The open route to hybrid cloud

OpenStack has been powering private cloud platforms for the best part of a decade, but its influence in the public cloud is reportedly on the wane. Perhaps it simply needs a confidence-inspiring flagship that everyone can refer to, in the way that private proprietary clouds are empowered by association with headline acts such as AWS. The emergence of such a champion could provide the same reassurance to those who are heading towards a multi-cloud strategy and considering their OpenStack options.

What could we call such a flexible engine?

OpenStack was designed from the outset to serve both public and private cloud use cases, which is probably why it’s the only open source technology with a presence in both camps today.

At heart, public and private clouds share the same technical challenge: to automatically manage computing, storage and networking through open interfaces. Their components were designed to be modular so that they could be used for other uses that emerge, such as edge computing. Open source makes this all possible.

The challenge is to keep up with OpenStack while aligning each change with the unique culture of your own organization.

As OpenStack’s popularity grew, so did the common modus operandi for buying and operating the technology. While keeping pace with new technology is important, the rhythms of company culture are the primary concern. The two must be synchronized with sensitivity. For reasons of continuity, some companies have run the same stack for a decade.

The good news is that transition techniques have evolved dramatically. OpenStack upgrades have become a focal point in recent releases and the support group of companies offering distributions has strengthened.

While adding new few features is desirable, the bolstering of security has been the priority. As a result OpenStack developers and users have collectively found new ways to achieve rapid patching, even when the underlying technology isn’t open source.

Still, if you want to influence the direction of OpenStack, you have to be in a leading role, which is only possible if you can embrace the new update culture. This is an art and a science – and it’s easier said than done, but so is everything that gives you a valuable lead.

Is there a danger of version confusion?

When it comes to the inevitable version control issue, the devil is in the detail and this is where a specialist managed service provider can keep you up to speed.

According to Kamil Gregor, Research analysts at IDC, “Arguably the most important trend that multicloud brings about is the growing importance of managed services. On one hand, cloud in general, and multicloud specifically, are becoming increasingly necessary for successful digital transformation. But on the other hand, the faster pace of digital transformation forces companies to focus on innovating their business around their key differentiators. Partnering with managed service providers allows cloud consumers to rapidly, conveniently, and safely shed responsibilities around cloud consumption.” This includes version control matters.

To date, users have often combined OpenStack clouds with a mix of proprietary clouds, and shift their workloads according to economics, regulatory requirements and to overcome latency issues. There is a premium for proprietary though. In the right circumstance, moving workloads off proprietary clouds to OpenStack can slash costs by more than half, according to the OpenStack Foundation.

OpenStack benefits the public cloud because it is bringing in new lifeblood, in the form of developers and distributors. IDC Research says there are 34,971 developers working on OpenStack and there are 4,000,000 coding lines in Liberty, its latest release. 

The issue needs investigation but the question to start with is this: How hard will it be to move if conditions change? What if you find your partner is suddenly competing with you more directly?

The good news is you can absolutely outsource and partner for operations of infrastructure without taking these lock-in, competitive risks. You do this by using an OpenStack public cloud provider. OpenStack has almost 4,000 contributing developers in 50 international companies and is in more regions than even AWS, according to IDC Research.

How do you identify the right service provider?

Open source is changing the game and putting users more in control. The fact that proprietary players are now adopting open source culture with Kubernetes is the best possible endorsement they can give.

Meanwhile, that is not to say it will be easy if you have built and operated your own private OpenStack cloud. You can liberate yourself from its strictures but the first step is to find the companies that manage things differently. You need to walk the full length of the counter, because your options are broad. You can choose from remotely managed private clouds and hosted private clouds and go all the way to fully managed public clouds. They are all powered by the same software so they’re interoperable with your current stack.
Ultimately, the most precious asset of all will be human intellectual capital.

OpenStack has a strong attraction for young talents, whereas businesses struggle to keep them. “OpenStack teams have the same appeal as start-ups,” says Morgan Richomme, an NFV Engineer at Orange.

Technology is only powerful if you can get the people behind it.

Read this IDC report to find out about Orange Flexible Engine and Huawei's enterprise distribution of OpenStack:
Nick Booth

Nick Booth worked in IT supporting the London Metropolitan Police, the UK’s National Health Services and the financial services industry, before crossing over into journalism. His work appears in The Guardian, The Daily Mail and The Sun and across a range of technical publications such as Computer Weekly, Microscope, IoT Now.