OpenStack then and now

And headwinds in the future

mark collier openstack cloud IaaS open source

OpenStack Foundation COO Mark Collier addresses the OpenStack Summit in Austin, Texas

Credit: OpenStack Foundation

Six years ago in July 2010 OpenStack held its first ever Summit; a group of 75 people, many from Rackspace and NASA, gathered in Austin, Texas to help launch the open source project.

This week 7,500 attendees descended on the 14th semi-annual OpenStack Summit, which returned to its hometown since that inaugural event. Things are very different now than they were then.

+MORE AT NETWORK WORLD: OpenStack users share challenges, benefits of open source cloud computing | Cool products from OpenStack Austin Summit +

Austin was my second OpenStack Summit. In October 2012 I attended the San Diego Summit, the sixth meeting of the open source community. The biggest takeaway that I have after attending the conferences four years apart is that OpenStack Summit is now a real tech conference. Four years ago the Summit felt like a meeting of developers. There were some big-name sponsors there: Hewlett Packard Enterprise gave the keynote address, while Cisco and Rackspace had big presences. But it felt like a grassroots event.

This year, OpenStack felt more like a traditional enterprise computing conference. There was a vendor pavilion with dozens of companies eager to pitch their product. Sales folks and vendor executives roamed the halls in suits scrambling from one meeting to another. That was mixed in with the developers in flip-flops and shorts.

This diversity is great for the project. It means that it’s grown up into a real enterprise conference. Boris Resnki, CMO of OpenStack consultancy Mirantis, joked at the conference that OpenStack has made it to the big time now because Gartner analysts don’t criticize it as much as they used to.

OpenStack Foundation Executive Director Jonathan Bryce said half of the Fortune 100 use OpenStack. Wal-Mart, AT&T, SAP and Wells Fargo all spoke about how they’re using open source code to build their private clouds.

But don’t be mistaken: OpenStack’s still got more growing up to do.

At Amazon Web Service’s cloud conferences the company almost brags about how widely it’s used in the enterprise. It puts up a slide with dozens of enterprise customers. It’s so big that AWS has to break it up into categories – government agencies, Fortune 500 companies and ISVs. OpenStack still seems to focus on a core handful of publicized customer case studies. From speaking with vendors at the conference, they say there are many more customers who use OpenStack but aren’t ready to disclose it publicly.

OpenStack has grown quite a bit in the four years that I’ve been to a Summit, and the six years since the project launched. At the previous Vancouver Summit last year, there were 967 companies represented at the event from 55 countries.

Potential headwinds for OpenStack could be on the horizon though. New higher-level application management services like Kubernetes, Mesos and platform as a service projects could render OpenStack IaaS less valuable. Those platforms can run on OpenStack, (or in some cases vice versa), but they also don’t have to. Fortunately for all these open source projects, the reality is that there’s likely room for more than one of them. So we could have a world of OpenStack plus Cloud Foundry, and Mesos or Kubernetes.

Give credit to OpenStack for getting to where it’s gotten. Now let’s see if it can continue making important steps of showcasing more enterprise end user customers in a time of increased competition at other layers in the stack.

Join the Network World communities on Facebook and LinkedIn to comment on topics that are top of mind.
Must read: Hidden Cause of Slow Internet and how to fix it
Notice to our Readers
We're now using social media to take your comments and feedback. Learn more about this here.