One of the constant challenges in the data center in the past couple of years has been how to deploy and manage OpenStack in a non-technical enterprise. Tech-focused companies such as PayPal, HP, and Rackspace have made heavy investments in OpenStack and are reaping the benefits, but what about organizations that don’t have the resources to manage the complex installation and upgrade process of OpenStack? What are the deployment options for organizations wanting to keep their data on-premises?

There are two options for organizations that just want the benefits of OpenStack but not the management headache.

Option 1: Customized distribution

You don’t know the difference between Icehouse, Grizzly, and Havana (hint: they are OpenStack version names), but you want to deploy OpenStack on-premises on one of your servers? A viable option may be a custom distribution from a company such as Piston Cloud.

OpenStack is a framework that includes different components, including Swift (Storage), Nova (Compute), and Networking (Neutron); each component is basically a different open source project. Companies such as Piston Cloud take the complexity out of knowing the nuances and package the distribution in a way that looks like traditional off-the-shelf software. This approach makes deploying a full OpenStack installation similar to an experience most administrators are familiar with, and it makes upgrades a bit simpler.

Open 2: Hosted management

Platform9 is a startup that has just left stealth mode and has released the beta of its Software as a Service (SaaS) management solution. The idea behind Platform9’s product is to outsource the cloud management layer basically to Platform9. The solution requires the customer to install a 4 MB agent onto the servers participating in the OpenStack Cloud. These servers report back to a dedicated instance of OpenStack in Platform9’s data center. Customers can then access their portal to provision and control OpenStack resources.

At VMworld 2014, the Platform9 engineers ran a contest to see how fast conference attendees could spin up an OpenStack Cloud with a MacBook Air as the hypervisor resource. The times ranged from 3 minutes 30 seconds to 8 minutes. The drawback to this approach is that you give up control of the distribution. Similar to other SaaS providers, you must follow the release schedule of the cloud provider.


With VMware announcing direct support of OpenStack with its own distribution, the expectation is that OpenStack will become a more viable option for developing cloud-based applications in the enterprise.

If you are getting requests to provide OpenStack-based cloud management but don’t have the resources to manage and support OpenStack, these two options may be exactly what you need to kick the tires on OpenStack.