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What Gartner can't – or won't – tell you about OpenStack Cloud

Boris Renski - October 01, 2012

Gartner is a church of the IT industry. Those, who make large donations to “Gartner Church” get the blessings. Those who don’t are shunned and excommunicated.

On a related note, Gartner recently released its “beware of OpenStack” manifesto. Despite being written by Lydia Leong, whom I consider to be the most credible priest of the Gartner  Church, from my vantage point the report sounds unjustifiably biased towards some of Gartner’s best customers  and contains some misleading statements.

Here are some of the things in the report that illustrate my point:

    1. “OpenStack is dominated by commercial interests, as it is a business strategy for the vendors involved, not the effort of a community of altruistic individual contributors.”

      Yes, it is. So what? Nobody ever claimed otherwise.

      The key is that OpenStack is the only open source cloud community with meaningful involvement from many commercial interests, working collaboratively towards a single goal. VMWare is just VMWare, Eucalyptus is just Eucalyptus, CloudStack is just Citrix. OpenStack receives meaningful support from the entire application infrastructure ecosystem. (I explored the importance of this exact topic in an earlier post.)

    2. “OpenStack is not an open standard, as it does not provide for either interoperability or portability.”

      It is definitely open and, at this point in time, it is as close to a standard as it gets in the open source cloud ecosystem. Making the leap from interoperability challenges to “not an open standard” is unjustified.

    3. There is no significant difference in lock in for customers adopting OpenStack than those customers adopting proprietary CMPs.”

      If I want to deploy OpenStack, I go to, deploy it using freely available recipes from Puppet or Chef and I have myself a cloud. I can do it with almost any hypervisor, use almost any flavor of Linux as a host OS and run it pretty much on any hardware. Whatever is missing, I can always build and add myself. Any new OpenStack features are always freely available. No matter how big my cloud grows, I never have to pay any money to anyone if I don’t want to.

      If I want a VMWare cloud, I have to call VMware and pay money to get their product. If I want to use Xen with VMWare vCloud – I can’t. As VMware releases new features, I have to pay more money to buy them.

      What am I missing? Perhaps I am not clear about the meaning of 'lock-in'?

    4. “Consider proprietary CMPs as well as free and commercial distributions of OpenStack and other open-source CMPs, particularly Eucalyptus (which has officially licensed the AWS API from Amazon and is relatively easy to deploy) and CloudStack (which is a common choice for service providers and others wanting to run an AWS-compatible cloud at scale).”

      Let me say a few things here about Eucalyptus’ API licensing deal with Amazon. It is nothing more than a press release. API’s don’t need to be licensed; they’ve already been ruled to not be copyrightable on at least one occasion. Beyond supporting Eucalyptus with a quote for their press release, Amazon doesn’t care about them. Eucalyptus would align with OpenStack marketing hype if it could; but it can’t. So it aligns with AWS marketing hype. That is it, cut-and-dried.

      Don’t consider CloudStack. It will soon die. True, it is getting some traction in the enterprise because Citrix is pushing it, using its enterprise sales muscle–plus it has a pretty UI. But the truth is that OpenStack has already surpassed CloudStack feature-wise. More importantly – hype or no hype - RedHat, Canonical and SUSE chose to align with OpenStack over CloudStack. Because of that, CloudStack only runs on Ubuntu 10.04 host OS, which is 3 years old and doesn’t have driver support for some of the newer hardware. As time passes, this will only get worse.

    5. “The open community process, in combination with closed-room discussions between the sponsors, sometimes results in intense infighting between the participants in the community, particularly as Rackspace works to establish the OpenStack foundation.”

      This is just not true. There have been only a few board meetings so far; all – very productive with no infighting. I can attest to that as someone, who personally participated in ALL meetings.

      The reference to the executive board sessions as “closed-room discussions” here is clearly meant to carry a negative connotation. I am unclear how these executive board sessions are a bad thing for the community. Please explain to me in the comments below if you feel otherwise.

  1. “The projected time frame for OpenStack stability is constantly moving… Commercial software normally reaches stability by this age and the projected time frame is exceptionally long, even for complex open-source projects.” 

    Stability is one big gray area and is a function of adoption, not time. Everybody knows that enterprise software sucks – commercial or open source. I can just as credibly make a claim that VMWare, Microsoft and Citrix are not stable and never will be.

    OpenStack is the biggest open source cloud community, which means that more people are tinkering with it than with any other open source cloud product out there. This, in my opinion, means that OpenStack wins the case for stability. At Mirantis, we have deployed plenty of stable OpenStack clouds. I openly invite anyone at Gartner to speak with our customers.

  2. “OpenStack will face a very difficult battle against VMware, which already has a significant installed base, channel to market and suite of products that provides far more than resource management.”

    I am hoping that VMWare will help OpenStack in that battle, now that it joined the foundation and pledged to support and empower OpenStack software =).

    VMWare is strong in the legacy, datacenter automation market. I wrote about it as well. OpenStack is competing more with AWS, not VMWare in the new, disruptive “open-cloud market.” It is true that, for now, enterprises fail to see the difference between VMWare and OpenStack. Longer term – it will change. Just like Blockbuster’s foothold in the retail video-rental business didn’t help it win against the on-demand video, VMWare’s foothold with enterprise virtualization has questionable value in the context of this market transformation. Its installed base and channel are, arguably, its liability, not its asset. Cloud spin-off could have been a good idea.

  3. “To maximize deployment flexibility and interoperability to enable the potential for multi-vendor substitution, try to choose CMP solutions that allow the layers of the service (access management, service management, service optimization, resource management and the underlying resources), to be logically independent of one another.”

    This, in fact, is exactly the reason to consider OpenStack. Unlike with VMware or Microsoft, OpenStack is designed as a series of loosely coupled components that are easy to integrate with a variety of third party solutions and hardware platforms. The only reason why it doesn’t make sense to use OpenStack with commercial platforms like VMWare is because VMware's hypervisor is only designed to work with VMware's suite of products. “Maximizing interoperability…for multi-vendor substitution,” as suggested in this report is only possible with OpenStack and not commercial offerings or vendor centric, open source solutions.

The overarching theme of Gartner report is “don’t be blinded by OpenStack marketing hype.” I agree; do your homework and consider various options. It is true that OpenStack gets a lot of hype.  But don’t discount OpenStack hype. In open source, hype translates to real value. It is because of that hype that OpenStack is now supported by everyone in the application infrastructure ecosystem. And is because of that support, it is a truly great community that is well on its way to become the Linux of the cloud.

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