With more and more organizations starting to dip their toes into the Cloud pool, there is still a lot of discussion around platform. For organizations who are looking to outsource their cloud environment, it seems like more and more (for now anyway) are favoring the big guys like AWS, Microsoft and VMware. On the other hand, folks who are looking at building their own clouds, and to some extent those who are looking to leverage a hosted cloud, OpenStack is becoming another interesting platform to look at. Recently, VMware CEO Pat Gelsinger comented that OpenStack isn’t the right choice for enterprises. So, is he right?
When interviewed by Network World, Pat Gelsinger commented ““We don’t see it having great success coming into the enterprise because it’s a framework for constructing clouds. People have largely adopted and have extremely large deployments of VMware and the switching costs and so on of that are not particularly effective. Where we see it being effective though are very much in cloud providers, service providers, an area where VMware hasn’t had a lot of business in the past and thus, our strategy, we believe opens a whole new market for us to go pursue.”
So OpenStack is good for providers, but not so much for Enterprises? OpenStack has started to get a little more attention, mostly due to the fact that more organizations are starting to look at alternatives to the big 3 cloud platforms (Amazon, Microsoft and VMware). This increased visibility for open source clouds comes also as a response to the perceived flexibility that this model is said to provide. But, is open source a viable option for organizations, or does it make more sense to go with an established cloud platform?
Open source clouds like OpenStack are a great option for developers who want to be able to draw from a wide development community. Since there is no official fixed framework, there is ample flexibility in regards to developing custom applications to run in the environment, and all code is available without hefty licensing fees. The drawback, as with any open source platform, since code is developed by different sources, the application might need to go through extra testing before official deployment in your environment, as there may not be a formal support organization to contact should issues within the environment arise. That being said, OpenStack does have a wealth of great vendors backing it; this suggests there is a bright future for this platform. Like with any new solutions, however, it might take some time to work the kinks out.
On the other hand, if you decide to go with a tried and true mainstream-supported platform, such as Amazon, Microsoft or VMware, you generally know what you are getting into. These platforms have plenty of funding and testing behind them, and a diverse customer pool that provides them with a great source of feedback, factors that work to ensure the platform operates as it should. Additionally, because these projects are funded by large vendors, there is a formal support organization to help troubleshoot any issues within the environment. The downside is that cloud providers are usually tied to one main platform, so you need to decide which platform to use and look at the market to ensure that you can later move your infrastructure without the fear of vendor lock-in, even in cases with OpenStack. The other major drawback to traditional platforms is licensing costs, which will hopefully come down as economies of scale kick in.
OpenStack is a great alternative for organizations who want more flexibility in a platform, or who have the skillsets to build more custom applications, which may be limited by traditional platforms. If your team is more comfortable with officially backed platforms, there are many benefits to building a VMware environment or leveraging a cloud service from the vendor itself such as Amazon’s AWS. The security controls for these platforms have historically had more support from leading vendors, and there are more formal support structures for organizations that plan to build their cloud environments internally. These platforms have also been around longer and so users may find more stability and resources available as a result.
No matter which platform you decide on, defining your cloud strategy ahead of time will help provide better insight into which platforms are a better fit for your cloud objectives. It is also recommended that you work with your cloud provider to ensure that if you outsource your infrastructure, they can fully support your projects. Having to readjust the scope of the entire project due to a vendor limitation (such as in respects to compliancy or legacy application support) could cause significant problems down the road when it comes to transitioning your cloud environment onto another platform.