How to Talk Cloud and OpenStack


How to Talk Cloud and OpenStack

By Special Guest
Kelly Boeckman, Senior Product Marketing Manager, SolidFire
  |  August 11, 2016

Walk into any business evaluating – or re-evaluating – its IT strategy, and chances are cloud will come up. Chances are good, too, that OpenStack will come up. According to 451 Research, revenue from OpenStack business models will exceed $2.5B by 2017 as OpenStack continues to grow and become a credible cloud option. The advent of public cloud offerings from Amazon, Microsoft (News - Alert) and others have changed what it means to adeptly deliver IT infrastructure. With cloud computing, resources can be provided as services and shared to build economies of scale to meet demands in real time and can be tracked with usage metrics, such as showback or chargeback. All of these resources can be delivered without proprietary tools, instead using Internet identifiers, formats and protocols. Companies are looking to realize those benefits inside their own data centers and firewalls and OpenStack is the tool to do it.

OpenStack users cite the ability to innovate, lower costs and avoid vendor lock-in as reasons for selecting the platform. As the most widely deployed open source software for building clouds, OpenStack has the support of many notable companies, including Red Hat, Rackspace and Dell (News - Alert), and its robust ecosystem accelerates and helps ensure successful deployments through distributions of OpenStack that come with services and support. Plus, OpenStack’s module-based framework makes it easy for contributors to make a direct and significant impact. However, despite the clear value proposition of OpenStack and cloud computing, one reality remains: unless an organization is a current public cloud user, the cloud may, in fact, represent a monumental paradigm shift in how it has historically purchased and managed IT infrastructure. So, it follows that the conversation around OpenStack cloud infrastructure also represents a shift in how enterprises talk about their next-generation IT strategy.

Think and talk holistically

Cloud is a strategic shift in IT, and the success of any OpenStack initiative hinges not on any one hardware component, but rather on how those components come together to drive cloud-focused goals and strategy. It’s a holistic approach vs. an atomistic one; conversations that focus on only one key component of a cloud implementation – “Looking for better-performing storage? Look no further!” – miss the mark. Understanding why a customer is considering a private cloud is critical to understanding his overall infrastructure needs, not just a particular networking choice or specific SAN array. Some key insights to glean from any organization considering private cloud include:

  • Are you currently using Amazon, Rackspace, Google (News - Alert) or Azure? If yes, what’s driving your public cloud usage? Any particular applications?
  • Are you experiencing any challenges with your public cloud?
  • Are you considering a private cloud? If yes, are any specific applications or workloads driving that consideration?

Ready for change (aka, Pets vs. Cattle vs. Chickens)

Many customers view OpenStack as a lower-cost alternative to traditional virtualized environments. But OpenStack, and other cloud platforms, are far more. They represent a fundamental shift in how customers deploy applications and consume infrastructure. The tried and true analogy of pets vs. cattle vs. chickens is exactly that: true.

Traditional infrastructure (Pets): Infrastructure is highly individualized to the application(s). Solutions tend to be focused around enterprise pain points and application redundancy is built into the hardware layer. Virtual machines (VMs) are like pets – named, cared for and kept healthy at all costs.

Cloud-native applications (cattle): In the cloud, the application itself is the cloud. Instances become like cattle – disposable and transitory. Because redundancy is built into the application, if an instance becomes troublesome, customers can easily take it down and spin up another.

Containers (chickens): If instances in a cloud are disposable and transitory, containers take it one step further and are like chickens. They are more efficient, more numerous and more transitory than VMs/pets. Containers complement a private cloud by orchestrating the application layer and enabling rapid development, test and eventual deployment of software.

Why does it matter if a customer is using pets, cattle or chickens? Because each approach represents a dramatic shift in operational responsibility. Traditional enterprises are driven by infrastructure and its administrators, but cloud-native deployments are more driven and defined by applications and development/operations (DevOps) groups. Customers who want to move to a private cloud, but have legacy applications and/or organizational structure, face longer, potentially bumpier transitions. To enable a smoother process, some key questions include:

  • Are you just trying to move applications from a virtualized environment?
  • Do you have pets or cattle or chickens?
  • Who will manage your private cloud?
  • What is your team makeup and can they manage all aspects of a private cloud?
  • Will application developers or DevOps be represented on your team?

Automate all the things

If virtualized infrastructure was about data center automation, an OpenStack-powered cloud is about orchestrating the entire data center. Automation refers to tasks: installing an operating system, configuring a server, provisioning volumes on storage, deploying code and system updates, user provisioning, stopping a service, etc. Orchestration builds on automation; it refers to stitching together a series of automated tasks into a workflow. Many customers believe that, because they are automating myriad tasks, they are “orchestrating” a cloud. In fact, there is significant room to evolve those tasks into fully automated workflows that enable infrastructure to be deployed on demand and for processes to become consistent and repeatable.

Understanding where a customer is in its orchestration journey – by understanding its API preferences, automation tools and where redundancy lies in its systems – is a key first step in ensuring success with OpenStack. For example:

  • If utilizing a public cloud, what APIs is the customer using? Do they want to use them for their organization’s private cloud as well?
  • How automated is the customer? Can it kill an instance and recover through automation?
  • What is it using to automate? Scripts, or full tools like Puppet?

Paradigm shift in selling OpenStack

Looking at the entirety of a customer’s environment and its hoped-for results with an OpenStack cloud can better set the stage, identify roadblocks or pitfalls, encourage more meaningful discussions and ultimately lead to a successful OpenStack cloud deployment. Enterprise infrastructure practices have focused on the discrete components of the environment and vendor sales efforts followed that model. Cloud’s paradigm shift in thinking “up the stack” to the application layer and crafting a holistic solution that meets business needs, has changed the conversation. Selling practices should follow – only by understanding the reasons behind a customer’s move to a private cloud, considering its individual needs and taking into account where that customer is on its journey, partners can enable their customers’ seamless move to a next-generation data center orchestrated by OpenStack.

Edited by Alicia Young
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