Mountain View: The future direction of OpenStack is sparking debate among the platform's community of developers and users, with some prominent figures warning that it needs greater standardisation and to play to its own strengths instead of trying to compete against better established cloud computing platforms.
At the OpenStack Silicon Valley conference in California, EMC vice president of Technology Randy Bias (pictured) used his session on stage to outline steps he believes that the OpenStack community needs to make to ensure the continued future success of the platform.
Bias, who is also a director of the OpenStack Foundation, warned that the platform has so many different configuration options that it risked becoming fragmented and losing interoperability among different implementations of OpenStack.
His recommendation is that OpenStack should have a base reference architecture against which specific implementations can be tested and verified, one of several steps he said that the platform needs to take.
"Let's not have an infinite number of standards for how OpenStack is defined. There are already hundreds of configuration options, and if one cloud has different settings to another, you're in trouble if you try to transfer a workload from one to the other," Bias said.
Another bone of contention is the future direction of the platform. Bias believes that OpenStack should target applications and use cases that it is best suited for, such as emerging workloads and operating services at huge scale, rather than trying to emulate other cloud platforms, in particular VMware.
"OpenStack is not a cheaper VMware. That's not the deal. It doesn't have all those capabilities for the enterprise like high availability or disaster recovery. It's not for building a ‘five nines' infrastructure, so if you need that, don't build it on OpenStack today," he said.
In fact, to make OpenStack comparable in capabilities with VMware's private cloud platform would take many years of development effort, he said, which might be better spent on adding unique capabilites into OpenStack.
"Chasing ourselves and trying to get to a point where you can stick SAP on OpenStack is crazy," he added.
Bias also asserted that the community needed to be more honest about the complexity of setting up and configuring an OpenStack cloud, instead of pretending that it is an easy and painless process and setting unrealistic user expectations.
"Things like software defined networking (SDN) and software defined storage (SDS) are complex to set up, and putting them together makes them exponentially harder. We like to pretend that you just open the box and sprinkle this pixie dust and up comes your cloud like magic," he said.
In a related point, the community needs to be realistic about the costs for a customer in building cloud infrastructure for themselves using commodity hardware, rather than getting a vendor to drop in a ready integrated solution.
"Common off the shelf hardware has significant costs in management and configuration effort. So white box hardware is only cheap in one dimension and open source software is only free in one dimension. The cost of labour for both is higher than you think," he warned.
However, other members of the OpenStack community disagreed with some of Bias' viewpoints during a later panel session. Das Kamhout, principal engineer at Intel, stated that the very flexibility to configure OpenStack however you want it is a key strength of the platform.
"The application programming interfaces are the key, and what's above them can be extremely dynamic," Kamhout said.
In response, Bias said that if there was no move to make a standardised reference architecture, then the fragmentation he warns about could happen, hampering growth of OpenStack over the next five years or so.
"I'm worried it will be the ending I talked about, so I hope we do have a standard version of OpenStack," he said.
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