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OpenStack is one of the most popular technologies in IT today, with hundreds of firms developing applications around the open source platform and roughly 20,000 OpenStack community members. However, the newness of the platform, in addition to the FUD bandied around by traditional vendors, can complicate matters for OpenStack users -- especially when it comes to support.
And while OpenStack offers wikis, blogs and manuals to guide new users, it also warns that the true behavior of its APIs lies in the code -- not a manual.
To fill the void for OpenStack development support, some software vendors deliver their own distributions of the technology, with their own tools and services. Mirantis and Red Hat lead the charge, as both added extensive tools to the basic stack.
Meanwhile, HP offers its Helion OpenStack distribution, while IBM and Dell have their own offerings and tool bundles.
VMware also climbed aboard the OpenStack bandwagon and aggressively supports the open source technology. And with its huge enterprise installed base, VMware is well positioned to capture the market. VMware's OpenStack tools target virtual machine integration with the cloud stack, along with instance and storage management.
Overall, there's a mix of OpenStack offerings that reflect both the market's immaturity, and the potential for vendor lock-in.
Recognizing this, the open source community launched more OpenStack projects that emphasize deployment and application control. Examples include Fuel, an OpenStack deployment and management tool; Heat, an orchestration service; and Murano, an OpenStack self-service application catalog. This proliferation of tools and services is a natural outcome of OpenStack's modular, or "Lego," approach -- and there's certainly more to come.
Getting started with OpenStack
At some point, all your reading will have to stop; a Google search will provide more information than you can handle. To get started with OpenStack, try to build a small cloud in a sandbox, or deploy OpenStack on a few servers using a tool like Chef. Guides on Opensource.com, Red Hat's OpenStack and open source community site, can help, as well as the OpenStack.org cookbook.
Beyond deployment, OpenStack has a developer ecosystem to help with application development. There are standardized SDKs available, as well as Mirantis' driver development support. OpenStack.org also maintains a driver matrix of hypervisor compatibility and support.
For major OpenStack deployments, operations automation is essential. IBM, for its part, provides a guide to Python with OpenStack. Additionally, Red Hat's tool, The Foreman, automates provisioning functions, while Rackspace has a guide to create CLI for control sequences.
A third-party or contract engineer may provide a jump-start for OpenStack cloud projects, and could be a useful resource. Blogs also provide a forum for developers to exchange ideas and resolve issues.
To further your education, there are also OpenStack courses. HP, for example, offers courses for new, intermediate and expert OpenStack users. Rackspace also offers OpenStack training, while Red Hat provides a detailed installation guide. Aptira runs a course that covers OpenStack and VMware, and there are many others to choose from.
In more advanced OpenStack implementations, the focus shifts to platform as a service (PaaS) and storage. Cloud Foundry's PaaS is used for many cloud service provider platforms, including IBM, HP and AWS. Managed by Pivotal, Cloud Foundry offers a way to define a services library for storage, databases and networking.
The required ecosystem to get OpenStack cloud off the ground is developing rapidly. There are certainly enough resources to start a private cloud deployment, and this will become easier as OpenStack matures. Hybrid clouds require a higher level of OpenStack proficiency, especially for interface and data management. But this area is new and will stabilize quickly.
About the author:
Jim O'Reilly was Vice President of Engineering at Germane Systems, where he created ruggedized servers and storage for the US submarine fleet. He has also held senior management positions at SGI/Rackable and Verari; was CEO at startups Scalant and CDS; headed operations at PC Brand and Metalithic; and led major divisions of Memorex-Telex and NCR, where his team developed the first SCSI ASIC, now in the Smithsonian. Jim is currently a consultant focused on storage and cloud computing.
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