passionate about the coolness of the technology, but have difficulty articulating the business impact and market perspectives
- While it’s easy to track the number of OpenStack downloads, there’s no process to track or estimate the real adoption
- OpenStack’s inability to communicate with buyers that despite the rapid “new developments and features” (which this Summit further propagated), there are multiple functions that are enterprise ready across its compute, storage, and network projects
- Despite rapid growth in the community, the number of contributors working dedicatedly full time on OpenStack is not significantly growing, and there is a constant dearth of suitable talent
- With the increase in community in terms of number of contributors, geographies, expertise, etc., a method for channelizing this energy in a meaningful way is missing
Despite the challenges, OpenStack is perhaps the strongest candidate for being the leading cloud platform and may soon witness an inflection point. It is providing a new lease of life to hosting providers that are now transforming to offer cloud services and could simply not have afforded a proprietary technology. It is enabling global collaboration to solve real business problems, and offering a true enterprise-class cloud platform that many adopters (especially those frustrated with proprietary expensive technologies) are finding very useful.
The David versus Goliath battle between open source and proprietary technologies will always continue. However, there are times when one solution can change the entire industry and buyer perception. OpenStack has that capability and, despite being fairly new, its on-the-ground adoption, and increasing developer base suggests that it can be a flag bearer of open source cloud platforms, much the same way Linux was for open source operating systems.
While hybrid cloud platforms will be the norm in enterprises, OpenStack will be the leading contender for creating private and public clouds. Both cloud service providers and enterprise buyers will adopt this platform to develop scalable infrastructure to support business growth.
Photo credit: Phil Wiffen