Bridging the OpenStack Skills Gap

By Special Guest
Tom Norton, VP of HP Helion OpenStack Professional Services
  |  August 25, 2015

Earlier this year, a survey of 3,000 IT decision makers found that one-third were deploying private clouds to enhance enterprise operations. Half were using OpenStack as the underlying platform, with 65 percent agreeing that OpenStack is ready to handle mission-critical workloads.

So why aren't more companies moving their most critical operations, including native applications to OpenStack when building private, or hybrid cloud environments?

According to the ninth annual Future of Open Source (News - Alert) Survey, 78 percent of businesses are using open source software such as OpenStack to support some or all of their operations. Of those, 93 percent said their investment has increased recently. Yet more than half (55 percent) lack a policy or procedure for open source use.

You might even say open source software is running wild in the enterprise, let loose by a massive gap in the skills required to properly implement and manage platforms such as OpenStack. Let’s review how we got to this point and the common sense steps needed to close the gap before it becomes a chasm.

Revealing Cracks

IDC (News - Alert) analyst Cushing Anderson has been sounding the alarm for nearly three years. In November of 2012, he and colleague John F. Gantz published a paper predicting a 26 percent annualized increase in demand for cloud-savvy IT professionals. By 2015, Anderson and Gantz said, lack of training and resources would cause some 7 million cloud-related jobs to go unfilled. The resulting skills gap would leave enterprises vulnerable.

Fast-forward three years. While there's no official tally of the number of cloud-related job openings, there's no disputing that the cloud is open-source driven. All three providers of enterprise Linux distributions (i.e., Ubuntu, Red Hat (News - Alert), and CentOS) have built-in support for OpenStack, making them attractive, cloud-ready options for businesses looking to move more operations online. And yet, judging by the results of the Future of Open Source survey, too few are actually prepared to do serious business in the cloud.

Three Ways to Seal Your Enterprise

How can businesses bridge the skills gap and keep big investments in OpenStack from going to waste? IT leaders can start by asking big questions about what they’re after. 

“What’s the strategy for adoption? What workloads are they going to run? How are they going to manage it?”

Start designing with these implementation challenges in mind and then assess whether you have the talent to do the job. If not, it might be time to get help. Here are specific steps you can take:

1. Get training

Anderson and Gantz predicted a massive "reskilling" of existing IT pros worldwide even as enterprises committed to adding to their ranks. The “reskilling” includes not just technical skills but also business skills for marrying code with business outcomes. HP, for example, delivers what's called an OpenStack Technology Assessment to determine what's needed to stabilize and scale the environment before executing recommended next steps along the journey to full implementation.

2. Hire a coach

Sometimes education isn’t enough. Having a consulting partner work with your team to develop a shared plan for executing management’s strategy can accelerate the process of realizing benefits. The partner should offer services before and throughout installation with design assistance being a particularly important element—what you're going to link it to, what you're going to integrate with.

3. Bring in a pinch-hitter

Sometimes an equal partnership is insufficient. In those cases, it is critical to get comprehensive help: “How do you actually manage that environment once it's implemented? How do you get the greater value, how do you get the greater performance, and how do you tune it?” HP addresses these needs with an OpenStack optimization service that provides for patching, updating and continuously integrating the environment as code changes, which could be often given the historical versioning of the OpenStack platform every six months or so.

Finding the Right Partner

Despite the volatility, OpenStack is becoming the standard enterprise cloud platform many hoped that it would.

A more mature platform is a massive opportunity for businesses on the fence about how to fully implement the cloud. Cashing in is the trick, and for that, it is paramount that they find a steady, skilled partner among the various consulting providers.

About the Author: Tom Norton is the vice president for HP Helion OpenStack Professional Services with worldwide responsibility for the development and delivery of Helion OpenStack related technologies.


Edited by Dominick Sorrentino

Get stories like this delivered straight to your inbox. [Free eNews Subscription]