Advanced Computing in the Age of AI | Monday, May 23, 2022

Filling Storage Gap Could Boost OpenStack Deployments 

As OpenStack cloud deployments slowly grow, so too do nagging concerns about complexity and the persistent difficulty of installing the open source platform, including much configuring and customizing. As they say, the first step toward solving a problem is admitting you have one.

As the growing OpenStack user community meets this week in Tokyo, a number of emerging software-defined networking and storage solutions aim to address these lingering deployment issues, prompting some industry observers to assert that 2016 will be the year OpenStack deployments begin to take off.

Industry watchers such as Alan Waite of Gartner Inc. assert that despite lingering installation issues, OpenStack is ready for private cloud adoption. Building on its open-source heritage, Waite cited a growing ecosystem of storage and networking vendors along with interoperability and adaptability advantages.

Another advantage that appears to be rising to the top of many lists is the fact the OpenStack offers a broadly accepted cloud management API. Some members of the growing OpenStack ecosystem, including Rob Whiteley of software-defined storage startup Hedvig Inc., go so far as to assert, "OpenStack is the enterprise's best hope for a single API to the software-defined datacenter."

At the same time, Waite acknowledge in a blog post earlier this year that OpenStack implementation remains an issue as does integration of the cloud platform with existing infrastructure, to name just a few issues. Among the first questions Waite asks clients considering an OpenStack deployment is: "Should you be building an [Infrastructure-as-a-Service] private cloud?"

Nevertheless, Waite and others expect OpenStack adoption to grow. "I also expect public cloud adoption to grow faster than OpenStack," he noted.

While the cloud platform may not work for some enterprises, OpenStack "is our current best hope for a private workload control layer able to operate across technology silos," Waite concluded. One reason he cited was OpenStack Nova, the cloud computing fabric controller (a key component of an IaaS), that provides a control plane and API for computing.

As OpenStack and application container management frameworks intersect, proponents also predict the emergence of software-defined compute, or what Waite refers to as "the third leg in the tripod of software-defined infrastructure."

Others in the growing OpenStack ecosystem have begun to fill in some of the gaps that could help deliver that software-defined future. On Tuesday (Oct. 27), for example, OpenStack SDN specialist Awnix introduced what it claims is the first backup and disaster recovery tool for OpenStack with SDN. The tool is designed to work with standard OpenStack APIs and is compatible with SDN overlays with Neutron, the OpenStack network interface.

Meanwhile, software-defined storage also is seen is a key component for easing OpenStack deployments. The distributed storage startup Hedvig emerged from stealth mode earlier this year to help redefine software-defined storage while targeting what it sees as an uptick in enterprise deployments of OpenStack.

Hedvig's Whiteley asserted in a blog post that OpenStack deployments would roughly double in 2016. As part of the shift to production, Whiteley also predicted that Docker application containers would become a leading OpenStack hypervisor next year as the delivery of micro-services gains momentum.

Not surprisingly, Hedvig views underlying storage issues as one reason an estimated one-quarter of production OpenStack clouds will stall in the coming year. "Storage is the weakest link that threatens to stall the whole OpenStack ecosystem from achieving maturity," Whiteley argued, noting that the cloud platform only provides orchestration to storage. Hence, the startup maintains, software-defined storage is needed to boost OpenStack production deployments.

Meanwhile, OpenStack stakeholders like Red Hat (NYSE: RHT) have attempted to address installation and other deployment issues through acquisitions. Red Hat's recent deal to acquire IT automation specialist Ansible Inc. was intended in part to address complaints that the OpenStack cloud platform brings with it a steep learning curve. Red Hat stressed the Ansible deal would help it "streamline OpenStack installations and upgrades."

For now, Gartner's Waite reckons the number of OpenStack deployments remains on the order of hundreds. "If you consider 'success' to be massive adoption across many industries and in a majority of virtualized estates, then OpenStack has not succeeded," he wrote. "This is not surprising if you think about the limited use cases where an OpenStack cloud would actually be the right solution."

About the author: George Leopold

George Leopold has written about science and technology for more than 30 years, focusing on electronics and aerospace technology. He previously served as executive editor of Electronic Engineering Times. Leopold is the author of "Calculated Risk: The Supersonic Life and Times of Gus Grissom" (Purdue University Press, 2016).

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