Some Thoughts on OpenStack Readiness in the News

Let me start with this a disclaimer: these are my thoughts from my experiences with the industry thus far. That said, I hope it makes sense to clarify some of the news and punditry happening in the OpenStack ecosystem.

12 years ago I was installing VMware and trying to get buy-in from my operations team, my development team, and from management. Today, it’s not even an option to not choose virtualization as the option for most organizations. Does that mean that hardware stopped selling? No. In fact, we’ve even seen information about the rise in mainframes and LTO tape sales despite so many pundits talking about the end of both technologies.

If we had Twitter 10 years ago, the headlines and tweets would have read: “Hardware vendor X loses deal to VMware consolidation”, and people would have been chattering back and forth from the hardware vendor and from the VMware community. We didn’t have Twitter then though. So, let’s talk about the last few days in OpenStack as highlighted by reports about PayPal, and the unfortunate news about Nebula shutting down.


Just in case you didn’t know the background to the VMware and OpenStack debate happening at PayPal, there was a lot of history over the last year regarding rumors that PayPal was migrating away from their VMware platform to OpenStack running on KVM. These rumors had been proven to be incorrect, and all of the parties at PayPal, VMware, and at participating vendors involved in supporting PayPal have acknowledged that the story spun out of control.  Plans were underway to utilize OpenStack, but by no means was this a rip and replace happening at a rapid pace as some of the stories had indicated.

This was revisited again with the recent article by Ben Kepes at Forbes, who I absolutely recommend you follow on Twitter and read his content.

All of the spin aside, this is a big move by a big company. It also is only a small percentage of the overall VMware business, so it is by no means a nail in the coffin as some may want to allude to.

At the same time that was happening, we heard the terrible news that Nebula, an OpenStack private cloud vendor, was shutting its doors. The team at Nebula have been phenomenal contributors to the OpenStack community and ecosystem, and this is obviously terrible news for them and customers of Nebula.

Again, we have to also note that this is not to be taken as a sign that OpenStack itself is failing. If a grocery store shuts down, we don’t go on about how people are no longer using food.

This is where the question always comes about OpenStack readiness.

Is OpenStack Ready?

The real question is “are you ready for OpenStack?” which is the same as what was said 12 years ago when we asked “is virtualization ready?”, and the same reverse question was the real one we needed to ask.

OpenStack has some growing pains to endure still. There are challenges with deployment, and operations. There are challenges with scale.  At the same time, most organizations aren’t anywhere near the size where scale is an issue.  Most organizations that are exploring OpenStack will build operational procedures as they go because they may have been lacking in the first place which is why they are looking to a new platform.

The issues that are being felt as organizations explore OpenStack, are the same ones they are experiencing with public cloud, with VMware vCloud, with CloudStack, and any other private or public cloud alternative.  Organization change is often the biggest challenge when moving towards a private cloud platform.  This goes hand in hand with the same changes needed to enable agile development practices, or better orchestration tools.

VMware and OpenStack – Apples and Oranges

If we look at timelines, VMware at 5 years old, was on ESX version 2.0 release in wider use and had just launched ESX Server 3.0 with patches up to 3.0.2 ( I was running the latest copy of ESX server at my organization and often getting push back from folks on the idea that we may be heading down a road with a product that isn’t ready for production use for enterprise applications.

I wrote recently about the great OpenStack Superuser article about the 5 year summary of the project and how the vision of the OpenStack foundation, and the community, was growing and morphing into something very cool. While there is a lot of growing to go through, there has also been an incredible amount of, dare I say maturity, developed by the OpenStack platform.

VMware has a wide ecosystem inside its product portfolio. These tools are sometimes loosely coupled, and sometimes tightly bound. The fundamental core of VMware is their hypervisor (ESXi) and the management tools that tie into it. OpenStack is designed to be a private cloud platform, using any hypervisor as the hosting platform. OpenStack is meant to augment and advance the ability of the hypervisor. Using open APIs and a self-service dashboard, we can use OpenStack to provision and manage our workloads and tenants.

There really is so much more to the products, and so much more to the story. OpenStack and VMware have been targets of some interesting debates lately, and will continue to be for quite some time. I think that we should embrace the challenges, and embrace the potential. Let’s just get back to the business of building our infrastructure to meet business demands. That, after all, is what technology is all about.

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