Learn firsthand about OpenStack, its challenges and opportunities, market adoption and Rackspace’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: The world wants an open cloud

Rafael: What are the key accomplishments of OpenStack so far?

Jim: First, the transition to the foundation. Setting up a foundation is a big move, and technically it removes OpenStack from Rackspace to the community, which attracts a large number of companies to the project. I think we should be proud of how the community comes together to work very well.

Second, two years ago OpenStack was more of a promise than a reality. We had a production grade object storage environment, but Nova, the compute project was at best a couple thousands lines of code. Here we are now 600,000 lines codes later with hundreds of contributors from nearly a hundred countries. It’s amazing to see the progress we made in maturing the product. At Rackspace, we’re using that code to power the world’s second largest public cloud … and there are a lot of diverse use cases such as MercadoLibre, eBay and PayPal to name a few.

Third, the world has decided that open matters in cloud. People are rejecting a closed cloud model, and that’s why we’ve seen so much traction on OpenStack.

#2 Takeaway: The OpenStack community needs to focus more on usability of OpenStack

Rafael: What needs to be worked on in OpenStack, Jim?

Jim: The first two years were a race for features. The project was dominated by developers and not as much by users … and that’s ok, that’s where we are with OpenStack are right now.  The tradeoff is that you get code that is not necessarily that stable, the product is not necessarily as usable and certainly one that requires you to be an expert. I believe slowing down the process of innovation and focussing more on stability and usability is a really critical goal at this point: making sure that the way upgrades are going to occur from one release to another is fully thought-out, enabling chargeback functionalities … these are things the community just starts to work on.

In terms of features … we now have block storage capabilities built into the latest release as a separate project. It’s hard to imagine building an enterprise-grade OpenStack deployment without these capabilities. Then, virtual networking capabilities are a huge step forward … especially for us as a service provider where you scale massively it’s extremely important.  I think most of the major components that are needed are built into OpenStack by now.

But we need to find an answer to the question: What is the definition of OpenStack? It’s a brand that encompasses a broad range of subprojects ... what should be included in core? How should we think about incubation?  All these things are very important … not only in terms of what we are going to build with OpenStack. The community needs to understand what the scope of OpenStack is, so that they frankly can have the opportunity make money around it.

#3 Takeaway:  A broad ecosystem of OpenStack distribution tightly connected to Linux distros accelerates market adoption

Rafael: There are a lot of distributions popping up around OpenStack … what trends do you see in this area?

Jim: Some people call what Rackspace does a distro …  I would say it’s rather a packaging. We are trying to make OpenStack trunk easily consumable by a non-OpenStack epxert, by making cloud up and running very quickly. People can use it however they want without being tied to a license or support. At Rackspace we make money by providing services on top of that, and some companies are following a similar model.

Some folks are following the traditional Linux distro model by putting OpenStack distros together with Linux distros, which is a well known and established process. Almost every major Linux distro includes OpenStack at this point, which is great in terms of a broad market adoption.

Also, some companies are taking OpenStack and doing proprietary work around it to solve specific use cases or to provide differentiation.

At Rackspace, we firmly believe that one of the promises of OpenStack was to make it easy to consume. It’s an approach very similar to the way you consume Linux. You don’t consume the Linux project, you do so through one of its many distributions. I think with regards to OpenStack, we want people to get as close to consuming trunk as possible, thereby making OpenStack truly open and free.

#4 Takeaway: 25 % of all Fortune 100 companies in the US have downloaded Rackspace’s OpenStack Private Cloud software within the first 45 days after the release

Rafael: Let’s talk about market adoption, Jim. Do you see signs of OpenStack going mainstream?

Jim: Honestly …  we are still a bit away from mainstream, I think that also holds true for cloud in general. At Rackspace, we have two OpenStack products which I can speak of … public and private cloud. Public cloud is still a small share of IT spent and I think that the large enterprises, the traditional IT buyers are just starting to get their hands around and how to consume public cloud and how build on it. Previously it was mostly developers and startups, but it’s certainly going mainstream.

Private cloud is even a little bit further behind in terms of being adopted by companies. But at this point, what has happened is that mainstream CIOs decided that the architecture of the future is cloud. Forget whether it’s in a public cloud or in their datacenter … the concept of consuming physical resources via APIs and building those APIs into applications is the way people are thinking about IT in future. That’s now worked into almost every CIO’s plans.

Rafael: Who are the current early adopters of OpenStack?

Jim: -The most obvious early adopters in the industry are financial services, large enterprises that do experiment with those emerging technologies.

Besides that, at Rackspace we have a good mix of other businesses eager to try OpenStack because of its promise in terms of service model, cost and speed to market.

We just recently released our private cloud software to the market. Over the first 45 days since the release 25% of the Fortune 100 companies in US downloaded it. Over all, we had downloads from 125 countries from all continents. We see a very broad interest in OpenStack.

#5 Takeaway: China is leapfrogging into OpenStack (just as they did with cell phones by skipping landlines)

Rafael: What regions are adopting OpenStack? China seems to be very keen on OpenStack …?

Jim: For certain the biggest market right now is the United States, second biggest market is China … both in terms of contributions as well as commercial interest. Third would be other South and East Asian countries such as India and Japan. Europe is certainly a little bit less … but certainly I would say US, China and broader Asia are showing the most interest in OpenStack at this point.

Rafael: What’s the reason for China’s massive involvement in OpenStack?

Jim: I started working in China with Rackspace about 5 years ago. They didn’t know anything about hosting and the managed services space at all at that time. They didn’t know much about cloud, and the evolution of knowledge has been substantial over that period of time.

When you take a look for example at telecommunications in countries like China: they basically skipped landlines and went straight to cell phones. In part that is happening in the cloud. China didn’t have a large IT infrastructure five or ten years ago, and many enterprises are jumping right into the cloud.

Certainly in a market like China where cost is a concern, where access to technology is a concern, OpenStack is of interest with code for all to have. Actually a significant number of companies that are significantly contributing to OpenStack as well as early adopters and deployers are based in China.

#6 Takeaway: Dell’s great advantage is the broad customer base and the trust these customers put into Dell

Rafael: Jim, how do you view Dell in the OpenStack game?

Jim: Dell is one of the first companies I called when we started OpenStack. We invited Dell to take a look at what we were doing in spring of 2010, even before we announced it. Dell participated in the first OpenStack Design summit, which at that time wasn’t open to everybody … we invited jointly with NASA 25 companies to brainstorm about the project.

Dell from the very beginning brought in a very impressive group of people to work with us on OpenStack. Dell has abroad reach, they know enterprise customers very well, and they engaged with customers very early, helping them to understand and adopt OpenStack. They contributed around OpenStack with Dell Crowbar, and they are very good community participants.

Dell sells to a lot of companies, which trust Dell on how to design and build IT infrastructure for the future. Dell is using that opportunity to bet on OpenStack, and it makes me really happy to see that happen.

Rafael: Thank you very much, Jim. It was a pleasure talking to you!


Rackspace: http://www.rackspace.com/cloud/openstack/


Twitter: @RafaelKnuth
Email: rafael_knuth@dellteam.com