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Managed OpenStack services may have appeal over public cloud

Managed OpenStack services may appeal to enterprises wary of private cloud platform's complexity, but want to use its APIs and security, rather than public cloud.

The advent of managed OpenStack services could encourage enterprises that have been reluctant to launch OpenStack projects to take another look at the private cloud management platform.

Gartner research vice president Arun Chandrasekaran said despite OpenStack's capabilities, its complexity has made it a difficult climb for the open source infrastructure as a service initiative. Chandrasekaran spoke at a recent Gartner IT Operations Strategies and Solutions Summit about whether OpenStack can work for mainstream enterprises.

"OpenStack is maturing, but it is by no means mainstream in the enterprise today," Chandrasekaran said. "Many of the initial private cloud implementations have failed to deliver meaningful value to the enterprise because of technology immaturity and the inability of enterprise IT to have skilled people on staff or hire them," he added.

At the same time, public cloud deployments continue to gain traction. Cisco's recent Global Cloud Index illustrated the growth and confidence in public cloud services that include Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud Platform. Cisco forecasted 56% of cloud workloads will be in public cloud data centers by 2019, up from 30% in 2014. Reversing that trend, projections indicated 44% of cloud workloads will be in private cloud data centers by 2019, down from 70% in 2014, according to the report.

But public cloud isn't for everyone. Security, privacy and cost concerns sometimes make private cloud a better choice, Chandrasekaran said, adding that he's seen an uptick in the number of mainstream enterprises testing and implementing OpenStack in the last 18 months. Now, emerging managed OpenStack services could appeal to enterprises that believe OpenStack is just too complicated to use.

OpenStack is maturing, but it is by no means mainstream in the enterprise today.
Arun Chandrasekaranresearch vice president, Gartner

Another complication for mainstream enterprises is the OpenStack Foundation's aggressive six-month software update schedule. Enterprise IT usually deals with annual software upgrade cycles. Six-month OpenStack upgrades are great for developers who want access to new features and functionalities faster, Chandrasekaran said, but if you're in infrastructure and operations, it means you're going to have to do complex upgrades a lot more frequently, which is disruptive to operations.

Emerging managed OpenStack services provide an alternative to public cloud services that take advantage of the open private cloud platform's capabilities, but hand its infrastructure and operations complexity to a third party. This managed service option may encourage more enterprises to implement OpenStack projects, especially those whose security, privacy and cost concerns may make private cloud a better choice, according to a Gartner analyst.

Today, OpenStack is primarily used by IT companies, research institutions and service providers with huge testing and engineering organizations. With the adoption of public cloud services growing faster than that of private cloud, Chandrasekaran said the future of OpenStack as a potential go-to private cloud platform for mainstream enterprises depends on the needs and skill sets of each organization.

Managed OpenStack services simplify IT operations

The main advantage of managed OpenStack services is that they reduce infrastructure engineering and architecture skills required for implementing OpenStack, which is legendary in its complexity and requires skills that aren't necessarily common in enterprise IT.

Chandrasekaran said managed service options have gained traction in the past year because more and more decisions made in OpenStack are made by cloud architects, developers and application owners who don't want to deal with the underlying infrastructure complexity.

Managed services also remove the complexity of how to ensure high availability and high resiliency, how upgrades go from one version of OpenStack to another and how things like patching work, Chandrasekaran said.

Among the companies offering managed OpenStack services are Cisco, which acquired Metacloud, and IBM, which acquired Blue Box. For enterprises looking for managed service options, the OpenStack marketplace lists companies that host OpenStack cloud as a service.

Customers love Amazon or Azure or Google because they give them a highly programmable and scalable infrastructure, Chandrasekaran said. "If that's the reason you're interested in OpenStack, and it can provide some of those capabilities, then the question enterprise architects should ask themselves is, 'If we like the OpenStack APIs, why should we deal with the infrastructure management complexity?'"

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