OpenStack has been many things to many people. Soon after it was introduced, I saw use cases for OpenStack as a replacement for VMware vSphere. Service providers have adopted OpenStack as the de facto standard for public cloud offerings. And most recently, any enterprise considering a private cloud deployment puts OpenStack on its short list.
Complexity and a difficult management model are well-accepted attributes of OpenStack. Organizations must hire highly skilled and hard to find operators or spend heavily on consultants to deploy OpenStack. Solutions for Platform9 and IBM's Blue Box handle the complexity issue. Whether managed or self-hosted, the business of running OpenStack is difficult.
Along with the overhead, some OpenStack community members have been asking: Is OpenStack only for the largest of deployments?
HP, Rackspace, and smaller public cloud providers have leveraged OpenStack as the platform of choice to provide customers with Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) solutions. When considering the options, OpenStack is a reasonable choice for public cloud providers.
The value of private cloud
The extensibility of the open source platform has also made it a popular choice for private cloud. When looking at private organizations that have all successfully deployed OpenStack, including eBay, PayPal, Comcast, and Walmart, it's difficult to miss the fact that all of them are large enterprises with large deployments.
While the large installations garner the attention, the question remains: Can small installations benefit from OpenStack? I believe it's important to take a step back and ask: Regardless of the platform, can the target organization benefit from private cloud? A driver for private cloud is the ability to build cloud-native apps that reside within the physical binderies of your infrastructure.
There's a debate about whether small organizations should consider private cloud. Fellow TechRepublic contributing writer Matt Assay has debated the value of private cloud for organizations of any size. Regardless of the position on private cloud, once an organization selects the model, a platform is needed. The options for private cloud management are scant.
OpenStack is appealing due to how much mindshare there is in the industry, but organizations run into the issues of complexity and lack of skill once they start down the OpenStack route.
The pros and cons of OpenStack in small installations
Small organizations are at a greater disadvantage. During a job search late last year, I interviewed for a managerial role with one of the largest OpenStack operators. According to the department's Vice President, training and retaining OpenStack talent were the largest challenges the operator faced. Small organizations may find talent too big of an obstacle for administering an OpenStack installation.
In a recent podcast Jeff Dickey, CEO of OpenStack consulting firm Redapt, shared that his company has successfully deployed several small OpenStack installations. I found Dickey's comments consistent with that of other OpenStack consultants such as HP. During HP Discover, HP's Helion team shared that most of their installations are small installs targeted at single applications. While HP and Redapt make deploying OpenStack tenable for small organizations, the challenges of ongoing management of the platform remain.
Managed solutions from IBM and Platform9 may ease the pain of OpenStack for smaller organizations.
Join the discussion
Has the complexity of OpenStack shied your small organization away from the platform? I'd like to read your experiences in the comments.
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Keith Townsend is a technology management consultant with more than 15 years of related experience designing, implementing, and managing data center technologies. His areas of expertise include virtualization, networking, and storage solutions for Fortune 500 organizations. He holds a BA in computing and a MS in information technology from DePaul University.