Understanding OpenStack's Success

At the time I got into the data storage industry, I was working with and developing RAID and JBOD (Just a Bunch Of Disks) controllers for 2 Gbit Fibre Channel Storage Area Networks (SAN). This was a time before "The Cloud". Things were different—so were our users. There was comfort in buying from a single source or single vendor. In an ideal world, it should all work together, harmoniously, right? And when things go awry, that single vendor should be able to solve every problem within that entire deployment.

That is why, enterprise companies typically bought from a single storage vendor and invested deeply in them. You either bought HP, Dell, EMC, Sun Microsystems or NetApp, which also was successfully carving a new market in Network Attached Storage (NAS). For example, once an EMC shop, always an EMC shop. Hundreds of thousands to even millions of dollars were spent to ensure that you were enabled for high availability, fault tolerance, training, support and more. Again, through that single vendor.

This model lasted for quite some time, but in the recent decade, things started to evolve. Customer's wanted more. New technologies, both hardware and software, began to emerge and offer very attractive functionality—virtualization (with VMware) is the first that comes to mind, external Flash arrays, software-defined storage—almost all of which helped to kickstart this thing we call the cloud. The list goes on.

These same shops started to express some frustration in this. They wanted all of these extra features that those same single vendors either did not offer or were too slow in bringing something competitive to market. Instead of running products through a single vendor and using more unified management frameworks to maintain it all, they are now toggling back and forth across multiple management interfaces from multiple vendors to accomplish simple tasks. This is all well and good when the workload is small, but it does not scale very well when that workload increases. How can you log in to a single dashboard and monitor or manage your virtual/physical machines, network, storage and more? What can bring all this moving pieces together?

Enter OpenStack.

What is OpenStack? OpenStack is an Apache-licensed open-source framework designed to build and manage both public and private clouds. Originally started in 2010, an effort jointly launched by Rackspace Hosting and NASA, the project has since grown exponentially and attracted a wide number of supporters and users. It is one of the fastest growing open-source projects of the modern era. The primary goal of OpenStack was to create a single and universal framework to deploy and manage various technologies in the data center dynamically. Its most recent release is Newton (October 2016), which most notably adds support for Docker to enable customers with Container-as-a-Service (Caas) capabilities.

A General Overview of OpenStack

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Petros Koutoupis is a software developer at IBM for its Cloud Object Storage division (formerly Cleversafe). He is also the creator and maintainer of the RapidDisk Project. Petros has worked in the data storage industry for more than a decade.