OpenStack Boston Day 1 Notes

Contrary to pundit expectations, OpenStack did not roll over and die during the keynotes yesterday.


In my 2011 Boston Summit shirt.

In fact, I saw the signs of a maturing project seeing real use and adoption. More critically, OpenStack leadership started the event with an acknowledgement of being part of, not owning, the vibrant open infrastructure community.

Continued Growth in Core Areas

Practical reasons for running dedicated infrastructure (compliance, control and cost) make OpenStack relevant for companies and governments with significant budgets. There is also a healthy shared infrastructure (aka public cloud) market living in the shadow of the big 3 players. It’s still unclear how this ecosystem will make money for the vendors.

What do customers buy? Should the Core be free?

My personal experience is that most customers are reluctant to (but grudgingly do) buy distros for the core open technology. They are much more willing to pay for adjacencies like security, storage and networking.

Emerging Challenges from Adjacent Technologies

Containers and Kubernetes are making a significant impact on the OpenStack community. At points, the OpenStack keynote was more about Kubernetes than OpenStack. It’s also clear that customers want to use containers as an abstraction layer to make infrastructure less visible or locked-in. That opens the market for using servers directly (bare metal) or other clouds. That portability is likely to help OpenStack more than hurt it because customers can exit workloads from the Big 3 players.

Friction for adoption remains a critical hurdle.

Containers, which are cloud first platforms, have much less friction than IaaS platforms. IaaS platforms, even managed ones, require physical infrastructure with the matching complexity and investment.

OpenStack: an open infrastructure software community

Overall, the summit remains an amazing community space for open infrastructure software and cloud alternatives to the Big 3 players. The Foundation’s pivot to embrace Kubernetes and foster several other open technologies helps maintain the central enthusiasm for open source infrastructure that gave birth to the platform in the first place.

A healthy pragmatic vibe

The summit may not have the same heady taking-on-the-world feeling as the early days; instead, it has a healthy pragmatic vibe. Considering how frothy this space remains, that may be a welcome relief.

What are your impressions? I’m looking forward to hearing from you!

Cloud Gravity & Shards

This post is the final post laying out a rethinking of how we view user and buyer motivations for public and private clouds.

In part 1, I laid out the “magic cube” that showed a more discrete technological breakdown of cloud deployments (see that for the MSH, MDH, MDO, UDO key).  In part 2, I piled higher and deeper business vectors onto the cube showing that the cost value of the vertices was not linear.  The costs were so unequal that they pulled our nice isometric cube into a cone.

The Cloud Gravity Well

To help make sense of cloud gravity, I’m adding a qualitative measure of friction.

Friction represents the cloud consumer’s willingness to adopt the requirements of our cloud vertices.  I commonly hear people say they are not willing to put sensitive data “in the cloud” or they are worried about a “lack of security.”  These practical concerns create significant friction against cloud adoption; meanwhile, being able to just “throw up” servers (yuck!) and avoiding IT restrictions make it easy (low friction) to use clouds.

Historically, it was easy to plot friction vs. cost.  There was a nice linear trend where providers simply lowered cost to overcome friction.  This has been fueling the current cloud boom.

The magic cube analysis shows another dynamic emerging because of competing drivers from management and isolation.  The dramatic saving from outsource management are inhibited by the high friction for giving up data protection, isolation, control, and performance minimums.  I believe that my figure, while pretty, dramatically understates the friction gap between dedicated and shared hosting.  This tension creates a non-linear trend in which substantial customer traction will follow the more expensive offerings.  In fact, it may be impossible to overcome this friction with pricing pressure.

I believe this analysis shows that there’s a significant market opportunity for clouds that have dedicated resources yet are still managed and hosted by a trusted 3rd party.  On the other hand, this gravity well could turn out to be a black hole money pit.  Like all cloud revolutions, the timid need not apply.

Post Script: Like any marketing trend, there must be a name.  These clouds are not “private” in the conventional sense and I cringe at using “hybrid” for anything anymore.  If current public clouds are like hotels (or hostels) then these clouds are more like condos or managed community McMansions.  I think calling them “cloud shards” is very crisp, but my marketing crystal ball says “try again.”  Suggestions?