The OpenStack Summit in Vancouver this week has been the largest yet for the open source community, with more than 6,000 users attending the bi-annual event in its fifth year. And with the official release of its Kilo update, and new users on show such as Walmart, American Express and TD Bank, the open source project appears to be making progress into wider adoption in enterpise data centres.

The summit offers customers and the opportuntiy to learn more about setting up an on-premise cloud using the notoriously tricky management platform from the success of early adopters. It also provides a forum for discussing some of the challenges as the platform matures. Here are some of the main topics highlighted by members of the community at the 2015 Summit...

Innovation is welcome, but keep focus on developing the basics

The big buzz at the Vancouver Summit was, perhaps unsurprisingly, containers, with dozens of presentations devoted to the topic, and numerous product and service announcements from vendors. 

A show of hands during OpenStack chief operating officer, Mark Collier’s keynote on Tuesday highlighted that, although a small minority had got to grips with containers in a significant way yet, most appeared to be keen to get started with the technology.

However, while many users were undoubtedly welcomed the moves to support new services being developed by the wider community, there were also calls to also continue to focus on the reliability of core services.  

Speaking at customer panel discussion, Adobe’s virtual platform architect, Frans Van Rooyen, highlighted the importance of the OpenStack community stabilising existing software at the same times creating new services. He warned against overreaching in terms of new functionality and projects.

“Over the last months that we have been working with [OpenStack], it seems that in a lot of ways the community tries to do everything Amazon is doing. They are trying to be everything to everyone, taking on too much without spending time stabilising and getting rid of bugs, working on the performance so that we make sure that we can scale to the extent that we need to,” he said. 

“Along with that there is a lot of confusion about what [services] can I use today, versus what is just in incubation and [we] don’t really want to touch it yet. So we don’t really where to make our bets.”

Support for legacy app ‘pets’

Also speaking on the customer panel, Wells Fargo’s technology manager, Prashanth Rao, who uses VMware’s OpenStack distribution, added that, while “there was a lot of talk about Docker and containers…and sessions [on the subject] were jam-packed”, the community should also be focused on the capability to handle legacy systems.

“If we look at the whole ‘pets’ versus ‘cattle’ [debate], well, ‘pets’ are here to stay,” he said. 

“It is very unsexy and it is not really interesting to work on, but one of the things I would challenge the OpenStack community is to continue to offer support within the platform to extend support for ‘pets’, because they are here to stay. And that is one of the reasons I am with VMware - it is a great choice for us, because you have that stable platform that has all those underlying capabilities. I think that is something that is [sometimes] lost. 

“When we have Docker and all this cool stuff, there is all this stuff that runs the day to day business at large enterprises like Wells Fargo, that we need to continue to support, and provide capabilities within OpenStack if we are going to get the adoption from those companies.”

Next section: Focus on private cloud features and functionality

Openstack: Focus on private cloud features and functionality

Meanwhile, addressing delegates in a separate presentation regarding Yahoo’s plans to move 100,000 bare metal servers to OpenStack, the search firm’s principal architect, James Penick, said that more support is needed in the platform to handle business and financial process aspects of private cloud deployments. For example this means being able to ensure that internal users of data centre resources are able to access service which are designated - rather than allowing expensive SSDs to be allocated when not required.

“OpenStack in the last few years has improved leaps and bounds. And I think some of the things we would like to see next that we want to help drive in the community are certain features that really are more appropriate for a private cloud than a public cloud,” he said. 

“So flavour-based quotas, the ability to regulate which tenants can boot which flavours in which places, so locality and that kind of thing and other pieces that give you the ability to tie OpenStack with internal business and financial processes. So when you bump [a user’s] quota, you need a way of tracking that, knowing how it went up, why it went up, who did it, having an external reference field. That is a lot of the stuff we are looking for.”

Follow Linux’s footstep to open source success 

During the second day keynote, Intel’s Imad Sousou, VP for the firm’s Software and Services Group, warned that while OpenStack has come a long way thanks to the community and developers, there is still a lot of work that needs to be work to ensure that the platform can mature to become the standard for highly automated data centres in future.

“There are a lot of sceptics still out there, and there is a perception that OpenStack is not yet ready for prime time - you still see that in the press, and we hear see that from our customers. And there is some truth to that,” he said. 

“We realise that there is still a lot of work that we need to do in OpenStack to really get to the way that we feel would be an easily deployable, robust software defined infrastructure platform.”

He added that the best way to achieve its goals will be to try to follow the model of Linux, the open source software project that some argue can be a template for the development of OpenStack. This means ensuring that the community of contributors can work together effectively.

“In order to get there we are going to need a lot of focus. Linux started 25 years ago, [but] OpenStack is a fairly young project. It took 10 years to get Linux to get where it is today [in terms of] broad deployment, ease of use and ‘plug and go’,” he said. 

“With OpenStack we are going to need a lot of focus to get it to that level. If you look at the Linux comparison, there is this very mature project as the result of many years of work by a very broad community, and there is a very healthy ecosystem of distributors.  

“An enterprise can go and just buy any of the Linux distribution projects and they are able to install that, fairly easily deploy it, and operate it and so on. We need to get to that in OpenStack.”