I agree with the starting premise penned by Joel Keller here, that often times OpenStack is discussed and debated as though it is a product. It is easy to think of OpenStack as a product especially given all the commentary that compares and contrasts OpenStack against commercial cloud offerings. And Randy Bias has strongly suggested that in order to effectively grow and evolve OpenStack should be managed like a product. However, I view OpenStack as a platform.

Why platform? Platforms are cornerstone building blocks that enable us to do stuff we otherwise might not be able to do. Valuable platforms provide core functionality and enable capabilities to be layered onto the platform. It is these extended capabilities that often provide real value to the end user. Of course the classic example is the computer operating system (OS). Operating systems by themselves may be cool and certainly serve a purpose. Arguably, by themselves OS’s don’t do a lot of useful stuff – at least as far as the end user is concerned. Rather, by enabling and providing a stable environment for software productivity applications, operating systems made the PC into something transformative. The OS as a platform needed applications to enable us to derive real value from computing.

Successful platforms serve as the center of an ecosystem where multitudes of other providers and organizations build and integrate value-added extensions, technologies, services and offerings. So platforms can and do serve as powerful catalysts for the creation of network effects and entire eco-systems of products. Today we have platforms like Apple iTunes, Android AppStores, and the venerable Windows operating systems and Windows apps, and we are now experiencing the evolution and migration to various cloud platforms. OpenStack is clearly a cloud platform to be considered.

In order to be a product OpenStack needs to be combined and integrated with technologies like compute and storage hardware, support, services and let’s not forget the all-important business relationship and commercial transaction aspects. Stated another way, OpenStack is a powerfully flexible foundational ingredient. It is the addition of hardware, other software, services and business wrap-around that extend and package the platform we call OpenStack into a commercial offering – a product.

The range of cloud products built on OpenStack is rapidly evolving and getting more diverse every week. There are many offerings for each of Infrastructure as a Service, Storage as a Service, Software Defined Networking, Hosted/Managed Cloud Services, Consulting and Professional Services, and Support Subscription offers for OpenStack. The plethora of choices is a testament to the strong start the OpenStack platform has achieved. It does bring a cautionary note too – based on recent changes regarding Nebula – you best pick your OpenStack commercial vendors carefully.  

Because OpenStack is open source and readily available to anyone, users are not forced to accept or consume commercial offers or services built with the OpenStack platform. Anyone is free to do the design, engineering, validation and packaging work to take OpenStack as a raw ingredient and make something useful. As the OpenStack user community will tell you – this work requires significant knowledge, investment and committment.

That is where our OpenStack Cloud Solution team at Dell comes in. Stated simply - our mandate is to help make Dell customers successful with OpenStack. We do this by assessing, selecting, characterizing, engineering and validating all of the wrap-arounds required to turn OpenStack into a very useful and powerful cloud infrastructure.

In fact we just released the 3rd generation of our cloud infrastructure solution powered by Red Hat Enterprise Linux OpenStack Platform. While we have a bias for leveraging and integrating OpenStack with Dell products, we have the freedom to select and work with non-Dell technologies drawn from the OpenStack eco-system. Our customers have been looking to us as their integrator of choice since OpenStack was first introduced in 2010, relying on us to deliver stable, secure reliable solutions powered by open platforms. Clearly OpenStack meets all the requirements to be considered the platform of choice for your Cloud. Click here to get additional details on Dell and Red Hat cloud solutions that embrace and extend OpenStack.