Openstack Foundation branches out to 'open source infrastructure'

Changes are underway at the Openstack Foundation, with the community branching out from the open source cloud platform to the umbrella of 'open infrastructure'.

Tamlin Magee Jun 15th 2018
Open-stack.jpg

Changes are underway at the Openstack Foundation, with the community branching out from the open source cloud platform to the umbrella of 'open infrastructure'.

Openstack is the catch-all term for a series of open source cloud infrastructure components, ranging from bare metal provisioning (Ironic) to networking (Neutron) and compute (Nova), to name just a few.

Originally emerging from a joint project between Rackspace and NASA, Openstack has travelled through various development models – such as the 'big tent' [link] approach, which essentially said that anything from any vendor could 'be' Openstack.

Along the way vendor contributions have waxed and waned, but now the core software is reaching a level of maturity that's apparently given the Foundation enough confidence to branch out, and try to foster integration between all of the open source projects that are out there, not just the ones associated with Openstack. 

The 'OpenDev' conferences now runs concurrently to Openstack, and another project focusing on open infrastructure – rather than Openstack per se – is the Edge Computing Group. This has been around since an OpenDev edge event in September 2017, and was formed into an official mailing list at the November summit in Sydney – and continues weekly calls every Tuesday.

"The open infrastructure theme is coherent," said Canonical founder Mark Shuttleworth. "In the past I have been critical of the inability of the Openstack community to be able to draw a line between the stuff that was really important to build an Openstack, and the stuff that was sci-fi and possibly a bit of a side show.

"I think this is different. It is essentially generalising from Openstack to other classes of infrastructure, and that's interesting... I think the open infrastructure meme rather than an Openstack meme is interesting. I think they will need to attract a set of projects which share some values, so the same audience can dip into those different things.

"They need to be mindful of the cost of complexity," he added.

The Openlab initiative meanwhile is dedicated to getting Openstack integrated with the broader infrastructure ecosystem.

Governance board member Melvin Hillsman told Computerworld UK: "Openstack for some time has been very specific about testing and integration for Openstack services, focusing only on the projects started at Openstack.

"It's been working very well – but for me as a person in the user community, my getting involved in Openstack was more on the operator-user side. So it would be great to have some of these integrations, features, ideas, for the community above where the Openstack APIs end."

Kata Containers

The new projects don't require that user to run Openstack. At the first of this year's summits in Vancouver last month, Kata Containers 1.0 was released – with the backing of major chipmakers AMD, Intel and Arm, as well as 40-plus other partners.

Kata is designed to be architecture agnostic, billing itself as a project that delivers the speed and performance of containers with a boosted layer of security, because each 'container' is actually wrapped in lightweight virtual machines. It's based on Intel Clear Containers and runV from Hyper.sh, compatible with the Open Container Initiative and the container runtime for Kubernetes.

Zuul

The Foundation – which has a board ranging from all kinds of vendors and organisations and from all corners of the world – also announced ' Zuul', an open source continuous integration/continuous development platform designed to help users 'stop merging broken code'. It specialises in gating changes across systems and applications.

A version of Zuul had already been in production and at scale for users running Openstack since as early as 2012, but the Foundation decided to 'decouple' it from Openstack-specific systems. Now it can be run on platforms like GitHub, and has contributors from BMW, GoDaddy, Huawei, Red Hat and SUSE.

Maturity

When Openstack first came onto the scene it was met with excitement by the open source community and a wide gamut of vendors from various industries, all keen to collaborate so they could also steer the ship, as it were. From its inception the question that was repeatedly aired at the biannual Summits put on by the Foundation was whether it was mature enough for production.

Fast forward to 2018 and that is no longer the major question: the proof is large-scale deployments from some of the biggest organisations in the world, from telecommunications networks through to enormous research projects and technology vendors themselves. Criticisms continue to be about reducing complexity, as running Openstack still requires a certain level of technical expertise that can be daunting for businesses without the resources to learn it.

General manager for Openstack at Red Hat Radhesh Balakrishnan commented to Computerworld UK: "What we are seeing fundamentally is the maturity of adoption, which has spread across multiple verticals.

"Clearly, telcos is by far the number one vertical we are seeing Openstack being adopted – that constitutes about 39 percent for us in terms of makeup of customers."

There is also movement in financial, public sector, media and technology "in that order".

"If you look at the use cases outside of telcos, what we're seeing is a lot of big data, with which I will include Apache Spark, Hadoop, data lakes and all that – that is one of the key use cases we have seen recurrent across all the verticals we're working on."

On the open infrastructure side, Balakrishnan said that for him and Red Hat the "obvious focus is bringing the diverse communities to make open infrastructure happen faster".

"That starts with Linux, to KVM, to Openstack, to Kubernetes, Ansible, the Open Containers Initiative, CRI-O – ODL for networking – bring all of that together, so the core open infrastructure that is needed can be brought together. There's a huge opportunity for that."

But, says principle analyst at Hurwitz & Associates Jean Bozman, recent initiatives are aimed at making Openstack more consumable – "easier for appdev, devops, and system administrators to use in their enterprise infrastructure," she said, speaking with Computerworld UK.

"It's clear that the Openstack technology is maturing, especially for the core projects like Nova, Cinder, and Neutron, among others," she continued. "Openstack software is being adopted by large customers including Walmart, CERN, eBay, China Mobile and Verzion for their clouds – and by small/medium organisations, often through partnerships for projects, for example Red Hat, Google, Rackspace, Mirantis."

"The biggest challenges for Openstack include wider adoption of the technology especially by cloud service providers and by enterprises that are building private clouds. Openstack is making progress regarding wider adoption, especially among large enterprises, government agencies – in the US, EU, and Asia – and scientific/university uses."