OpenStack in the Enterprise: A Potential Foundation for Your Cloud Strategy

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1 I D C T E C H N O L O G Y S P O T L I G H T OpenStack in the Enterprise: A Potential Foundation for Your Cloud Strategy Sponsored by: Red Hat, Cisco and Intel Philip Carter Andreas Olah November 2014 Carla Arend IDC research shows that an increasing number of organizations are looking to deploy OpenStack as the foundation for their cloud environments to provide a more agile but secure IT backbone to enable, and in some cases transform key business processes. I. INTRODUCTION Creating an "agile IT infrastructure" that can dynamically align with changing business requirements continues to be the holy grail for enterprise IT departments. This is particularly the case as organizations look to deal with the disruptive once-in-a-generation shift to what IDC terms the 3rd Platform of IT a new era of computing in which social, mobile, cloud computing and Big Data/analytics come together. Many organizations are using 3rd Platform technologies to create a new basis for business process transformation and, in some cases, business model transformation. Within this shift to the 3rd Platform, it is cloud computing that is forcing the biggest change in the way that IT architectures and delivery models are being designed. Suffice to say that we are now at a juncture in the industry where IT executives are not questioning "whether" to embark on their cloud journeys, but rather "how" to make cloud work. And given that most organizations are operating (or plan to operate) in a hybrid cloud environment that involves a variety of public and private cloud workloads, the next step in this journey is clearly not an easy one. Hence IT executives are crying out for an open and standards-based platform that fits securely with their enterprise cloud computing requirements. This has paved the way for the emergence of OpenStack, an Open Source project that has the potential to become the operating system for service-oriented delivery models to underpin both private and public clouds. OpenStack: A Definition Indeed, as organizations such as PayPal, Intel, and CERN make public statements about running large production environments based on OpenStack, IT executives are asking a number of very pertinent questions around whether they can do something similar to provide the foundation for their own cloud strategies. This paper will aim to answer some of those questions by assessing the benefits, challenges, and overall readiness of OpenStack for the enterprise datacenter. November 2014, IDC #IDCTS07W

2 II. BACKGROUND WHAT IS OPENSTACK? As an Open Source software project, OpenStack is managed by the OpenStack Foundation, a non-profit organization that oversees both development and community-building around the project. The OpenStack Foundation oversees and promotes development, distribution and adoption of the framework. Most of the large IT suppliers and software companies, as well as hosting companies, are supporting the OpenStack project through the contribution of code, developers, and funding. The Foundation includes 9,500 individual members from 850 organizations around the globe. Initially, OpenStack was founded by NASA and Rackspace, but the global community has grown rapidly, particularly over the past 12 months. OpenStack is a cloud platform framework developed as an open, collaborative project based on the principles of ease of operation, high flexibility and a rich ecosystem that provides a variety of features, components and infrastructure solutions. OpenStack is currently mainly being used by cloud service providers, hosters, and in certain enterprise datacenters. It has also started to creep into some smaller organizations, but mainly in "test and dev" environments. All source code for OpenStack is freely available under the Apache 2.0 license, and developers are encouraged to submit any changes or additions back to the project. This open approach creates a vibrant and dynamic development environment, removes the fear of proprietary lock-in and aims to create a large ecosystem of contributors across cloud providers and other stakeholders. From a strategic perspective, OpenStack has the potential to disrupt the traditional compute, storage, and networking environments, similar to Linux's impact on the commercial operating systems market. Consequently, most major IT vendors are supporting OpenStack to remain relevant as more of their customers and prospects demand interoperability with it. In addition, various vendors (such as Red Hat) are providing commercial distributions of OpenStack and are playing a central role in ensuring that enterprise-grade characteristics (such as consistency, reliability, resiliency, and plug-and-play abilities with commercial components) are integrated into future releases. OpenStack can also be used as a platform for organizations wishing to adopt a do-it-yourself approach to building cloud or cloud-like infrastructures in an effort to increase agility, speed, control, and risk management while also keeping costs low. The open framework and vendors' reference architectures make it a less cumbersome effort than putting together various proprietary stacks, though strong in-house IT skills are still required. Figure 1 provides an overview of the layers, applications, and APIs in an OpenStack model. OpenStack enables organizations to manage compute, networking, and storage resources as services through APIs and a common dashboard and removes the need to manage them at the component level. Applications can access the IT resources through the APIs IDC #IDCTS07W 2

