IBM, all-in on OpenStack since 2013, is now preparing to offer a portfolio of services to ease the use of OpenStack. It's a significant part of the hybrid cloud strategy IBM has been building piece by piece, although it brings us back to the old question: Will OpenStack always need third parties to make it truly useful to enterprises that don't want to grow their own expertise?
OpenStack on SoftLayer -- that's the best way to describe the new offering, based on IBM's press release: "Developers and clients will be able to launch applications on local, on-premises installations and now on public clouds hosted on the SoftLayer infrastructure."
Said services are published through IBM's Bluemix PaaS, and while the details remain vague on what goes into those services, odds are they'll revolve around the configuration and automation of OpenStack instances, whatever environment they're running on.
IBM's hybrid cloud work has been oriented around publishing services, both IBM's and the customer's, across public and private cloud environments. Microsoft, on the other hand, is not only talking about services but providing the proprietary custom-built infrastructure used in Azure as a common fabric for hybrid clouds -- and emphasizing the ease with which a hybrid cloud can be assembled.
OpenStack has remained complicated, forcing its users to take one of two approaches: Pick up a commercial distro like Mirantis', or develop native in-house expertise to make the most of it. But not all the commercial support for OpenStack has found a market. Nebula, a company founded by one of OpenStack's original creators, marketed OpenStack as a hardware appliance, but misunderstood the market it was addressing and folded. After all, wasn't the point of OpenStack to run on commodity hardware, not on a custom-built appliance?
IBM has done a good deal of work around making OpenStack easier to consume, but only indirectly and mainly as a service rather than a stand-alone product. Previously, it worked with Mirantis to host on-demand OpenStack instances on bare metal in SoftLayer's infrastructure.
That offering removed most of the truly overbearing complexity from setting up OpenStack instances, but it left open the question of whether one could get the most out of OpenStack without running a hosted instance and thus becoming dependent on the host's automation. The same question arises here, and it'll be hard to tell if IBM has a good answer until its Bluemix-based OpenStack services are fully open for business.