OpenStack's 'Havana' Edition Attests to Success of Open Cloud Project

NEWS ANALYSIS: OpenStack's release of the "Havana" version makes the cloud platform more enterprise friendly, but the foundation has to work harder to win more enterprise converts.

Havana, the latest version of OpenStack, was released in mid-October, just a few weeks before the OpenStack Summit scheduled for Nov. 5 to 8 in Hong Kong.

The semi-annual code updates from the OpenStack foundation are impressive—for the breadth of features and also for the ability to coordinate the activities of more than 900 developers to design and debug 400 new features for this eighth release. It is tempting to wish that the bug-ridden developers had looked closely at the OpenStack versioning process, but that would be wishful thinking.

In any case, enthusiasm for OpenStack shows no signs of fading as the public and private cloud infrastructure software stack continues to evolve toward more platform and development capabilities. Competitors have claimed OpenStack is more for cloud service providers rather than for enterprise organizations. There is some truth to that, but the supporters of OpenStack are bringing more enterprise experience to the table.

When the OpenStack foundation was organized, there were lots of questions regarding the creation of another open-source cloud project. OpenStack grew out of the cloud projects at Rackspace and NASA where it became clear that the ability to draw in a larger vendor support community hinged on the stack operating in a separate, public, transparent organization.

While you can still argue about whether OpenStack should have operated under one of the existing open projects, that argument is mostly moot. Eight versions of a project operating on a strict six-month versioning timeline and adding substantial new features with each version is sufficient proof that the current foundation structure was correct. In the end, you are judged on the software you ship, not the software you talk about.

The Havana version contains key features for the enterprise. In the storage (Swift) capabilities, Havana added global cluster support. Havana also includes additional workload orchestration, monitoring and security features that continue to give the stack a more corporate appeal and are intended to move the platform up the stack of CIO interest.

I’m not going to list all 400 features, but highlights include OpenStack Orchestration. The Orchestration feature is a template-driven service for deploying compute, storage and networking services related to an application.

This helps ease the argument that OpenStack is technically strong but too difficult to deploy and manage. OpenStack Metering is also designed to address the complaints regarding complexity by offering a single dashboard approach to resource usage. End-to-end encryption, VPN and firewall as-a-service capabilities were also added to make OpenStack more enterprise friendly.

OpenStack exists in a very competitive space with Amazon Web Services, which commands the public cloud market and VMWare, which is in the midst of trying to capitalize on its server virtualization success to embrace the storage and network virtualization aspects of the data center.

With the technology continuing its rapid cloud-like shift, the success of OpenStack will hinge on customers going from tire kicking to full implementation. Success will also require technology vendors to wrap deployment and monitoring features around the OpenStack platform. Those vendors, most recently Red Hat, have to accomplish making OpenStack more customer friendly while being careful not to alter the core OpenStack capabilities or creating proprietary distributions, which lead to customer fears of vendor lock-in.

The OpenStack Foundation has done a good job at highlighting user stories and its user community on its Website. However, a review of the stories still shows a strong academic, government and cloud provider bias. Users at companies as diverse as The Gap and Bloomberg offer strong case studies supporting OpenStack as an enterprise infrastructure. But the foundation needs more of those customer testimonials to convince enterprise technology executives that the OpenStack model is right for their company.

The Havana version of OpenStack is a significant development in the technology community, but the momentum needs to be maintained to have a lasting impact on the enterprise.

Eric Lundquist is a technology analyst at Ziff Brothers Investments, a private investment firm. Lundquist, who was editor in chief at eWEEK (previously PC WEEK) from 1996-2008, authored this article for eWEEK to share his thoughts on technology, products and services. No investment advice is offered in this article. All duties are disclaimed. Lundquist works separately for a private investment firm, which may at any time invest in companies whose products are discussed in this article and no disclosure of securities transactions will be made.