OpenStack Summit Shines Spotlight on Enterprise Customers

(Eric Lundquist @ eWeek) NEWS ANALYSIS: The OpenStack Summit that convened May 13 in Atlanta shifted the event's focus to enterprise customers from the developer presence that had prevailed since the OpenStack Foundation organized in 2012.

On the opening day of the OpenStack Summit in Atlanta, users were front and center. The foundation, which oversees the open-source computing product stack, was formed in 2012 and has been characterized as too developer driven.


So, at this year's spring event, foundation Executive Director Jonathan Bryce spent a substantial amount of the opening keynote and two related on-stage interviews highlighting customers.

To define a new class of users as "superusers," Bryce brought to the stage Chris Launey, director of cloud services and architecture for the Walt Disney Co., and Glenn Ferguson, head of private cloud engagement for Wells Fargo. In addition, the foundation is pursuing an OpenStack compatibility initiative to assure core compatibility among the vendors, including Red Hat, Dell and Hewlett-Packard, that offer OpenStack infrastructure services.

"Infrastructure has to keep speed with software," Ferguson told the audience of approximately 4,500 attendees at this year's spring event. The nature of enterprises and, in particular, the compliance and security requirements of the financial industry swayed Wells Fargo to investigate the OpenStack environment more so than the public cloud vendors, he noted.

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The push by the OpenStack foundation to prove that it has moved from a developer's playground to a serious enterprise infrastructure contender was evident in the products and services introduced at the Atlanta summit.

The foundation introduced the OpenStack Marketplace to provide a Website to help customers and potential customers find third-party system providers, access documentation, answer compatibility questions and provide training services. The foundation also launched an online magazine geared to the OpenStack Superuser. OpenStack has also established a "DefCore Committee," with the goal of defining the attributes of the OpenStack core for compatibility testing.

The creation of DefCore and the fear that individual vendors might develop OpenStack implementations with proprietary hooks was much on the minds of the summit attendees. Hewlett-Packard last week announced it was investing $1 billion in OpenStack services.

The Hewlett-Packard announcement was quickly followed by Dell statements claiming that Hewlett-Packard's plan to offer different tiers of OpenStack-related services was a proprietary trap. Dell has teamed with Red Hat to make OpenStack a key core of its enterprise offerings.

Overall, the OpenStack Summit showed the progress of the open infrastructure model in the enterprise. The foundation has proven it can continue to develop new revisions of the software stack every six months. However, that rapid pace has led to concerns that developers tend to concentrate on new features rather than fully debugging the previous versions.

Those concerns have prompted the foundation to spotlight the number of code reviewers available to the foundation as well as highlighting the operational professionals who are tasked with implementing and maintaining the OpenStack versions as well as customers who need to emphasize the business benefits of incorporating OpenStack into their organizations.

"In the software-defined economy, every business competes with a startup," Bryce said in his keynote address. That competition can be especially difficult for traditional companies used to traditional software development and deployment methodologies.

Bryce contends that by leveraging the 16,000 members of the federation, traditional vendors can restructure their software development and deployment operations to match the speed of startups.

Bryce's comments were backed up by Disney's Launey who said during an on stage interview that "you need speed" as an organization to compete in the software-driven economy.

In the end, it may be the need for speed and the fear of being outpaced by startups that is the main impetus for open software projects such as OpenStack to make headway in the enterprise space. OpenStack is winning the buzz war right now for the enterprise on-premise cloud-oriented architecture.

It may come down to a four-horse race between OpenStack, Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure and Google cloud services for the next generation of enterprise computing. The winner will be based not on low cost, but on the business applications customers can quickly build to fend off those nimble startups.

Eric Lundquist is a technology analyst at Ziff Brothers Investments, a private investment firm. Lundquist, who was editor-in-chief at eWEEK (previously PC WEEK) from 1996-2008, authored this article for eWEEK to share his thoughts on technology, products and services. No investment advice is offered in this article. All duties are disclaimed. Lundquist works separately for a private investment firm, which may at any time invest in companies whose products are discussed in this article and no disclosure of securities transactions will be made.