Clouds in the Open: The Operations Evolution of Open Source & Public Clouds

Apr 26 2013   6:25PM GMT

Impressions From the OpenStack Summit

Aaron Delp Aaron Delp Profile: Aaron Delp

Yes, I know this is a little late, it’s been a long week…

openstack-summit-portland-logoLast week I was able to attend the OpenStack Summit in Portland. At first I raised a lot of eye brows at the conference (disclosure: My day job is working for Citrix in the Cloud Platform Product team and today we both compete (Citrix CloudPlatform) and embrace (Xen Hypervisor) OpenStack as a project)  I went into the week with a fresh pair of eyes and here are some impressions from sessions and conversations in the halls and at the various events.

Overall Impression: I was impressed.  OpenStack as a project appears to have reached critical mass and congratulations to them on the accomplishment!  The amount of attendees was impressive but the breakdown of actual attendees was a little disappointing (more on the later).  The sessions were a mixed bag, some were incredible, some… not so much.  The OpenStack Foundation has done a great job of moving the project forward and gathering momentum.  As always, the best part of these types of events is the conversations in the hall and this show was no different.

User Case Studies Were a Focus: All of the major vendors of OpenStack distributions/releases had customer case studies to bring forward.  Go check out the videos from the keynotes as well as the press releases and you will see the conference had a larger than normal number of customer references to show off.  My favorite customer keynote was the NSA session by Nathanael Burton.  If you peel back the onion the customer stories were a little telling as well.  Most were on older versions of OpenStack (upgrades are still an issue) and typical cloud scale use cases (NBC Comcast being a cool exception with the set top box demonstration).  All in all, the project has made very good progress in the last year and it appears OpenStack is running in production.

Vendors Still Dominate: I think they took it down now but there was a roster on the OpenStack Summit site with the number of attendees and which company they worked for.  I looked but I can’t find it anymore.  Because of that, I have no numbers to offer as proof but vendors dominated the show and the sessions were often vendors presenting to vendors.  I would have rather seen more sessions that were vendor neutral and more based on the OpenStack Foundation core products.

IMG_0500The Design Summit Needs To Be Broken Off: It was very apparent that critical mass has been reached and the need to break off the users from the developers has come.  The design folks wanted nothing to do with the user sessions and made it very clear with signs sending the message that unless you were a developer, you needed to stay out. Looking at the schedule there were a few sessions I would have loved to sit in and be a fly on the wall but I didn’t dare cross that line.

Upgrades are Still an Issue: You can tell the project is making progress when people are worried less about getting the product running and more about how to go form one version to another.  From an operations stand point this was one of my main interests this week.  With new versions coming every 6 months, most enterprises and providers will fall behind quickly if they can’t easily upgrade from one version to the next or more likely skip a few versions and then jump back into the newest version.  This was a common topic of discussion in the halls.

Performance/Scalability/Security Testing Needs to be an Issue: As any product matures from an operations standpoint we move from the basic binary decision does it work or not. Think of this as a red light/green light moment.  You are either working or you aren’t.  Grizzly is a huge improvement in this area but the focus of most sessions was still does it work or not.  As the product matures it will move into more common operations areas of figuring out how to extend the product more.  How do you secure the product? How far does each component scale?  Where are the bottlenecks in the architecture today?  These are all questions I’m more interested in and I would love to see some progress on this in the next 12 months.

Good Members / Bad Members (The community is watching): I won’t give out names to protect the innocent but the community is watching very closely which vendors are being good and bad citizens in the community.  This was a common topic over beers in the evenings.  Some vendors are not contributing code back to the project; others are not offering interoperability in their offerings, etc.  It is to be expected as each company tries to maintain an upper hand but it also appears the OpenStack Foundation will be cracking down on this in the near future. If they don’t, the community and codebase will fracture and it will be game over.

I look forward to watching the community, foundation, and product continue to grow and evolve over time.

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