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The mood at this year's second OpenStack Summit in Barcelona, Spain, was largely positive – with a wide range of new uses on display and a particular focus on multi-cloud, interoperability, and TCO.

Despite this curve in maturity there are still some perceived barriers to entry for more traditional legacy IT enterprises, and some challenges ahead.

OpenStack Foundation co-founder Jonathan Bryce's keynote panel on the second day focused in particular on OpenStack’s place within hybrid and multi-cloud environments.

“There are is an incredible variety of workloads out there and for a lot of these users, they still use public cloud,” Bryce said, speaking with Computerworld UK. “But people are getting more sophisticated in understanding that this is not the right time to use public cloud, this is the right time to use private cloud.

“One of the users talked about the majority of their load, which they handle on private cloud, but when they get to busy seasons they burst into a number of public clouds.

 “They're intelligent about which loads they send over there, so, as their capacity needs increase, they turn more of their private data centre over to network intensive workloads and push some of the other workloads into the public cloud, where the cost difference is not as big.

“As their load dies down they move it back – that to me is what's exciting, as models get more sophisticated it really changes the way people can make use of that infrastructure.”

TCO benefits driving OpenStack adoption

According to Mark Collier, COO of the OpenStack Foundation, one of the driving forces behind enterprise adoption of the open source platform is a realisation of the cost benefits.

 The latest User Survey revealed that the overwhelming number of businesses experimenting with OpenStack are now doing so for cost reasons – that the TCO purely makes sense when compared to proprietary offers or in the public cloud alone.

“I do [think the TCO] is going to be a breakthrough point, but I don't necessarily think the economics have changed,” Collier, COO of the OpenStack Foundation, told Computerworld UK.

“What has changed is people's awareness of them. Even us, looking back at our user survey for the last few releases, cost savings has been the number one reason.

He added: “Maybe one of the things that has changed is the number of people you need to operate OpenStack is not as many as it used to be. You put all that together and cost does become a big driver, and it can save a lot of money over public cloud and hyperscale companies. At the end of the day CFOs carry a pretty big stick at most companies.”

According to the full User Survey, available here, 72 percent of users polled cited cost savings as the number one driver for adoption.

This chimes with the results of two recent independent in-depth analysis from 451 Research – one the result of its Cloud Price Index, and another a deep-dive into OpenStack specifically. Just recently Dr Owen Rogers at 451 Group said that he believed the perception around lower TCOs could well be a breakthrough point for OpenStack.

Challenges remain

451's OpenStack Pulse report claims that business models based on OpenStack could well exceed $5 billion by 2020 – and grow at a compound annual growth rate of 35 percent. And like much of the noise generated at the Barcelona summit, analysts believe that it is in running private cloud in the context of multi-cloud environments where OpenStack will thrive, and container environments like Docker which are to be the most complementary.

In a statement, research VP at 451 Research Al Sadowski said: “This year OpenStack has become a top priority and credible cloud option, but it still has its shortcomings.

“We continue to believe the market is still in the early stage of enterprise use and revenue generation.

“We expect an uptick in revenues from all sectors and geographic regions, especially from those companies in the OpenStack Products and Distributions category that are targeting enterprises.”

And, 451 Research suggests, the appeal of OpenStack is somewhat limited for legacy applications and enterprises that are happy to stay with the hyperscale vendors like AWS.

Interoperability

During one of the keynote sessions, 18 businesses joined together to demonstrate the interoperability of OpenStack along with running OpenStack test apps, which are to be made available. And although this is not new – and in some ways was part of the original appeal of OpenStack in general – the Foundation believes that this demo signalled a willingness for increased cooperation, which will ultimately benefit the end users too.

“Doing these kinds of things and continuing to put a focus on interoperability is really important because it keeps the vendors honest,” said Bryce.

“I don't mean that to make it sound like the vendors are shifty or trying to do dishonest things – but it reinforces how important it is to the community, the users, and the foundation. All the companies wanted to participate in this, and they didn't want to be left out.”

“We had 18,” Collier said. “As soon as it became clear this was something people were looking at and expecting, no one wanted to be left out. I can guarantee you that from this point forward, any new version of a product based on OpenStack, there's no way they are going to ship without running against these tests to make sure it doesn't break – because now they know there's an expectation there.”

It is clear that it's not just the vendors that want OpenStack to succeed, but customers and communities too – and indeed, many of the world's most prominent technology companies across different verticals are here and contributing, financially and with code.

Canonical's head of product and Ubuntu founder Mark Shuttleworth told Computerworld UK that while he is positive about the path OpenStack is taking – and that it has clearly won in terms of open platforms – a recent round of layoffs from some vendors is evidence that the 'big tent' approach had collapsed.

He suggested that this was a wake-up call for the Foundation and for the vendors, and that a concerted effort needs to be made about focusing on the core offerings of OpenStack. He also offered his opinion that Microsoft's own development in private cloud could provide competition to the platform in the near future.

OpenStack becomes enterprise-ready

Because the OpenStack summit happens every six months and is based on the principles of transparency that are so necessary for genuine open source movements to function, attendees can quite easily chart over time the challenges, wins, progress, development, documentation, and so on. A simplified analogy would be to think of it as showing your calculations before reaching a conclusion in algebra – it is all on display.

And one aspect of OpenStack that's not really up for debate is if it is now ready for the enterprise. There might be trepidation among a section of customers due to perceived complexity or a shortfall in engineers, but the range of uses on display goes to show that it is a powerful option in private cloud and for the right tasks – as the data from 451 Research and other analysts suggests.

So OpenStack finds itself at an intriguing juncture. The right players are all paying attention and making investments, and enterprises are using it to provide services, create products, and run workloads.

The question is if OpenStack can keep up the momentum – as 451 Research notes in its report, OpenStack “surpassed rival CloudStack in mindshare and then market share” – and the trajectory its adoption curve takes.

It seems to have found a powerful place for itself that all those invested seem confident in growing, but as ever, time will tell where the . But it's difficult not to see the platform go from one of promise and potential into one that's become in-use and vital for both businesses and researchers the world over.

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