Learn firsthand about OpenStack, its challenges and opportunities, market adoption and Mirantis’s engagement in the community. My goal is to interview all 24 members of the OpenStack board, and I will post these talks sequentially at Dell TechCenter. In order to make these interviews easier to read, I structured them into my (subjectively) most important takeaways. Enjoy reading!

#1 Takeaway: Cloud is a child of the open source culture and OpenStack as the largest open enterprise project might turn the entire cloud industry upside down

Rafael: Boris, how do you envision OpenStack two or three years from now?

Boris: There is a common vision out there of OpenStack as the Android of cloud computing. If you think of Amazon as the iOS of the cloud, OpenStack ultimately is the Android.  Cloud in general is a baby of the open source culture: Large consumer internet companies such as Amazon, Facebook and Google had to build out an extremely scalable infrastructure to run their application logic on top. They built that infrastructure either out of components that they invented and then later open sourced or open source components they pulled from the outside. The bottom line is: These companies understood that if they took the traditional enterprise route, the price for licenses ultimately would be greater than the revenues they could ever achieve. So they built the superefficient infrastructure stack completely leveraging open components and paying licenses to nobody.

Ultimately companies like Amazon decided to open up part of their infrastructure to customers and that’s how infrastructure cloud in its current form has been born: Amazon pioneered the world with the Elastic Compute Cloud EC2 offering in 2006.

Cloud is inherently about open, and OpenStack today is by far the largest infrastructure cloud open community. If you look at number of companies participating, the amount of code commits and the nature of the project itself: From day one it was not positioned central to any particular vendor but as a conglomerate of different independent organizations. Because cloud is about open, and OpenStack is THE thing in the open cloud, it is effectively going to be one of the most disruptive movements in infrastructure computing during the next 5 to 10 years. OpenStack is going to change the entire industry upside down.

#2 Takeaway: OpenStack is vendor independent, it’s not owned by one particular company or institution, and that makes it attractive for anyone to join

Rafael: What are the key accomplishments in the OpenStack project so far?

Boris: The key accomplishments are strategic in nature. OpenStack is the true incarnation of open source. It was originally designed to create a large, diverse ecosystem where nobody is a dominant player which ultimately attracted everybody. It started out with Rackspace, NASA, Dell, Cisco and a few others, and it was not vendor centric like for instance Eucalyptus or cloud.com. This is a key strategic component that OpenStack got right from the very beginning, and it has been largely the formula to its success.

From the tactical standpoint, people oftentimes criticize OpenStack for the lack of certain features … unlike in vendor-centric projects … but I think OpenStack’s openness is its strength, which will become evident as the project matures. OpenStack is not an out of the box product, but rather a fabric aimed to ultimately glue together in an eloquent way a very diverse set of application infrastructure components.  If you want NetApp storage …you can potentially do it with OpenStack. If you want Nicira networking … OpenStack will work.  The whole idea behind the OpenStack design is a consistent set of APIs on the front end, where tenants can interface with.  Effectively anyone can write drivers to plug their particular hardware component in the backend and make it work with OpenStack.

Rafael: Are there any gaps or missing links in OpenStack?

Boris:  OpenStack is a new project, but I don’t think there are any clear gaps. Some functionalities are missing compared to Amazon or VMware solutions and the community needs to put them in place. But at Mirantis we always looked at OpenStack long term. OpenStack is the only project that is doing open cloud infrastructure right and that is the winning strategy long term. The features and functions will be there over time.

#3 Takeaway: Mirantis is the largest OpenStack systems integrator monetizing through service

Rafael: How is Mirantis positioned in the OpenStack ecosystem?   

Boris: We are the largest systems integrator in entire OpenStack ecosystem with over 70 consultants exclusively dedicated to delivering OpenStack solutions. Mirantis is monetizing OpenStack through service. We figured out that there’s definitely going to be a lot of need for doing OpenStack implementation, providing professional services around it. Besides, it’s a great path to get exposed to a lot of use cases and to learn on the way. We very consciously decided to deliver OpenStack services, helping organizations extract value from the trunk version of OpenStack rather than pushing out our own distro.

#4 Takeaway: There are two sorts of contributions to OpenStack: writing code and evangelizing the project, with the latter being even the more important one

Rafael: How does Mirantis contribute to OpenStack?

Boris: OpenStack contributions can be bucketed into two general categories, which is true for any company in the OpenStack ecosystem, not only for Mirantis. The first category is evangelism, which is about creating awareness momentum. When it comes to open source, this component is just as important if not more important than code contribute: that’s what defines the project and gets people excited to come in and contribute and push forward.

