There seems to be a perception that the cloud infrastructure OpenStack software is primarily used by service providers and not used so much by enterprises. At last week’s OpenStack Summit in Vancouver, British Columbia, Jonathan Bryce, the executive director with the OpenStack Foundation, said that according to 451 Research, 71 percent of service providers are using OpenStack in production or plan to in the next 12 months.
Conversely, at ONUG, a show that was held earlier this month where IT executives from large organizations gathered, the perception that enterprises didn’t use much OpenStack seemed to be confirmed. Nick Lippis, the co-founder of ONUG, said that not many of the enterprise IT executives who belong to ONUG use OpenStack or even much open source software at all.
Open source software is discussed only if ONUG members find it useful, Lippis said. “There’s very little open source that gets put in large enterprises with the exception of Linux with Red Hat,” he said. “We don’t chase these techs, we chase good outcomes. If anything, everyone’s experimenting with Kubernetes and Docker.”
The perception that OpenStack is mainly used by telcos seemed further confirmed when VMware recently said it was giving responsibility — for both service provider and enterprise usage of its VMware Integrated OpenStack (VIO) product — to VMware’s Telco NFV Group.
“We believe that the requirements that telcos present to the OpenStack distribution are a superset of what we see in the enterprise world,” said Gabriele Di Piazza, vice president of solutions for VMware’s Telco NFV Group. “I would not say enterprises are not interested in OpenStack, but obviously the fact that we decided to move OpenStack into the telco group [indicates] there is much stronger focus on OpenStack in the telco world. With that said, the world is very wide, so you can’t say enterprises don’t use it.”
At the OpenStack Summit I asked some vendors whether this perception was valid.
“I’m not sure where the whole telco-only thing comes from,” said JR Rivers, CTO at Cumulus Networks, a company that is most known for its Cumulus Linux operating system. “We have customers on both sides.” But, he said in terms of “sheer numbers,” Cumulus has way more enterprise customers.
His theory is that big financial organizations were some of the first enterprises to build private clouds. And they built their clouds using proprietary technology from vendors such as VMware. He calls this early adoption “Wall Street IT.”
“People who attend ONUG have been around for a while,” said Rivers. “Their lineage is from that Wall Street era. Those people are looking for open alternatives. But oftentimes they’re very stuck and unable to move quickly.”
In the ensuing years, the big webscale companies such as Amazon, Google, and Microsoft have innovated a lot of cloud technology, both hardware and software. And open source software has become widely adopted. Rivers calls this “webscale IT,” and he said enterprises building new infrastructure are open to webscale IT.
“We’re just super focused on people building new infrastructure with that webscale mindset; new businesses that are infrastructure heavy,” Rivers said. “For us, the OpenStack Summit is usually a fantastic show. People are building cloud infrastructure, and they’re not building it with VMware.”
I also spoke with Peter Chadwick, director of product management at SUSE, the first company to come out with an OpenStack distribution (that was in 2012).
“We have a mix of enterprise customers and service providers who use SUSE,” said Chadwick. “The bias is much more heavy on enterprise customers.”
Chadwick said that service providers build cloud infrastructure for themselves. And they also use their infrastructure to serve medium-size enterprises. “There’s a whole mid-market that if they want to consume cloud they’re going to do that through a service provider,” he said. “AT&T, for example can participate in OpenStack and help the community evolve.”
SUSE helps large enterprises to build cloud infrastructure. “You need to have a fairly big server infrastructure for something like OpenStack to make sense,” said Chadwick.
Here’s my takeaway from these discussions: OpenStack has made a lot of headway working with service providers. But this has given it a reputation for being a telco-only software. In fact, many vendors involved with the software platform are actually focusing more on the enterprise market. And this makes sense given that there are a lot more potential enterprise customers than there are service provider customers.