Many data center managers have embraced products based on open sourced projects. Here are three sometimes tightly coupled open source projects that data center managers should know.
OpenStack, a cloud management platform (CMP), has become the darling of enterprise hardware and software vendors. The concept behind OpenStack is to present data center resources to controller nodes. Through APIs, these controller nodes can present resources to be consumed by end users.
Traditional proprietary software companies such as VMware and Microsoft have developed complimentary OpenStack offerings, and VMware has even developed an OpenStack distribution. Hardware vendors have also embraced the open APIs provided by OpenStack. EMC, Hitachi, HP, Dell, and Cisco are some of the hardware vendors that fully support OpenStack.
While there is a steep learning curve to OpenStack, the broad support from traditional hardware and software communities make it a solution that can't be ignored. There are also a number of options on the market that package easy-to-deploy OpenStack distributions.
Docker, which brings virtual container management to Linux, has become the darling of the open source community in a very short period of time. There are various use cases for Docker.
The first is the ability to package software and all its dependencies into a single package. Packaging software in Docker lets developers reliably run code on any Linux machine running Docker. The most common scenario given is the ability to run software across different cloud providers that may have different Linux distributions with different dependencies installed.
A second use case for Docker is to use containers to augment or replace virtual machines (VMs) for compute resources. Spinning up a container takes milliseconds vs. the seconds or minutes it takes to spin up a VM. If you're running similar workloads on bare metal hardware, containers have been shown to outperform VMs. Performance and convenience come at a cost, and Linux container management has a long way to go. Compared to VMs, container security and networking lacks many capabilities.
It's becoming common to see Docker containers as compute resources for OpenStack implementations.
OpenDaylight is an open source network controller project. Software-defined network (SDN) implementations leverage network controllers. In SDN implementations, the controller's role is to control traffic flow and manage SDN devices. Combined with a CMP such as OpenStack, OpenDaylight can be used to provision and manage network components.
OpenDaylight is still maturing, and there is very little documentation available for end users at this point.
Network companies such as Brocade are shipping products based on OpenDaylight.
Being an early adopter of open source-based products can be frustrating, because there is usually very little documentation and a steep learning curve to implementation; however, traditional vendors have started to become full-time members of the open source projects that enhance their products.
OpenStack, Docker, and OpenDaylight are just three examples of open source projects that offer major advantages to the enterprise data center. What other projects would you add to this list?
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.