Reports Of OpenStack’s Death Greatly Exaggerated

OpenStack, the venerable open source cloud controller born in 2010 out projects pulled together by Rackspace Hosting and NASA, continues to push on despite its death being predicted myriad times over the past several years.

There are those who say its time has passed, with hyperscalers like Amazon Web Services, Microsoft, and Google continuing to expand their public cloud environments deeper into on-premises enterprise datacenters with tools like Outposts, Azure Stack, and Anthos, and established vendors like VMware muscle their way into the cloud.

Others, including OpenInfra Foundation, which maintains OpenStack and several other projects, see a technology that is evolving with the times, growing its presence in new regions around the world and in new areas in IT, including processors, with chip vendors like Nvidia, Arm, and Graphcore coming in as OpenInfra members, as well as telecom, with companies like Verizon and vendors like Ericsson embracing the infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) cloud.

It’s against this backdrop that OpenInfra is running its annual Summit this week, this time in Vancouver. There are keynotes and sessions extolling the virtues of not only OpenStack but other projects, such as Kata for containers and security and StarlingX for helping to push OpenStack out to the edge. But “OpenStack is alive and kicking” is a key message coming out of the summit, from companies like Red Hat and Canonical that are longtime supporters to leaders of OpenInfra themselves.

The latest release, “Antelope,” launched in March, and the foundation is working on “Bobcat,” slated for October. Like recent releases, Antelope and Bobcat come with a focus on technologies that modern datacenters need, OpenInfra chief operating officer Mark Collier told journalists as the show was getting underway.

“There’s been a lot of activity around vulnerability management in the last couple of release cycles and OpenStack has had a very robust vulnerability management structure and team for many years now,” Colllier said. “Some of those processes and patterns have been implemented in other communities and are key when we look at the state of the world. Policies and regulations that governments are starting to put in place expect certain types of maturity from open-source communities and not just commercial organizations. It’s great to see that the OpenStack community has that expertise and knowledge.”

The numbers around OpenStack tell a story of contradictions. Collier and others during the press briefing noted that OpenStack is the third-largest open-source projects – behind the Linux kernel and Chromium browser – in the world. A survey by OpenInfra last fall showed that there were 40 million cores of OpenStack in production in 2022, a 60 percent jump over the previous year and touted the ongoing adoption of services like Nova, Neutron, Keystone, and Ironic.

Most deployments – 56 percent – fall between 100 and 10,000 cores and OpenStack is installed more than 300 cloud datacenters around the world. However, it has been noted that much of the growth was from a small number of companies like China Mobile, Workday HR, and Walmart Labs, which have more than a million cores in production.

In addition, Flexera’s annual cloud report this year showed that OpenStack is being used in only 12 percent of enterprises, well behind leaders like Microsoft’s Azure Stack, AWS’ Outposts, Microsoft System Center, and VMware’s vSphere and vCenter. It’s a drop from 16 percent last year, which itself was a decline from the 31 percent in 2021.

OpenStack delivers its private cloud platform in an IaaS package, setting itself up for the growing enterprise adoption in recent years of multicloud strategies. But a reputation for complexity and growing competition may be a drag on those numbers.

That said, at the summit, vendors made moves aimed in part at making OpenStack easier for enterprises and service providers to use. Maria Bracho, senior manager of product management at Red Hat, said that in the coming weeks, the open-source titan will release version 17.1 of its Red Hat OpenStack Platform that will include enhancements around infrastructure management, security, and the edge. Enhancements will include adding support for multiple versions of Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL), making upgrades easier.

The new version illustrates Red Hat’s embrace of OpenStack, according to Eoghan Glynn, director of OPS engineering at the company. It’s not the only project within OpenInfra – Red Hat also is working with Kata and Zuul CI/CD platform – but the open source software arm of IBM has a long history with OpenStack.

“It’s been about twelve years since the first one or two small handful of Red Hat engineers went rogue and got involved in upstream under their own power and on their own initiative,” Glynn said. “We’ve built up from there a very large investment in the OpenInfra Foundation and OpenStack in particular over that time. It’s no secret that our focus has been on OpenStack and that’s what my team is involved in and that’s what most of our investments and privatization efforts have been based around.”

Also at the summit, Canonical unveiled Project Sunbeam, an extension of its commercial OpenStack platform aimed at small-scale cloud deployments that is free of charge and aimed at simplifying deployment and enabling OpenStack-based private clouds to run on systems like workstations and virtual machines, rather than on more powerful pools of servers.

“Historically, commercial OpenStack deployments always used to come through paid consulting engagements and no vendor was an exception here,” Tytus Kurek, product manager at Canonical, said in a statement when Sunbeam was announced. “In line with our mission to amplify open source, we are committed to delivering a production-grade platform to the community that everyone could just deploy themselves. Sunbeam emerged to remove numerous barriers around the initial adoption of OpenStack and is just the first step towards an autonomous private cloud.”

For its own part, OpenInfra said it opened regional hubs in Asia and Europe, a nod to the both the global growth of OpenStack – Europe accounts for 38.8 percent of OpenInfra member organizations, with Asia making up 32.5 percent – the need to meet regional requirements, and ongoing geopolitical situations that may make it difficult for other organizations to otherwise join.

In all, OpenInfra touts more than 110,000 members in more than 180 countries.

“What we can really see is that we want to collaborate without boundaries,” OpenInfra General Manager Thierry Carrez told journalists. “We want to build software that will be used by everyone. At the same time, the world is erecting new barriers and new challenges for us. It’s actually an impetus for activating two regional hubs. We have reached a critical mass in those in those regions. If you look at the company member organizations and how they’re spread out across the across the globe, it’s basically a split between Asia, North America, and Europe.”

Phil Robb, head of Ericsson software technology, said having a hub in Europe is important, particularly “being able to focus both on the opportunities I’ve seen for several years now, opportunities between academia and government and industry working collaboratively on open source and this IP commons. But it’s been very difficult when there isn’t an entity inside of that jurisdiction that can help hone that activity. As we do the increased activity around regulation, Log4j woke a lot of people up with regard to how ubiquitous open source was and what they saw mostly was how dangerous and insecure open source can be. It’s a very good thing in the maturity of open source that we make a focus on security and on the way we manage these supply chains.”

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