OpenStack is the future of cloud for Red Hat and SUSE


It is no secret that many users still shudder at the thought of using open source systems. The problem, for them, is that open source carries with it the connotation of being unfinished. It is true that this is part of the spirit of the open source movement. After all, to developers, one of the most exciting aspects of open source is the fact that it is always “on the move”. Open source doesn’t always wait for advances to arrive from elsewhere before it integrates them. Instead the community that supports it ready to involve new ideas, coding and techniques in the first instance. While many may see open source as an unfinished maze there are many more that see the possibilities and adventure that open source represents.

OpenStack is to cloud systems what Linux is to operating systems. Where Linux eventually matured into the essential operating environment for large enterprises, no matter what their field, OpenStack is the cloud equivalent. Now it seems both SUSE and Red Hat, the major players when for distributing open source software, recognise that the platform has reached another level of maturity.

OpenStack is seen as being the perfect fit for companies seeking a tailored option.

OpenStack Senior Product Marketing Manager for SUSE, Mark Smith, recently commented on cloud computing options: “It is like a car. You can buy a kit car and build it yourself. Or you can go to the local dealer and buy one and drive away with it. Alternatively, you can use a taxi service.”

The “taxi service” he mentions is a reference to Rackspace but all options, whether it is a tailored solution like OpenStack, or an “off-the-shelf” option like Rackspace, needs to build confidence in the consumer by reaching product maturity. SUSE have recently shown that they feel OpenStack has reached this maturity by switching their upgrades from a six-monthly cycle to an annual cycle.

Additionally SUSE has introduced non-disruptive upgrade facilities. This means that forthcoming upgrades should not have a negative effect on existing functions and there shouldn’t be any down-time while the upgrades are in progress.

Mark Smith at SUSE believes that OpenStack’s maturity makes it an ideal choice for enterprise users looking for the most stable tailored environment available. He went on to suggest that OpenStack developers recognise the market need for OpenStack to address three main options that enterprise users really want:

  • Net-new Cloud Apps
  • Hosting established legacy applications
  • An environment that can adapt critical business applications for use in the cloud

In an effort to meet requests from enterprise users SUSE’s offering now includes tools that run IBM mainframe applications. While Mark Smith sees OpenStack as having reached maturity he has said that: “The problem now being faced by users is that, if they have applications running on hardware, at some point they have to change the hardware, and if they are running on OpenStack they don’t have to worry about that, it is abstracted away. That would have been called the inflection point, but they don’t have to worry about it because it is running in the cloud and everything is abstracted to software defined infrastructure running below it.”

While Mark Smith and SUSE are upbeat about OpenStack prospects Smith is wary of the licensing issues that will affect many companies that have long-standing business-critical applications running on technology provided by tech companies such as Oracle, SAP etc.

Smith said: “There are challenges. Every company is moving towards a multi-cloud environment, with public cloud and private clouds, and the question is how you combine those two into something more hybrid. But the question for many customers now is – how do you migrate? One way is to use bare metal solutions. The most economical way of doing it is to maximise the use of a private cloud and use the public cloud as and when you have to.

“But the users now have the choice, and it is becoming a business and process argument, not a technology one. That being said, users have to look at their processes, for they will change. If they don’t look they won’t get the efficiency advantages from the cloud. If they still have to have a paper trail to spin up a server there will probably be no advantage for them.”

Red Hat’s OpenStack General Manager, Radhesh Balakrishnan, sees a different angle and suggests that it is 2nd tier users that will have more need for OpenStack. This is essentially managers hired by companies to use OpenStack on their behalf and is a section of the market that Red Hat has had in its sights for a while.This insight from Red Hat led the OpenStack Foundation to announce greater support for Managed Services Providers in May.

Radhesh Balakrishnan said: “Rackspace is a classic MSP player and recently was awarded the Red Hat Innovator of the Year award for all the work it has done in this area. We now have also got the MetaCloud division of Cisco and IBM Bluemix offering RH OpenStack into the MSP marketplace. I view this as just another consumption model and we are looking to grow it to a network of around 10 well known regional Systems Integrators that know their customers – and their customers’ customers – needs very well.

We have been working with the MSP community for over a year to ensure that there is a flavour of OpenStack that fits their needs in providing the managed services.”

There is further evidence that Red Hat is increasingly seeing OpenStack as the answer to the legacy application issue but Balakrishnan indicated that large enterprises are still somewhat wary. However Santander Bank is a large enterprise customer that has begun investigating the possibilities using Red Hat’s discovery workshop program.

“Cisco is also looking to move workloads from VMware to OpenStack. But it is not a case of hit the button and they will all move over. It still has to be very carefully crafted.”

The way Balakrishnan sees it is that they need to put it to enterprises that the move to OpenStack will be the last time – for a while – that they will have to make such an outlay.