Red Hat, Rackspace defend OpenStack against analyst's barbs

Gartner analyst's look at reasons for slow OpenStack adoption in enterprises provokes responses across OpenStack community

After three years and change, OpenStack may still be one of the big choices for creating a private cloud, but the enthusiasm of its creators and vendors hasn't been matched by its uptake in the enterprise.

In a blog post entitled "Why vendors can't sell OpenStack to enterprises," Gartner research director Alessandro Perilli proffers some ideas about why that may be the case.

Perilli describes how he came away from the recent Hong Kong OpenStack summit with the sense that "for the largest part, vendors don't know how to articulate the OpenStack story to win enterprises. They simply don't know how to sell it."

To him, four big reasons stand out as to why OpenStack isn't making bigger inroads into the enterprise:

  1. A lack of clarity about what OpenStack is (and isn't)
  2. Not enough transparency about the business models for OpenStack
  3. Lack of vision and long-term differentiation
  4. Lack of pragmatism

Perilli's criticisms of the first issue are quite pointed. "No one in [the three years since OpenStack first appears] stood up to clarify what OpenStack can and cannot do for an enterprise," he wrote. "To the contrary, all vendor marketing seen in last three years seems focused on building a very vague association between OpenStack and the general concept of 'cloud'.

"Nobody acknowledges that OpenStack can solve a specific set of problems related to building a cloud, but not all of them.... Enterprises don't do business with vendors that cannot articulate clearly their value proposition describing what problem they solve and why they solve it better than others."

Perilli further points out how two widely touted features of the various OpenStack distributions -- the number of code contributors and the ease of installation -- aren't by themselves selling points. "Enterprises don't buy a long-term vision articulated around how great the software setup is and how many code commits you are responsible for." Management, for instance, is at least as important as installation, if not more so.

Derrick Harris of GigaOm also felt the piece was appropriately pithy and further suggested that OpenStack vendors look to Hadoop and its market for ideas about how to thrive.

OpenStack vendors and deployers, though, felt differently.

In an email, Scott Sanchez, director at Rackspace, stated that "innovative enterprises" adopt OpenStack "because they've learned that they can move faster when they build their 'enterprise features' at the application layer instead of requiring them to be at the infrastructure layer. Rackspace Private Cloud runs the infrastructure for our customers, eliminating the learning curve and operational risk when adopting an OpenStack­powered private cloud."

Bryan Che of Red Hat -- as major an OpenStack vendor as there could be -- has responded on his own blog to Perilli's points. He notes that "open source projects are not the same as products" and goes on to tout how Red Hat's OpenStack implementation is meant to be an answer to that issue.

Mark Collier, COO of the OpenStack Foundation, also weighed in via email: "Confusion in the market on exactly how best to embrace cloud computing is a symptom of the early stages of a massive transition, but in just three years, OpenStack adoption has grown even faster than we expected. At our recent events, dozens of companies have talked about their deployments, including Comcast, Bloomberg, Paypal, Shutterstock, Workday, and others." (PayPal was one of the companies Perilli cited as the subject of a "way too famous" case study for OpenStack adoption.)

Perilli has planned a research paper in which he will describe the technical reasons why OpenStack enterprise adoption is still slow, but some possible reasons were hinted at pretty broadly in his blog post. Clouds aren't easy to build or maintain, and building a private cloud with OpenStack is still terribly complex. As InfoWorld's David Linthicum pointed out previously, OpenStack needs to do a lot more work before it can make a dent in market share as well as mind share.

This story, "Red Hat, Rackspace defend OpenStack against analyst's barbs," was originally published at Get the first word on what the important tech news really means with the InfoWorld Tech Watch blog. For the latest developments in business technology news, follow on Twitter.


Copyright © 2013 IDG Communications, Inc.