OpenStack was first announced three years ago at the OSCON conference in Portland. I remember the first time I heard about the announcement and how it immediately caught my attention. Ever since that day, I have become a strong advocate of the technology. Looking back, I thought that it would be interesting to analyze why.
Is it the fact that it’s an open source cloud? Well partially, but that couldn’t be the main reason. OpenStack was not the first open source cloud initiative; we had Eucalyptus, then later Cloud.com and other open source cloud initiatives before OpenStack emerged.
There were two main elements missing from these previous open source cloud initiatives: the companies behind the initiatives and the commitment to a true open movement. It was clear to me that a true open source cloud movement could not turn into an industry movement, and thus meet its true potential if it was led by startups. In addition, the fact that companies whose businesses run cloud services, such as Rackspace, brought its own experience in the field and a large scale consumer of such infrastructure such as NASA, gave OpenStack a much better starting point. Also, knowing some of the main individuals behind the initiatives and their commitment to the Open Cloud made me feel much more confident that the OpenStack project would have a much higher chance for success than its predecessors. Indeed, after three years, it is now clear that the game is essentially over and it is apparent who is going to win the open source cloud war. I’m happy to say that I also had my own little share in spreading the word by advocating the OpenStack movement in our own local community which also grew extremely quickly over the past two years.
OpenStack as an Open Movement
Paul Holland, an Executive Program Manager for Cloud at HP, gave an excellent talk during the last OpenStack Summit, comparing the founding of the OpenStack Foundation to the establishment of the United States. Paul drew interesting parallelization between the factors that brought a group of thirteen individual states to unite and become the empire of today, with that of OpenStack.
Paul also drew an interesting comparison between the role of the common currency that fostered the open market and trade between the different states with its OpenStack equivalent: APIs, common language, processes, etc. Today, we take those things for granted, but the reality is that common currency isn’t yet trivial in many countries even today, yet we cannot imagine what our global economy would look like without the Dollar as a common currency or English as a common language, even if they have not been explicitly chosen as such by all countries.
As individuals, we often tend to gloss over the details of the Foundation and its governing body, but it is those details that make OpenStack an industry movement that has brought many large companies, such as Red Hat, HP, IBM, Rackspace and many others (57 in total as of today), to collaborate and contribute to a common project as noted in this report. Also, the fact that the number of individual developers has been growing steadily year after year is another strong indication of the real movement that this project has created.
Thinking Beyond Amazon AWS
OpenStack essentially started as the open source alternative to Amazon AWS. Many of the sub-projects often began as Amazon equivalents. Today, we are starting to see projects with a new level of innovation that do not have any AWS equivalent. The most notable one IMHO is the Neutron (network) and BareMetal projects. Both have huge potential to disrupt how we think about cloud infrastructure.
Only on OpenStack
We often tend to compare OpenStack with other clouds on a feature-to-feature basis.
The open source and community adoption nature of OpenStack enables us to do things that are unique to OpenStack and cannot be matched by other clouds. Here are a few examples:
- Run the same infrastructure on private and public clouds.
- Work with multiple cloud providers; have more than one OpenStack-compatible cloud provider with which to work.
- Plug in different HW as cloud platforms for private clouds from different vendors, such as HP, IBM, Dell, Cisco, or use pre-packaged OpenStack distributions, such as the one from Ubuntu, Redhat, Piston etc.
- Choose your infrastructure of choice for storage, network etc, assuming that many of the devices come with OpenStack-supported plug-ins.
All this can be done only on OpenStack; not just because it is open source, but primarily because of the level of adoption of OpenStack that has made it the de-facto industry standard.
Re-think the Cloud Layers
When cloud first came into the world, it was common to look at the stack from a three-layer approach: IaaS, PaaS and SaaS.
Typically, when we designed each of the layers, we looked at the other layers as black-boxes and often had to create parallel stacks within each layer to manage security, metering, high availability etc.
The fact that OpenStack is an open source infrastructure allows us to break the wall between those layers and re-think where we draw the line. For example, when we design our PaaS on OpenStack, there is no reason why we wouldn’t reuse the same security, metering, messaging and provisioning that is used to manage our infrastructure. The result is a much thinner and potentially more efficient foundation across all the layers that is easier to maintain. The new Heat project and Ceilometer in OpenStack are already starting to take steps in this direction and are, therefore, becoming some of the most active projects in the upcoming Havana release of OpenStack.
Looking Into the Future
Personally, I think that the world with OpenStack is by far healthier and brighter for the entire industry, as opposed to a world in which we are dependent on one or two major cloud providers, regardless of how good of a job they may or may not do. There are still many challenges ahead in turning all this into a reality and we are still at the beginning. The good news, though, is that there is a lot of room for contribution and, as I’ve witnessed myself, everyone can help shape this new world that we are creating.
OpenStack Birthday Events
To mark OpenStack’s 3rd Birthday, there will be a variety of birthday celebrations taking place around the world. At the upcoming OSCON event in Portland from July 22-26, OpenStack will host their official birthday party on July 24th. There will also be a celebration in Israel on the 21st, marking the occasion in Tel Aviv. For more information about the Foundation’s birthday celebrations, visit their website at www.openstack.org.