3 FIGURE 1 OpenStack Overview Source: OpenStack, 2014 III. WHAT ARE THE MAIN BENEFITS OF USING OPENSTACK? According to a survey by Red Hat and IDG Connect, 84% of enterprise IT decision-makers surveyed in 2013 plan to deploy OpenStack as part of their future private cloud plans. The respondents cited management visibility (73%), deployment speed (72%) and platform flexibility as well as better agility (both at 69%) as the major benefits of OpenStack, which also helps them achieve competitive advantage. Below is a more detailed explanation of these benefits: OpenStack allows the abstraction of the underlying infrastructure, including the hypervisor, and can lead to greater flexibility, as well as software license cost savings. With OpenStack, developers can easily port application code, freeing them from the focus on specific operating systems when writing new applications. Internode communication within datacenters can be facilitated by using virtualization technologies in an OpenStack-based environment. Certified OpenStack solutions are available from vendors and allow for the setup of open integrated infrastructures. OpenStack-based infrastructure as a service (IaaS), enabled through open APIs, make it easy to provision infrastructure in a self-service model. Because OpenStack is a framework, IT organizations can plug in any hardware components and software tools that work with OpenStack. OpenStack provides a degree of isolation, abstraction, and portability within and across the IT environment. It is not bound to any vendor's specific stack but spans across technology domains and IT silos. OpenStack plays a key role in increasing efficiency by creating a widely interoperable, function-rich platform to orchestrate datacenter resources and eliminate traditional IT silos. OpenStack leverages the increasing footprint of industry-standard x86-based servers, which has substantially reduced the cost of datacenter infrastructure and encouraged vendors to innovate in other areas, such as inter-cloud interoperability IDC #IDCTS07W 3

4 IV. WHAT ARE THE KEY CHALLENGES TO WATCH OUT FOR? Given its lack of maturity in the market, organizations that have started to use OpenStack do face certain challenges with the technology. Below is an overview of the key concerns highlighted by a number of IT executives in our research that have started to deploy OpenStack across a variety of industries: Availability of skilled staff. Despite many IT executives seeing OpenStack as an interesting and desirable concept, they stop short of rolling it out on a broad scale because it requires IT skills that they do not currently have in-house. In this respect, it is worth noting that the OpenStack community is fast evolving and extensive education programs are available, which IDC believes will mitigate the impact of this skills shortage to a certain extent in the medium-term. Ease and cost of deployment. This is a concern of organizations that experiment with the community version of OpenStack, which can be difficult to install and does not have an easy upgrade path. IDC believes that OpenStack is best consumed through a commercial distribution that packages the various OpenStack components and is optimized for ease of installation. Ease of operation/manageability. Though OpenStack provides the framework for integration, managing the elements of a cloud platform, the infrastructure in particular can become unwieldy as the application scales. IDC recommends a careful evaluation of the management qualities of key platform components: are the compute and storage servers designed in a way that enables fast provisioning and accommodates automation? Beyond architectural considerations, deploying and operating an OpenStack environment does require specific expertise. IDC believes that organizations should augment their in-house capabilities by leveraging a vendor with strong support capabilities built around OpenStack to ensure smooth operation particularly for production environments. Disruption and migration of legacy workloads. OpenStack is currently best fit to run greenfield, scale-out cloud workloads that are designed to take advantage of cloud infrastructure such as web or mobile application workloads. IDC believes that organizations should be assessing their application environments with a view to using OpenStack for the types of workloads that are best suited for its cloud-specific features. Traditional on-premises legacy workloads (such as ERP) need not be migrated to OpenStack in the short to medium term. V. WHAT ROLE WOULD OPENSTACK PLAY IN A BROADER CLOUD STRATEGY? The increasing adoption of cloud services is driving a significant transformation of the way in which IT infrastructure is architected, procured and delivered. This is best shown in Figure 2, which highlights how organizations in Europe are investing in the various cloud delivery models through to IDC #IDCTS07W 4

5 FIGURE 2 Allocation of IT Budget by Delivery Model: Present and Future Note: N=304 Source: IDC, 2014 It is clear that the share of traditional in-house IT investments is expected to decline by 10 percentage points from today through to 2020 but will remain the preferred IT environment throughout the forecast period. This share is being replaced primarily by cloud delivery models (both public and private). However, managing these various delivery models will require a major focus on hybrid cloud, and as a result IDC expects that hybrid cloud will become the dominant cloud deployment model in the future. This is because it enables IT users to reap the true benefits of cloud by maintaining some cloud IT infrastructure on-premises (self or externally managed) to ensure high performance for business-critical applications and to store critical data, and then being able to use dedicated hosted and virtual private clouds for external SLA based clouds. There is also the option of leveraging public cloud-based services for bursting capabilities at peak times as well as for workloads that do not need stringent security or high SLAs. Key IT Challenges with Implementing Private and Public Cloud Infrastructures Turning this into a reality can be a major challenge for IT departments. According to recent IDC research, the major challenges with implementing private and public cloud infrastructures relate to automation, self-service provisioning and orchestration, as well as application performance monitoring. This is not surprising, considering that these areas still lack some maturity and add substantial complexity from a technical, business and internal political perspective. It is therefore 2014 IDC #IDCTS07W 5

