Cloud

OpenStack: How 'Open' Is the Future of Cloud IT?

Companies that want to set up a private or hybrid cloud need look no further than OpenStack. And yet three years ago, the cloud operating system was little more than the hobby of a few researchers. OpenStack cofounder Cole Crawford discusses what the future holds at CeBIT.

08 Jan. 2016

In today’s world, cloud computing is essential: Even companies that have little to do with IT now recognize this fact. But the question of which cloud solution to deploy is rather more difficult to answer. For companies that rely on a private cloud or a hybrid solution, the OpenStack ‘operating system’ currently sets the benchmark. Rather than a monolithic application, it is an entire range of solutions – all of which are open source and free to access. When putting the solution into live operation, you can either opt for the freely available version, or enhanced environments from various providers that offer more functions and support. This wide range of possibilities is probably the reason behind the solution portfolio’s phenomenal success.

Just a few years ago, OpenStack was still more or less unknown. The solution package – the product of a joint project between NASA and hosting provider Rackspace – was initially developed by a small team of specialists. It comprised various components for the administration and automation of cloud computing applications. But in the last four years, OpenStack has evolved into the leading tool for private cloud solutions.

Open software, open hardware

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There are a number of diverse reasons for this. The open source code means that its various applications are free and vendor-independent. Furthermore, OpenStack supports any hardware, and delivers complete control of cloud infrastructure in your own data center. In summary, OpenStack gives administrators all the tools they need to operate a cloud computing environment – and that is what makes it an attractive solution package for businesses. This is why the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) and the Wikimedia Foundation, operators of Wikipedia, have based their cloud infrastructure on OpenStack components.

Facebook also uses open cloud infrastructures to build scalable data centers and formed the Open Compute Project to drive development. The aim is to establish the technical platform on which OpenStack architecture will run in the future.

But OpenStock and Open Compute are not the right choice for every business. In fact, there is currently an exciting debate surrounding the pros and cons of open cloud infrastructures. One of the leading advocates is Cole Crawford, cofounder of OpenStack. In a keynote speech at CeBIT 2016 , he will aim to explain the reasons why the future of cloud computing should not be based on proprietary interfaces.

The Drawbacks to Complexity

Critics argue that OpenStack has now become extremely complex. “Unless you already have extensive cloud knowledge, it is difficult to understand the hugely popular and enormous collection of software,” says Martin Gerhard Loschwitz , cloud architect at hosting provider SysEleven. In addition, the individual OpenStack components are at different stages of maturity. Businesses would therefore need to frequently substitute certain components for other, sometimes commercial, solutions. And in a study by Crisp Research , 32 percent of respondents said they there were not enough skilled service providers and integrators.

So is the future of data centers and business IT open or closed? As the arguments for and against get stronger, clear statements are needed. For this reason, CeBIT 2016 has devoted an entire stage to the topic of open source: the StackingIT stage, part of the DataCenterDynamics CONVERGED conference in Hall 12.

Get involved in the debate.

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