OpenStack reached its fifth anniversary in the summer of 2015, during a year in which the open source project backing its development - the OpenStack Foundation - also added Google to its ranks. The latter event in particular was important since it marked the first time that one of the "big three" public infrastructure-as-a-service vendors - Amazon Web Services, Microsoft and Google - has in some capacity backed OpenStack, a project long portrayed as a direct competitor to their super convenient public cloud offerings.
The truth is that OpenStack versus AWS/Azure/Google Cloud Platform debate was always a bit on the apples versus oranges side. Public cloud is all that many startups and hyperscale organizations have ever known, so going the private or hybrid cloud route with OpenStack (or with an alternative such as VMware vCloud) often does not make sense. However, many IT organizations with legacy applications still in place cannot afford to just ignore their older infrastructure.
For these companies, hybrid or private cloud IaaS may be a much more sensible solution, as well as a potential on-ramp to the deeper incorporation of something like AWS down the road. In these cases, OpenStack is often a good foundation since it can be implemented on economical white box hardware and further supported by a DevOps automation platform such as QualiSystems CloudShell. CloudShell uses its comprehensive resource management tools, automation authoring and reservation systems to turn just about any collection of infrastructure into an IaaS private cloud.
OpenStack for the private cloud: How it stacks up to the alternatives
Growing acceptance of OpenStack as a private cloud option, even among would-be competitors, has been a noticeable trend for the last year or so. For example, VMware unveiled VMware Integrated OpenStack at VMworld 2014, as a way to give VMware admins a simple way to manage OpenStack while giving developers freedom from vendor lock-in. Still, other OpenStack distributions are very much competitors to the VMware ecosystem.
Google's support for OpenStack, like VMware's, seems to be mostly an effort to support another project by contributing to the OpenStack community. In Google's case, the goal may be to improve OpenStack's support for Kubernetes containers. Kubernetes integration has already been the subject of collaboration between Google and pure-play OpenStack vendor Mirantis, and Google's more recent participation in the OpenStack Foundation seems potentially aimed at further shoring up Kubernetes' place in hybrid cloud deployments.
"OpenStack continues to evolve thanks to an expanding community and its increasingly sophisticated APIs."
As a component of hybrid clouds, OpenStack is fairly popular, serving as a set of orchestration and provisioning modules that sits on top of the hypervisor. Its low upfront cost has also made it an appealing alternative to VMware's various licensing fees for setting up the private cloud side of hybrid infrastructure, despite the significant head start that VMware gained as the first major commercial virtualization ecosystem.
Deeper support within OpenStack for containers such as the Kubernetes variety could be viewed as yet another challenge to the primacy of virtual machines for supporting the emerging generation of cloud applications. Containers typically have lower overhead than VMs, even if they may have some ground to make up on the security front. Overall, OpenStack is not as mature as VMware when it comes to private cloud technologies, but it continues to evolve thanks to an expanding community and its increasingly sophisticated APIs.
"OpenStack is just three years old and still evolving," observed Jim O'Reilly for TechTarget. "The core is stable, but it hasn't matured enough to match VMware's quality standards. Many newer OpenStack features are still in early development, but it's here that the modular OpenStack approach shines. OpenStack is more like a cloud 'Lego,' meaning new pieces and modules will be added over time - likely even 30 years from now."
At the same time, OpenStack seem to have the lead, in terms of community and features, on some specific VMware products such as vCloud that have been perceived as complicated latecomers to the cloud game. Overall, OpenStack looks to be in a good position for the future and is likely to be at the center of many private and hybrid cloud deployments in the years ahead.
More specifically, its combination of its open source design and support from incumbent vendors should sustain its popularity, while increasing the value of IT infrastructure automation solutions, such as CloudShell, that can help bring together the supporting legacy, physical, virtual and cloud assets. The global OpenStack market is expected to see a compound annual growth rate of more than 31 percent between 2015 and 2019, according to a 2015 Technavio report.
The takeaway: OpenStack has gained some important supporters in the last few years, including VMware and Google. As hybrid and private clouds become increasingly essential for IT organizations looking to support old applications while also rolling out new ones, OpenStack should be a go-to option for creating secure, automated and cost-effective IaaS clouds.