There are few better occasions than a recurring yearly event to reflect and take stock of where things stand. In the personal sphere, birthdays and anniversaries are good examples of such events, of course, offering as they do a clear opportunity to assess the changes time has wrought since the last one. Here in the world of technology, annual conferences can serve a similar purpose. Case in point: CloudOpen.
Launched just a year ago, CloudOpen aims to bring together in a vendor-neutral environment the open source projects, products and companies that are driving cloud and Big Data ecosystems. Now, as the second CloudOpen approaches in September, it seems like a good time to sit back and consider how things have progressed on the open cloud since then.
Toward that end, Linux.com reached out recently to some key players in the open cloud to get their take on how far the open cloud has come over the past 12 months.
“The entire open source world has dramatically grown over the past year,” Alan Clark, open source director at SUSE and chairman of the OpenStack Foundation Board, told Linux.com.
Three areas have shown particularly marked advances, Clark added.
“First, if you look at the open source projects out there today, industry backing and support has increased tremendously,” he pointed out. “One very notable example is the number of new projects that have been created within the Linux Foundation, particularly the OpenDaylight project.”
The increased number of vendors involved is “a prime indicator of how seriously organizations are now taking open source projects that are part of the cloud,” he added. “This follows the growth of OpenStack, which saw a huge percentage growth from 2012 to 2013 with the number of organizations implementing OpenStack projects.”
The scope of open source software being developed and the number of sub-projects within open source projects have also skyrocketed over the past year, Clark pointed out.
“Today, the cloud is encompassing software-defined networks in a way it never has before,” he noted.
Then, too, there’s the increased number of use cases available today, Clark suggested: “Open cloud projects have gone beyond e-commerce to include the finance sector, small businesses, government and even in private enterprises.”
Also happening over the past year is that “the ‘to AWS or not to AWS’ question seems to have resurfaced in a big way, lately — whether open cloud should be pursuing AWS API compatibility or not,” Joe Brockmeier, Apache CloudStack PMC member, told Linux.com.
“Obviously, Eucalyptus has decided the answer is ‘yes,’ while the OpenStack community seems pretty torn,” he added. “CloudStack has taken a middle path of pursuing some of the AWS APIs, but isn’t making that a primary goal. In other words, really no change from last year.”
Opportunities and Challenges
Indeed, the open cloud continues to be compared to — and defined by — “the runaway success of AWS,” Greg DeKoenigsberg, vice president of community at Eucalyptus, told Linux.com.
“As AWS continues to expand its presence with more servers and more regions and even begins to move into the private cloud space themselves, I think more and more people are asking the question: When can we expect equal success from the various open cloud initiatives?” he said.
As more large players move into the open cloud space, “I think that expectations for success are also rising, and the pressure is on to prove success,” DeKoenigsberg added. “IBM is a good example here: Even in light of their recent announcements of investments in OpenStack and Cloud Foundry, one of the biggest news stories continues to be IBM’s inability to win a $600 million CIA contract against AWS earlier this year.
“IBM’s bid was lower (by $54M) but the CIA decided that Amazon was better,” he pointed out. “If IBM can’t leverage the best of breed in open cloud to win the big deals against AWS, who can?”
In fact, many of today’s challenges for the open cloud are the same as last year’s, Brockmeier suggested.
Namely, “the various cloud stacks need to be competitive with the market leader, AWS, and the other proprietary stacks (VMware in private cloud, Microsoft Azure and Google Compute in the public cloud),” he explained.
In addition, “there’s still education to be done about what cloud really is and why (and how) organizations should adopt it,” he said.
Increasing adoption of the hybrid cloud within organizations, meanwhile, “will put a great deal of pressure on the portability of the workload and the ability to migrate between clouds,” Clark suggested.
“This will become a very big challenge for organizations over the next few years, which means the need to focus on the standardization of services, interfaces and operating environments,” he added. “This also means we have to make greater advances not only in the readiness of the software, but the sophistication to be able to handle it.”
The Coming Year
What can we expect over the coming months?
There’s no doubt that “a lot of people want open cloud to succeed; all of the open cloud players are seeing more interest than ever,” DeKoenigsberg said.
“In the coming year, I believe the onus will continue to be on all of us in the open cloud camps to demonstrate that the theoretical benefits of open cloud — choice and future promises of interoperability — can measure up to the actual benefits that AWS, with its innovative ecosystem, continues to deliver to customers at an ever-accelerating pace,” he explained.
More specifically, “as adoption of hybrid clouds grows, workload portability becomes ever more important,” Clark said. “Efforts around that have already begun and will go full-steam over the next year.”
Training, education and certification will also need increased investment, he added. “We need to teach people how cloud applications are different than traditional environments, along with how those applications need to be developed. We have to educate people on how you manage, deploy, and operate cloud environments. This is especially the case in mixed and hybrid environments.”
Intellectual property protection will be another focus, Clark predicted: “The open cloud community is going to use mechanisms similar to those the Linux environment enjoys today,” he explained. “Some projects, such as OpenStack, enjoy some benefits of IP protection through the Apache license. But there’s more that needs to be done.”
Finally, there’s no doubt that much work remains in convincing organizations to go with the open cloud, Brockmeier concluded. On the other hand, “perhaps all the NSA nonsense will help convince organizations that, no, putting all your compute and data in someone else’s hands is *not* the best idea.”