OpenStack Summit Report: Real Customers Building Better Products Faster With Open-Source Cloud

At the OpenStack Summit in Portland last week, the open-source cloud platform got real, to echo Forrester’s cloud team predictions for 2013. At the busy gathering attended by over 2,400, suits mingled effortlessly with hoodies and deep-tech design committee meetings were sandwiched between marquee-name customers sharing success stories. Three core themes drove the show, as outlined by Jonathan Bryce in the opening keynote: the OpenStack technology platform has matured, the ecosystem is vibrant, and the global user footprint now includes enterprise customers doing real business.

The show followed on the heels of the Grizzly release, the 7th release of the OpenStack platform. Along with stronger support for VMware and Microsoft hypervisors, Grizzly widens block storage options and includes 10+ new enterprise storage platform drivers and workload-based scheduling. A wide range of new network plugins expand the platform’s software-defined networking options and a sexier Dashboard to access, provision and automate resources.

Most every major infrastructure and cloud provider vendor has an OpenStack story, from EMC, NetApp, and AMD to HP, IBM, Arista, Cisco, and VMware. A few sessions focused on how to make money with OpenStack (it’s starting to happen), and more than 20 companies are now contributing code every week, led by Red Hat, Rackspace (as expected), IBM, Nebula, and HP. OpenStack is no longer a Rackspace project but an active community populated by vendors who fully expect to monetize the open-source cloud.

But the real stars of the show were the customers, led by Bloomberg, Best Buy, Comcast, HubSpot, and eBay. While the use cases varied, the common theme was clear: every one of these enterprises is using the open source cloud to give developers what they want and, in turn, push new products and services to market faster. Comcast uses OpenStack to adjust developer behavior and encourage devs to make better use of infrastructure. Cable companies are traditionally slow to release new features, limited by the set-top box delivery model. OpenStack allows Comcast to deliver new features faster from the cloud (like a new X1 xfinity interface, in limited customer production release today) and integrate third-party content in a matter of weeks, not months. Mark Muehl from Comcast also praised open source for encouraging his developers to look to the community for help and guidance, since “our problems are not unique.” He stressed that he wants a choice of clouds to optimize costs, but wants to abstract those decisions away from his developers.

The Bloomberg team also went open source for agility (to be able to pull out a bad or immature layer in the stack if they wanted to replace it with something better) and devops efficiencies. Bloomberg’s now focused on improving monitoring and orchestration, effectively operationalizing its cloud in production, and has shared its Chef cookbooks with the community to foster collaboration around the best ways to turn OpenStack into a truly programmable infrastructure. Best Buy has built what they call a continuous delivery cloud to help get 40+ parallel dev teams on the same page. The retailer was spending far too much on QA for each major release of its ecommerce site, with much of that going to fixing discrepancies between dev, test, and QA environments. 

These types of use cases – developer agility, learning from the community, rolling out new functionality incrementally, redesigning apps to leverage cloud for elastic, bursty workloads, etc. – are all signs of increasing cloud maturity in the enterprise. Business-unit aligned developers are leading cloud adoption in the enterprise, but the Summit showed that IT operations teams are increasingly guiding them in the right direction. Across the board, the enterprise IT teams at the Summit were proactively reaching out to engage with shadow cloud buyers, understand their needs and constraints, and stepping up to provide push-button cloud environments that drive innovation, not just cost savings. These open-source cloud leaders aren’t just moving apps to the cloud, they are transforming them by adding elastic services where they make the make the most sense—and in the process they’re fostering a new era of developer productivity and user experience.