Orlando Bayter is CEO of Ormuco.
With Nebula closing its doors and citing a lack of maturity in the OpenStack market as the reason, the debate about the leading open source cloud’s enterprise readiness has reignited.
Nebula was a start-up led by a former NASA CTO that promised to deliver enterprise-grade private clouds based on OpenStack. It received a lot of press coverage, was well-backed by respected VCs, and signed up a good number of high profile customers. While its untimely demise is clearly a big story, it says more about the state of the vendor market coalescing around OpenStack than it does about the technology itself.
A recent report by GigaOm found that one-third of cloud users use private clouds, half of which are built on OpenStack technology. What’s more, 65 percent of respondents agreed that OpenStack is now enterprise-ready and capable of handling mission-critical workloads. As if to prove this, PayPal announced in March that it has built its own OpenStack cloud, replacing VMware in its data centers.
However, OpenStack is clearly causing something of a stir in the wider cloud market. In a move that many see as a direct response to OpenStack, Microsoft announced a private version of its Azure public cloud platform. Of course, many technology giants – including HP, RedHat and IBM – are tying their colors very firmly to the OpenStack mast. The real issue, I think, is the maturity of the vendor market, and confusion among buyers over OpenStack's purpose.
There Is No Public or Private Conundrum
You could be forgiven for thinking, given the way the press covers the cloud battles, that all new cloud adopters are presented with a binary choice: Either you set up your own private cloud in a data center, or go to one of the big public cloud operators and have done with it. As is nearly always the case, the truth is more nuanced.
GigaOm’s report found that hybrid cloud and multi-cloud adoption strategies are on the rise because these offer the best of both worlds.
These are solutions that the "big 3" – AWS, Microsoft Azure and Google – simply do not offer. They are selling public cloud IaaS and, as has been noted recently, are in a “race to the bottom” as they slash prices to gain share.
OpenStack vendors are simply not in the same game as this trio. Sure, you can build a public cloud with OpenStack, and many vendors – including HP with HP Helion – have done so. But this is about offering their OpenStack private cloud customers the option to burst to a compatible public cloud for scalability.
The public cloud is great if you’re starting from scratch and all you need is a cheap, high volume solution. If, like most companies, you have a data center full of legacy hardware running battle-hardened applications on which your business depends, the public cloud does not offer you many solutions for transitioning.
In this space, the "Big 3" are playing catch-up, hence Azure’s new private offering. Currently, if you want a private cloud that can burst to the public cloud, with one coherent ecosystem for development and deployment, and no vendor lock-in, OpenStack is the clear leader.
The Thorny Issue of Vendor Support and Market Maturity
PayPal’s adoption of OpenStack in its data centers certainly suggests that, at least for private clouds, the technology has reached enterprise-grade. But for companies without PayPal’s engineering muscle, building a private cloud all on their own, with no vendor support, is a nearly impossible challenge.
With Nebula closing its doors, potential adopters may be wary to commit themselves to independent vendors, for if they disappear so too does the support they were providing. One can only feel sympathy for those companies running an OpenStack private cloud in a data center full of hardware they bought on Nebula’s say-so. But it could have been worse.
As OpenStack is open source, and supported by many companies large and small, it’s not too difficult to get HP, RedHat or IBM – or one of their partners – to take over the reins. Indeed, this is exactly what Nebula’s CEO told his clients to do.
If there is a worry about the maturity of the OpenStack vendor market, and the ability of providers to stay the course, the answer is - of course - to go with a vendor that is backed by a large partner company. Having access to a ready-made network of partners and resellers that can support you in case your original vendor goes down the tubes certainly gives peace of mind.
While the demise of Nebula was unfortunate, these things happen when a new technology attracts independent start-ups that are at risk of running out of money before they achieve profitability. The fact remains that the OpenStack technology itself is certainly enterprise-ready, even if the vendor market coalescing around it remains immature.
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