Why OpenStack needs to be easier to adopt

OpenStack is one of the more hotly debated technology initiatives of our time. A new survey seeks to wrap some empirical data around the debate.

openstack photo

OpenStack has been something of a divisive topic since its inception a handful of years ago. Initially conceived as a cloud operating system that would allow service providers and large enterprise to build their own versions of Amazon Web Services, OpenStack's focus has changed somewhat in the years since, as it has tried to find a good fit. At the same time, huge amounts of money have been poured into the OpenStack ecosystem, with a plethora of startups being formed and funded to commercialize the OpenStack opportunity. It has to be said that, as it currently stands, the commercial returns from these investments haven't been awesome.

That's not to say that OpenStack isn't proving successful in the marketplace; indeed, the OpenStack Foundation, the organization with the unenviable task of balancing the not-inconsiderable conflicts that naturally occur when commercial entities are trying their hardest to achieve commercial success off the back of a communal effort, spends lots of time and effort regaling all-comers of the success of OpenStack at its regular summits. Having attended a number of these summits, I can vouch for the real-world organizations that are using OpenStack to run critical workloads.

But a regular refrain I hear from OpenStack users, and one that is backed up by the fact that perhaps the most successful OpenStack startup, Mirantis, is firmly focused on being a service provider helping companies deploy the system, is that OpenStack is just a little bit hard to use. A new survey commissioned by SUSE sought to wrap some data around those anecdotal comments.

The survey, which was run across seven countries, talked with over 800 senior IT professionals in companies with more than 250 employees. It sought their views around issues relating to adoption rates, drivers, future plans, and the impact on corporate data, as well as on an IT professional’s career.

The findings show that, while the private cloud is almost ubiquitous in large companies now and is the most popular cloud type for mission-critical applications, attempts to implement OpenStack private cloud have not been without their difficulties. Despite these difficulties, companies remain determined to succeed.

To the findings:

  • 90% have implemented private cloud solutions.
  • 65% of companies report they have found the implementation experience with private clouds difficult.
  • 92% of respondents have concerns about vendor lock-in when it comes to choosing a private cloud infrastructure solution.
  • 86% of respondents said the lack of skills in the market is making their companies reluctant to pursue private cloud.
  • 81% of IT professionals stated that they are making the move to OpenStack private clouds.
  • 15% have already moved to OpenStack private cloud, and 66% plan to at some stage.
  • 45% plan to use a commercial distribution for the OpenStack implementation, while 44% plan to download and install OpenStack software elements themselves.


This report is about what I expected, and the bottom line is that OpenStack is the preeminent private cloud choice out there.

But the survey once again raises cause for concern for the broader OpenStack ecosystem. While the fact that OpenStack is hard to adopt might be great for service providers like Mirantis, it does impact upon the level of uptake the project sees. As I've said repeatedly, the foundation should focus less on broadening the scope of the OpenStack project, and more on ensuring that what is there today is strong, stable, reliable, and easy to use.

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