OpenStack Winning Converts Among Large Enterprises

Major enterprises, including BestBuy, Comcast, HubSpot and Bloomberg, are making major commitments to OpenStack technology for their IT infrastructures.

BestBuy, Comcast, HubSpot and Bloomberg epitomize the core message from the OpenStack Summit that took place in Portland, Ore., this week. Why? Executives from those companies all took turns on the keynote stage at OpenStack and explained how they are committing to the OpenStack infrastructure model.

OpenStack is a cloud computing infrastructure based on open-source software that is available for use under Apache licensing terms. Developers talking about their involvement and excitement around helping create the next wave of enterprise infrastructure is one thing. Betting your career and your company's fortunes on an emerging standard is a whole different level of commitment.

In the year and a half since the OpenStack initiative was spun out from the confines of RackSpace and in the six months since the independent OpenStack Foundation was launched, the concept of users and developers reshaping how companies design, deploy and manage their infrastructure has grown from just that—a concept—to a fast evolving model. It's a model that, wonder of wonders, is actually making deadlines and getting CIOs and IT execs to commit their company's information technology structure to the model.

Bloomberg is a company that lives and dies by delivering accurate financial data worldwide in a real-time environment. BestBuy requires a software stack that melds the in-store experience with digital storefronts that are tuned to individual users.

Comcast is contending with a competitive media environment that requires a way for customers to quickly search, select and play media content. HubSpot is an application designed to allow marketing execs to create marketing campaigns that are not intrusive but do yield results.

Those four companies have all turned to OpenStack to enable their infrastructures, according to company executives keynoting at OpenStack.

OpenStack is on a six-month development cycle capped by a conference at the end of each cycle. The Portland event was to unveil the Grizzly version of the infrastructure stack. But, moreover, it was an opportunity to acknowledge the growth of the OpenStack foundation.

Six months ago in San Diego, there were 1,200 attendees to get the Grizzly version under way. In Portland, there were about 2,800 attendees and more than 50 corporate sponsors ranging from startups such as Cloudability to IBM, Hewlett-Packard and Juniper. "OpenStack is hot," said Alan Clark, chairman of the OpenStack Foundation.

Clark's simple statement may be the best description of the OpenStack phenomenon. In the foundation's brief existence, the open model has become a yardstick for competing organizations to gauge their success. As one attendee told me, years ago when Linux and open source were first appearing, vendors such as Microsoft were quick to disparage the open concept as hobbyist-level products not ready for the enterprise.

Not so this time around, as Microsoft, Cisco and Amazon are taking pains to describe how their products will fit within the OpenStack model.

OpenStack is not without its competitors, including CloudStack (initially driven by Citrix but since donated to the Apache organization). But right now the momentum appears to be in OpenStack's favor. Regardless of their choice of cloud models, CIO and IT executives want to create an infrastructure that can both model the big public cloud vendors and create infrastructures that are flexible, scalable and—more and more frequently—open.

So, what's next? Here are my predictions. OpenStack will continue to pull in vendors and customers as it offers a way to create an infrastructure that works on in-house data centers, hybrid models or in the public cloud. CIOs and tech execs need simplicity and a model that can be deployed anywhere and everywhere.

The OpenStack development model is now seen as confined to the technology infrastructure including servers, storage and networking. While the adoption of that model amounts to nothing less than an upending of the proprietary vendor-driven model to a customer needs model, the model could be equally applied to business application development or even business organization and strategy. This horse has a long way to run in my opinion.

About Eric Lundquist

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, authors this blog for eWEEK to share his thoughts on technology, products and services. No investment advice is offered in this blog. 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 blog and no disclosure of securities transactions will be made.