At Mirantis, we were one of the original organizers of the OpenStack meet up in the Bay Area, which is by far the largest user group that OpenStack has in the world with close to 1,800 members. We do similar meet ups in Russia and Ukraine where a lot of our back office and engineering is located. Many of our people at Mirantis including myself blog about OpenStack, we do webinars, we write articles, we participate in different speaking engagements. All these are our contributions to evangelize OpenStack.

The other category besides evangelizing, are code contributions. At Mirantis, we have contributed with a bunch of small and a couple of big code contributions. As for the small things, we have helped build many drivers for different components. We lobby our clients to open source these components, and we did so with drivers for Nexenta, NetApp and Dell Equallogic for example. In addition to that, we contributed with a bunch of bug fixes in OpenStack.

As far as big contributions are concerned, we have spearheaded the elastic load balancer initiative. OpenStack had a project called Atlas, which was an early attempted to build a load balancer in demand for that functionality. Many customers asked for it and we decided to a take it upon ourselves to revive Atlas in a new incarnation. Right now we have three developers and one manager fully dedicated to the elastic load balancer project. It’s most likely going into core in OpenStack Grizzly release … and we are still deciding if it’s going to be a separate standalone project or an extension of Quantum. But it’s a significant part of functionality that allows you to dynamically spin up instances of load balancers through an OpenStack API. You can actually use different load balancers … software load balancers like HAProxy or physical load balancers like F5 as the backend for it.

#5 Takeaway: Adoption of OpenStack happens in three waves: 1) Hardware vendors, 2) SaaS and infrastructure providers (current wave) and 3) Enterprise customers (2-3 years from now)

Rafael:  Who are the early adopters and do you see OpenStack going mainstream?

Boris: We see adoption happening in three distinct stages. One of the early work being spent on OpenStack was not among customers but vendors building up the ecosystem. Companies such as Cisco, Dell, HP and NetApp bought into the long term vision, they understood that this is a disruptive movement and they wanted to early on figure out a way to intelligently integrate their solutions into the OpenStack mix. Being a services company we naturally benefited from that. We’ve interfaced with all the big guys in the industry that have an OpenStack strategy in some shape and form.

The second wave which we are in the middle of today, involves adoption by SaaS vendors and service providers. These companies understood that they have to build the Amazon like cloud in order to compete in the emerging cloud ecosystem, and OpenStack is the de facto standard platform at this point. So we are seeing a lot of use cases to build a standard based application infrastructure that’s based on OpenStack, to replace some of the components that they have haphazardly developed in house over a period of many years as they grew. Because nobody was as smart as Amazon or Google in building the underlying application infrastructure for their SaaS service, a lot of them have spaghetti like diverse structure that is very hard and expensive to maintain. OpenStack provided an opportunity to replace all of that with something that is fairly standard based. We see a lot of projects like that.

Finally the third wave of adoption is the enterprise customers. The use case there is displacing VMware … basically building an Amazon like cloud inside the firewall for the enterprise customers. I think we are at a tip here … it doesn’t just have to do with OpenStack but with cloud adoption by enterprise in general. We’re just starting to see little bit of happening now. We have a number of customers in that space, building an Amazon like cloud infrastructure using OpenStack and displacing VMware with it. But we won’t really see any real mass option of cloud in general or OpenStack specifically by the enterprise sector until maybe 2 years away from now.

#6 Takeaway: Dell is facing challenges in its core business, but it might become a leader in the OpenStack infrastructure cloud market

Rafael: How do you view Dell in OpenStack game?

Boris: We work with Dell hand in hand on multiple projects. Dell is definitely a company that has a lot of opportunity to benefit from what’s happening with OpenStack. Like many other vendors such as Cisco for instance and probably HP in some sense, Dell is facing the problem that the core company business of Dell is effectively getting commoditized … largely by this new cloud mentality where everything is becoming commodity. The value added hardware is no longer is hot thing on the block … Google and Amazon just by cheap ODM hardware, and it’s the software that has all the logic in it.

Dell, naturally being in the hardware business, as well as CISCO, as well as HP and many others are facing effectively the same problem that their core business is soon turning to be very low margin on interest, which ultimately could be very devastating for all those vendors.

OpenStack is an opportunity for Dell to transform the company from being largely a hardware vendor to a cloud solution vendor, and I think for that exact reason Dell has been extremely proactive in taking some concrete and interesting steps to make that happen. Dell is in an extremely good position to become one of the leaders, if not THE leader in the OpenStack solutions industry that is emerging.

Rafael: Thank you so much, Boris. It was a pleasure to talk with you!

Resources

Mirantis

Company website: http://www.mirantis.com/

Company blog: http://www.mirantis.com/blog/

Github: https://github.com/Mirantis

Github (Atlas – load balancer): https://github.com/Mirantis/openstack-lbaas

Twitter (Boris Renski): https://twitter.com/zer0tweets

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Twitter: @RafaelKnuth
Email: rafael_knuth@dellteam.com