As OpenStack backers declare 2014 to be the year of widespread adoption in the enterprise, glaring issues threaten to derail its progress.
Cloud consultants predict an increase in OpenStack adoption as their clients plan to move from the proof-of-concept phase to production this year. Despite that optimism, the enterprise picture remains murky, and production developments are relatively small.
"All the pieces are in place, but OpenStack still has to improve on the point of usability," said Carl Brooks, analyst with 451 Research based in Boston. Specifically, there is a need to make the platform easier to install and configure on a broader list of server and network hardware options.
Carl Brooksanalyst, 451 Research
"People will put up with some bugs, but you're not going to drive a car if you have to install a steering wheel daily," Brooks said, though he added that this state of affairs is still "better than it was a year ago, [when] it was pretty much just an engine and wheels."
New products, such as this week's Red Hat Enterprise Linux OpenStack Platform 4.0, improve the installation process with a Red Hat project called Foreman that helps install and manage OpenStack. Still, there is a ways to go before OpenStack has a graphical user interface and automated installation processes, according to Radhesh Balakrishnan, general manager of virtualization and cloud for Red Hat.
Meanwhile, scalability has been a challenge for large organizations considering OpenStack. For example, the Havana release changed the way SQL queries are written and the way messages are passed back and forth in the system that the Nova compute service uses to keep track of nodes, according to Mark Atwood, director of open source for Hewlett-Packard Co. (HP).
"Many developers are learning there's a difference between writing something that works on 10 machines and something that works on 10,000 machines," Atwood said. "There's not a particular program for fixing this; it's just that now these things are being tested."
Still, at large scale, organizations must do more configuration and write more custom code than would be preferable, according to Jonathan LaCour, vice president of cloud for DreamHost, a Los Angeles-based cloud and Web hosting company that is preparing to launch a public DreamCompute service based on OpenStack's Nova and Neutron.
"I'd really like to see as much of that pushed down into core projects as possible," LaCour said.
OpenStack enthusiasts forge ahead
Despite those hurdles, some large companies are moving ahead with OpenStack.
As recently as last month, Jared Reimer, co-founder of Cascadeo Corp., an IT consulting firm located in Mercer Island, Wash. with dozens of midsize to large enterprise customers, had no enterprise clients considering OpenStack. But during 2014 planning sessions, that picture changed, he said.
"We've got two big clients who are planning major production deployments right now," Reimer said. "That's a big change for us. Until now, it's been maybe one random guy tinkering in the lab, [and there was] no major sponsorship at the executive level."
Red Hat Inc., HP and SUSE also claim to have customers moving from the advanced proof-of-concept stage into production, but they declined to give any specific numbers.
"Adoption is at a healthy place where CTOs [chief technology officers] have kicked the tires, and they see clearly a role for OpenStack," Red Hat's Balakrishnan said.
There are 165 production deployments of OpenStack worldwide as of November, according to the OpenStack Foundation's survey numbers -- an increase from 84 deployments last April, and represents about one-third of overall OpenStack deployments.
However, within the different deployments, there is a relative paucity of scale. There are now about 30 clouds with over 1,000 instances -- 15 with over 5,000 cores, and 11 with more than 1,000 hypervisors.
The OpenStack survey numbers don't break down OpenStack adoption among enterprises, Web companies and service providers, so how many of those production clouds exist at enterprises is anyone's guess.
Anecdotally, OpenStack is still most popular in small private clouds, with one rack of compute or less, and in regulated industries where public cloud is considered to be out of the question.
Find out what the OpenStack development community is focusing on to address these issues in Part 2.