DAY THREE: OpenStack Is Important – However, Users Are More Pragmatic And Agnostic Than Ever

May 8, 2014

by Evan Powell

Yesterday I wrote a bit about the need for a community to step in to empower more than the top few operators to achieve DevOps levels of productivity in developing and operating software.

Today I expand upon those thoughts a little bit. OpenStack is absolutely one of the top 5 reasons we founded StackStorm. It is arguably the most important OpenSource project in the world right now in part because it is so much larger than any one project, even Hadoop.

Which leads to driver #3:

OpenStack is important – however, users are more pragmatic and agnostic than ever.

OpenStack is the full stack plus, plus, plus; it is very different than almost every other open source community thanks to its breadth, from storage through networking, security, compute, management and more. Not surprisingly, OpenStack is a massively diverse community. And it has unstoppable momentum. However, when we went to interview practitioners we consistently saw that the DevOps savvy see OpenStack pragmatically. The operators we know see OpenStack is a means to an end.

To that point, a group of about 30 operators of OpenStack were recently asked at the OpenCompute 2014 summit in San Jose – what distribution do you use? There are of course many, many distributions and there has been talk of a distribution war. So we were really interested in the answer – who are these operators using?

The answer – NO ONE. Top operators are taking the bits they need. While RedHat and presumably others will succeed over time in selling support for a distribution, I don’t think most commentators really understand to what extent the DevOps mindset alters the equation for legacy open source models as well as, of course, legacy proprietary models.

A DevOps operator, generally speaking, takes the pieces that make sense and then ties them together so that their operations environment, their hybrid cloud, their software defined data center, are truly theirs and operate together as one system. To avoid accidental lock in, maintenance burden and technical debt, each of the many, many, many pieces that together comprise a DevOps environment are themselves almost always open source and broadly deployed by others. This way the operator avoids lock in while also having what they need for their business.

So – open source and specifically OpenStack pieces are fundamental to the operators we know. However, through formal and informal communities these operators are now empowered to take the best of breed components and integrate them into a whole. And what does this get them?

Refer back to an earlier post – StackStorm’s agnostic, pragmatic approach is delivering 10x-100x productivity improvements, which means a chance to stay in business because if you don’t make this transition and your competitors do, they will cycle faster than you closer and closer and closer to the customers.

This brings me to a discussion of DevOps architectures. How can you tie together so many loosely coupled pieces? Does Legos analogy stand up? Yes it does. More on that tomorrow.