As we look toward the future of OpenStack and the open cloud of tomorrow, who better to ask and help get educated on the subject besides one of the (if not THE) leading OpenStack distro, Ubuntu. And so, I grabbed the opportunity to speak with Mark Baker, Ubuntu Server Product Manager.
hearing a lot about OpenStack momentum, and big players like VMware and HP are
involved now. Why do you think OpenStack is gaining so much traction? Are open
clouds gaining more of an allure?
Mark Baker: Open cloud adoption is
accelerating because, in a very short time, OpenStack has enabled a large number of service
providers, telcos and enterprises to start deploying clouds, and these
organizations have become very vocal about their enthusiasm for the open model.
This enthusiasm stems from the high levels of interoperability, flexibility,
scale out and cost efficiency afforded by the open source approach to building
and running a cloud. These are benefits that users want out of a cloud in the
first place, so, it's no surprise that OpenStack has really skyrocketed over
the past year.
In open clouds, interoperability
is particularly important because it eliminates many of the cost and other
entry barriers to cloud adoption. Many organizations can't afford the time or
resources to build entirely new, homogeneous infrastructures from scratch and
so their alternative to an open cloud is to assemble a hopelessly complex
hybrid environment that's destined to cause headaches. This is why even the
most traditional of vendors can find OpenStack appealing: it's an easy way for
them to build a cloud by leveraging the legacy hardware and software they
already have, all while being able to offer their users that same flexibility.
cloud" seems to be a buzzword in the cloud industry these days. What
does it take for a cloud technology to be truly open? Is it the technology
itself, or the business practices, or both?
Baker: A common dictionary definition of
freedom is "exemption from external control, interference or regulation." Being
open source does not guarantee such freedom, and so achieving true "openness"
stems from both technology and business practices, for several reasons. Open
source software must be a large component of any open cloud, but technical
openness is not a guarantee of interoperability; and without interoperability,
you don't have a truly open environment. The discrepancy comes in because savvy
vendors use open technology like OpenStack while still employing restrictive
business practices and contractual terms locking customers into a proprietary
For example, a customer may have
existing workloads based on a particular operating system that they wish to
move to cloud, but they find that their choice of cloud platform is
artificially restricted because the operating system vendor only chooses to
support their own implementation of an open cloud. If the customer
chooses the vendor's open cloud, they might be further restricted by support
agreements that exclude support for some alternate, competitive operating
systems or related technologies like storage. Such vendor lock-in can be
effective to the detriment of customers.
Truly open clouds require open
business practices as well, and that means giving customers the freedom to use
the software, platform and hardware of their choice.
VMblog: What are the
main advantages of building a cloud on OpenStack with Ubuntu, and how does
Ubuntu help businesses reduce complexity in their cloud environments?
Baker: First, it's worth stating that Ubuntu and Canonical have been with OpenStack from the beginning,
and we're very dedicated to the platform. Ubuntu was the original reference
operating system for OpenStack and Canonical created Launchpad, where OpenStack development is managed.
OpenStack and Ubuntu are, therefore, highly integrated, and a natural way to
begin building an open cloud.
The alignment of the OpenStack
and Ubuntu release cycles means that we are able to deliver the latest
OpenStack release as a distribution alongside the latest release of Ubuntu
Server. The fast development of OpenStack, especially in areas such as Software
Defined Networking (SDN) means that the host platform needs to be able to
support some of the latest kernel modules and core technologies. Ubuntu is
uniquely placed to be able to do this. Of course people want to be able to take
advantage of the latest OpenStack features without having to upgrade their host
OS, which is why we also make the latest releases available on the LTS release
of Ubuntu Server.
As clouds are deployed, new
challenges emerge: chief amongst them is how to scale and manage the
environment effectively. Automation is the key to success in cloud which is why
we have developed Juju, a service orchestration tool that makes the automation
of common tasks extremely simple. Juju can be used to scale and manage the cloud
infrastructure, as well as the workloads being deployed into the cloud. Juju
also works across many cloud technologies such as AWS, EC2 and HP Cloud.
Ubuntu recognizes that customers
have complex heterogeneous environments and need to be able to connect many
different pieces of technology to the new open cloud they are deploying. Our
close relationship with VMware to integrate ESX/vSphere with OpenStack is a good
example of how we are addressing this, and we have other similar projects in
the pipeline too.
VMblog: An obvious
cost advantage to open source technology is its free-of-charge software. What
are other cost advantages of an open cloud model?
initially see cost as being a significant advantage - the capital outlay
required to build an open cloud is less when you are not required to pay
upfront license costs or subscriptions. However, it is the collaborative
development model and the open interfaces that can provide some of the longer
term cost savings. For example, many customers spend resources solving
infrastructure or connectivity problems. These problems are very often common
to a great many people, and an open source model means that they can share
solutions and potentially get the optimum solution built as part of the core
project, thereby sharing the burden of the development and maintenance across a
large number of people. Clearly this isn't appropriate for everything, as
companies might not want to share technology that generates competitive
advantage for them, but the reality is that many of the problems are of the
mundane sort, the solutions to which can be freely shared.
Another major cost advantage of
open clouds is the capital expenditure avoided thanks to high interoperability.
As mentioned previously, true interoperability means existing infrastructure
can be reused, rather than ripped out and abandoned, which can save a fortune.
In fact, one of the big advantages of cloud is that you don't have to manage as
much physical infrastructure. However, if you buy into the idea that you need
to invest in a myriad of new servers and hardware bundled with your cloud
software, your infrastructure costs are going to skyrocket anyway. There's a
middle ground in developing a highly interoperable cloud environment, which
gives you the leg room to utilize legacy solutions while making new investments
commentary suggests that OpenStack is not yet ready for prime time - do you
have any examples of successful OpenStack deployments that are in
Baker: There are many good examples,
including a large number of household names. Prominent telcos like Deutsche
Telekom, KT and AT&T are OpenStack users. In the enterprise realm, OpenStack users
include Bloomberg, Boeing, Best Buy and HubSpot. These large organizations particularly appreciate the scale out
capabilities of OpenStack, which are far greater than traditional cloud vendors
can offer. Additionally, there are countless startups employing the open cloud
platform because it scales to their unique needs as well, especially as they
grow and evolve. Because so many different organizations and partners are
involved in OpenStack, it has something to offer to everyone.
VMblog: From a
developer's point of view, why are open source cloud platforms useful? How does
that translate into quality production?
Baker: Developers have always been drawn
to open source, and they like being able to see upcoming software iterations in
advance, so they're always on the cutting edge of the market. Because open
source makes sense to developers at the desktop level, it makes sense to them
in the cloud as well. For example, with Ubuntu, being a popular desktop
operating system for developers made us a popular cloud platform for developers
adopting Amazon Web
Services (AWS), or
creating Web services, or developing with Hadoop. Our heritage lies in embracing developer
users, and that's how Ubuntu adoption picked up rapidly among enterprises and
telcos moving to the cloud.
particular is a focus for us on getting developers into the cloud. Juju is our
DevOps service orchestration tool, and it really shines through in the
deployment of complex scale out applications. Developers dealing with scale out
in cloud environments need agility, and Juju allows them to scale applications
with a single command, and without spending time reconfiguring load balancers,
etc. As with other aspects of the cloud, open DevOps environments reduce
overall complexity, saving valuable time and resources. Ultimately, the cloud
needs to be developer-friendly, because cloud based applications are the
direction things are heading in for all industries. We've laid out the future
of getting applications to production with an open cloud model that keeps
developers "in the loop."
Once again, a special thank you to Mark Baker of Ubuntu for taking time out to speak with VMblog.