OpenStack travels far and fast


Two prominent announcements of support for OpenStack this week reflect the technology’s growing importance. Oracle has become a sponsor of the OpenStack Foundation, and Dell has expanded its relationship with Red Hat to become the first OEM of the Red Hat Enterprise Linux OpenStack Platform with a co-engineered implementation build on Dell infrastructure.

There have been grumblings the last few weeks over the limited number of current successful OpenStack implementations within mainstream enterprises, lack of maturity for the platform, and inevitable conflicts between long-term portability and vendor added-value and lock-in motivation that come with any open source solution.

But more significant than OpenStack’s limitations to date is the speed with which the standard has gained industry support and even enterprise mindshare. It is easy to forget that OpenStack was founded by Rackspace Hosting and NASA just three years ago (2010) and the OpenStack Foundation became a separate, nonprofit entity just last year (2012). Compared to the usual decade or so it took to popularize other major standards—including Unix, Ethernet, Linux and Hadoop—OpenStack is a notable market phenomenon.

David Linthicum, Gigaom Research’s curator for cloud computing, has weighed in on the Oracle announcement. He anticipates that Oracle will be spirited in its belated support for the standard, but questions how enthusiastic a market response Oracle will receive, given its late entry. Michael Endler at has a good take on OpenStack within Dell’s larger cloud strategy.

Major players such as HP and IBM were quicker to embrace OpenStack; and it is a critical element of their market strategy, not just a “we’ve got it” check-off item. VMware continues to have an interesting relationship with OpenStack.

Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) has proven to be a cost-effective solution, and with hybrid clouds, as opposed to public- or private-cloud only or separate solutions, becoming the norm at large enterprises, it is understandable that enterprises and their implementation partners will seek commonality of technology between the environments.

As cloud infrastructure market leaders, Amazon and Microsoft will not stand still. OpenStack will be just one of several options in the market. The technology is not yet nearly mature for mainstream enterprise implementations; and it is a boon, at least in the short- and mid-term, for consultants and integrators. There will also always be tensions between open source standards and vendor customization and value-added differentiation.

But enterprises are rightfully wary of lock-in with their cloud implementations. They’ve learned to appreciate the influence and role of open source, despite its limitations, in the market. Although OpenStack has not yet arrived, both vendors and IT buyers are right to note the speed and velocity of its approach.

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