A reality check for OpenStack

Lew Moorman, president of Rackspace, is bullish on OpenStack's future, but can any early-stage project survive so much excitement?

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Knorr: What if, rather than things going in a Linux direction, they go in an Android direction where everything gets customized so much by individual vendors offering products based on OpenStack that you lose that common denominator? Don't you see that as a risk?

Moorman: Could that happen? I think it could. But I think what most folks are actually working on is ease of setup, ease of management, and integrating some of the components where you have to make choices so it's all simple and out of the box. Making storage choices for you, making networking choices for you, and helping you deploy it with the click of a button.

But the APIs are exposed, the features are there, they're using the core technologies -- I think that is what's essential. Will every single OpenStack cloud be identical? No, they won't be. But I think there will be a huge level of interoperability possible and more than there could be across totally different stacks.

Knorr: One thing I've heard floating around out there is that OpenStack is really for service providers, such as HP Cloud, rather than for enterprises. Do you agree, or do you feel OpenStack is aimed at enterprises equally?

Moorman: I think it's going to be used very widely in enterprises. I think what we have now is wide proof-of-concept happening. OpenStack has been in its nascent phase and is about to move into its delivery phase, and I think you're about to see products and services that make things easier for enterprises. And I think enterprises are extremely interested.

Knorr: It seems like there's an issue at this point in time of managing expectations. Some of the people we've talked to that have experimented with it have said that it's not fully productized.

Moorman: You're right. I think the common reaction is "not quite ready for us." I think this is where you're going to see a lot of progress over the next few quarters. We can see it's going to get better and accelerate. I think that's what has people very excited.

Knorr: So for that to happen, they have to be willing to get the vision and ignore the details over the short term?

Moorman: Look, the truth of the matter is that in any enterprise they're still figuring out their cloud strategy. It is in the very early days. Right now, anyone who is doing cloud internally is doing it in small, isolated places. People want to make choices for the long term. They see the critical mass around OpenStack, and that makes it a much easier choice.

Knorr: So to extend the Linux analogy, it's highly unlikely that someone would just download the OpenStack bits and try to get it up and running in their own, right? Is that like going to SourceForge and downloading the Linux kernel?

Moorman: Well, the full OpenStack code is available. There are Chef recipes, and there are other tools that have been built that help you pull things together much more easily. There are definitely companies that are going to make that easier. But there are also going to be free options that make the open source version run pretty easily and pretty well.

Knorr: Last question. Why did you decide to set up a separate OpenStack foundation rather than handing it off to, say, Apache?

Moorman: We've been effectively running OpenStack like a foundation for two years. It's been a technical meritocracy from the beginning. We felt it would be too disruptive to change everything, since we've been doing it on our own, and the process has been working well for two years. OpenStack is one of the fastest-growing open source projects in history.

This article, "A reality check for OpenStack," originally appeared at InfoWorld.com. Read more of Eric Knorr's Modernizing IT blog, and for the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld on Twitter.

Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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