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Can I use OpenStack to build an enterprise private cloud?

Building an enterprise private cloud is a complex proposition. OpenStack holds a lot of potential as an open-source private cloud distribution, but is it right for you?

OpenStack has its supporters and has garnered significant attention for its open source private cloud distribution. But does that mean it should be used to build an enterprise private cloud distribution?

The short answer is: Not entirely on its own. As if private clouds weren't complex enough, OpenStack only adds another layer of confusion for enterprise IT. And much of the confusion stems from its current state of maturity.

OpenStack has an uncertain technology roadmap, and its installations can be complex, said Alan D. Waite, research director for Gartner Inc. during a session in August at the Gartner Catalyst Conference in San Diego, Calif. Thus, enterprises need to weigh the risk and reward of adopting OpenStack in its current maturity.

Vendor lock-in is as prevalent right now for OpenStack as it is for the highly competitive commercial cloud management platforms industry -- as RightScale, ServiceMesh, Egenera, Scalr and others fight for market share. It is difficult for an enterprise to filter through the hype, as major vendors such as HP, Red Hat, VMware, Cisco, Dell and IBM throw their weight behind the open source distribution.

"OpenStack alone is not a turn-key enabler for private clouds," he said. "There are interoperability issues even between OpenStack distribution versions."

Despite OpenStack's considerable buzz, the reality is IT admins remain more intrigued than convinced the open source software is right for their enterprise. So it's fair to ask whether OpenStack will ever be reliable enough for widespread adoption. For an enterprise interested in a private cloud build, it's not as simple as many think.

"If you want to implement OpenStack to run your private cloud, you have to fill out the other things like commercial packages, [and] service providers that provide it for you," Waite said.

Adam Hughes is a News Editor with TechTarget. He can be reached via email at or on Twitter at @AdamHughesTT.

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