6 important to define best practices and provide configuration templates that take away some of the complexities associated with these tasks and facilitate the management of hybrid or multi-cloud environments. As it matures, it is clear that OpenStack will play a significant role in helping organizations make this hybrid cloud environment a reality by providing an open, standards-based platform that could migrate workloads across the various delivery models within their hybrid cloud environments. V. WHAT WOULD IDC RECOMMEND TO ORGANIZATIONS LOOKING TO DEPLOY OPENSTACK? As a starting point, IDC recommends that IT decision makers carefully assess the status of their current infrastructure, their major challenges, and the viability of an OpenStack-based solution in their business context. Beyond this, below is a set of steps that IDC recommends are important to assess as part of any organization's OpenStack journey: Identify one workload to start the journey. In order to prove the value of OpenStack internally and externally, an initial Proof of Concept (PoC) and successful implementation around one scalable workload is recommended. There are also a range of vertical specific solutions available from OpenStack vendors that are tailored to their individual workloads, for example for telcos and hosters. It is worth comparing these solutions with more generic approaches and following vendors' reference architectures where possible to minimize the need for additional fine-tuning. Avoid vendor lock-in but still achieve high reliability by deploying a commercial distribution of OpenStack, and take advantage of validated infrastructure designs and enterprisegrade services provided by major OpenStack vendors Understand the methods available for simplifying cloud deployment and operations using preset application policies that can be applied automatically during scale-out. This technology called group-based policy is currently under community discussion for inclusion in a future release. Tune in to the discussion and give your feedback on this potentially valuable new feature. To increase your return on today's investments, think about where your cloud environment will go next. An open interoperable framework is a critical first step. Next up will be the ability to move applications with speed and security from private cloud to public cloud and back with consistency. What is sometimes referred to as Intercloud mobility is a capability worth investigating as you begin your journey with OpenStack IDC #IDCTS07W 6

7 FIGURE 3 OpenStack Architecture Example Source: OpenStack Foundation, 2014 Save time and effort by choosing integrated support for multiple components in your platform, with pretested configurations and deployment guides, OpenStack deployment services, and seamless interfaces where applicable. Build own your applications around the OpenStack framework and collaborate with the developer community to accelerate innovation. The community will continue to innovate both inside and outside the core. Initiatives such as Manila (Cinder compatibility with NFS) will also compel more suppliers to make their platforms OpenStack friendly. VI. CONCLUSION Most of the current OpenStack deployments IDC has encountered are of modest scale, and are test and dev types of workload. However, we are seeing some customers progressing very quickly, having already implemented platform as a service capabilities on top of OpenStack. With the ninth release of OpenStack Icehouse the Foundation has signaled its next phase of evolution of making the product more enterprise ready by putting more rigor and maturity into the platform. The community has responded in kind by generally supporting the Foundation's proposals while acknowledging that there was more work to be done in attaining this goal. IDC expects that much of the OpenStack Foundation and ecosystem initiatives will be focused on gaining a wider adoption in the enterprise. The vendors providing commercial distributions of OpenStack will play a critical role in driving this adoption, particularly given the open marketplace, where all these attributes will be publicly displayed. OpenStack distributors will therefore be compelled to compete on the merits of their approach. In this document, we have attempted to answer five key questions that IT executives are most frequently asking about the current status of OpenStack. However, this is a fast evolving space, and the next phase of the OpenStack journey is not far away enterprises looking to develop a longer term cloud strategy would be best advised to keep abreast of these dynamic developments IDC #IDCTS07W 7

8 ABOUT THIS PUBLICATION This publication was produced by IDC Custom Solutions. The opinion, analysis, and research results presented herein are drawn from more detailed research and analysis independently conducted and published by IDC, unless specific vendor sponsorship is noted. IDC Custom Solutions makes IDC content available in a wide range of formats for distribution by various companies. A license to distribute IDC content does not imply endorsement of or opinion about the licensee. COPYRIGHT AND RESTRICTIONS Any IDC information or reference to IDC that is to be used in advertising, press releases, or promotional materials requires prior written approval from IDC. For permission requests contact the Custom Solutions information line at or Translation and/or localization of this document require an additional license from IDC. For more information on IDC visit For more information on IDC Custom Solutions visit Global Headquarters: 5 Speen Street Framingham, MA USA P F IDC U.K. Chiswick Tower 389 Chiswick High Road London W4 4AE, United Kingdom idc-insights-community.com

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