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OpenStack containers, PaaS tie-ins give users a leg up

OpenStack containers can come in many forms as the Foundation has taken an agnostic approach to the emerging orchestration technologies around it.

VANCOUVER - OpenStack backers want to see their technologies in more places and they're latching onto tools outside...

the ecosystem to do so.

Implementation of emerging container technologies was also a big part of the OpenStack Summit here, while vendors such as Mirantis and Red Hat have done more to tie in platform as a service (PaaS) to OpenStack.

The emerging developer-centric approach to software means tying into more than just infrastructure, and that can sometimes make it difficult to determine where OpenStack fits in the equation.

"The biggest thing I see resonating from the Summit is the idea of these parallel services," said Lauren Nelson, an analyst with Forrester Research, Inc., based in Cambridge, Mass. "Where do we provide hooks into other services versus where do we have an OpenStack project related to it."

OpenStack is not a platform like Amazon Web Services or Microsoft Azure, so figuring out which services to provide outside the basic infrastructure depends on the type of developers a company has and the level of abstraction they require, Nelson said.

Containers, containers, containers

One of the unanswered questions of how best to integrate with OpenStack is with Docker or other forms of container orchestration. OpenStack COO Mark Collier devoted much of his keynote speech to the technology and the need to see OpenStack as a means to integrate with the various orchestration tools emerging in the space.

"The important thing for us as a community is to think of OpenStack as this integration engine that's agnostic," Collier said. "Just as we didn't reinvent the wheel with compute, storage and networking, I think we'll follow a similar path when it comes to containers."

Several customers were brought out to demonstrate the use of bare-metal and VMs for running containers with OpenStack. Google and Rackspace also demoed the new project Magnum for developing containers as a service atop OpenStack.

Lukáš Kubin, lead architect for a service provider in Finland building an OpenStack cloud, attended one of the many packed sessions on containers at the Summit. Though his customers aren't asking about the technology yet, he suspects they will be in the near future.

"This is a significant part of this generation of application changes," Kubin said. "It started with OpenStack and Docker is just a natural movement forward for the new way of application delivery."

More components tied to OpenStack

Vendors are also doing more to tie in with PaaS to draw in users. Mirantis earlier this month partnered with Pivotal to integrate the two services and offer Cloud Foundry PaaS on top of Mirantis private clouds. Red Hat, meanwhile, is packaging RHEL OS, OpenShift and CloudForms into a single suite of services aimed at providing a fully integrated stack.

Making infrastructure easier to build on, in many ways, means making it hidden from developers. As a result, expect OpenStack to eventually develop into an important set of infrastructure components under the covers that will never be the main interface for developers, said Donna Scott, vice president and distinguished analyst with Gartner, Inc., based in Stamford, Conn.

"The number one use case for OpenStack is to drive elastic Web and mobile apps, so if the number one reason is to develop software faster, then getting infrastructure is just a small component, albeit an important one," Scott said.

Trevor Jones is the news writer for SearchCloudComputing. You can reach him at tjones@techtarget.com.

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It's interesting to contrast the messages from CF Summit with the messages from OpenStack Summit. While the various PaaS platforms (eg. CF) can run on things like VMware and OpenStack, they subltley seem to moving towards a model where that layer isn't really needed - at least for the PaaS. OpenStack seems to want to be all things to everyone. So OpenStack is now sort of stuck in middle - are they trying to emulate VMware (virtualized legacy apps) or trying to be an "integration engine" for things like Docker (or any containers) or PaaS platforms, whose developers and operators might not want to deal with OpenStack under the covers. 
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