User survey: Ubuntu is the top OpenStack OS

The stats also reveal that OpenStack deployments are mainly modest affairs

A survey of OpenStack users, done by members of the OpenStack Foundation has found that Ubuntu is by far the most widely used operating system with OpenStack, not Red Hat Enterprise Linux or CentOS (which is in second place).

But the most eye-opening statistics don't involve which distribution is being used. It's who's using it and why -- and what those numbers say about the people who've adopted OpenStack.

OpenStack collected 1,780 survey responses, representing 506 deployments of OpenStack across 512 companies. The organizations deploying OpenStack represented a wide mix of sizes, from fewer than 20 employees all the way up to 10,000 and more. That said, a good 30 percent of the outfits had 20 or fewer employees, with 17 percent having 21 to 100 employees. In short, nearly half the OpenStack deployments profiled were at relatively small companies rather than sprawling enterprises.

The broad mix of industries the companies represented, from telecommunications to media, academia, and retail, was intriguing as well. No single sector dominated; the slice of the pie that described itself as "information technology" was only 17.4 percent of the total.

One industry, telecom, constituted only 1.8 percent of the total. OpenStack vendors -- Ubuntu in particular -- have described how providing a "carrier-grade" OpenStack is a major point of pride for them, but this is because telecom serves as a proving ground for OpenStack's strengths, not because carriers and telecoms make up a big part of the current user base. That said, the telecoms that do use OpenStack generally are high-profile, potentially influential customers, such as Deutsche Telekom.

When OpenStack was used in production, the majority of the deployments were divided between the last four to five versions of OpenStack: Essex (2012.1), Folsom (2012.2), Grizzly, and Havana. Icehouse, the most recent release from earlier this year, barely figured into the running at all -- a reflection of how upgrades between versions of OpenStack are daunting enough that many deployments simply pick an iteration and stick with it.

When companies were asked what drove their respective businesses to OpenStack, their most frequent answers were cost savings and the ability to use open technology to avoid vendor lock-in and to allow better innovation or competition. These responses seem to have a high degree of crossover and interrelation. For example, a company looking to save money most likely would opt for an open technology to avoid lock-ins.

The last major finding is that the majority of the production deployments had relatively modest scope and scale, given that they occupied the lower ends of the ranges surveyed. Most deployments had one to 100 instances, one to 100 cores, one to 50 compute nodes, block storage sizes of about 10 to 100 terabytes, and only about one to 10,000 objects. A huge majority also used KVM as the hypervisor of choice, hinting at how one possible use of OpenStack is as a low-cost substitute for some of VMware's technologies.

An October 2013 survey from the OpenStack Foundation showed many of the same usage patterns regarding operating system and company size. Six months isn't much time to establish whether how OpenStack is being used now will establish a pattern for its future use, but it does indicate that even minor shifts in how it's used will happen slowly.

[An earlier version of this story stated that the survey covered 512 countries. The survey covered 512 companies, not countries.]

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