OpenStack Foundation’s Strategy Builds on Partnerships with ISVs and CSPs — and Kubernetes

June 18, 2019

OpenStack Foundation’s Strategy Builds on Partnerships with ISVs and CSPs — and Kubernetes

By Jean S. Bozman

The OpenStack Foundation (OSF) is increasing its links to other open source organizations to help members of the OpenStack community build and operate hybrid cloud and multi-cloud services and applications. OSF’s new plan, announced at the Open Infrastructure Summit in May, is to address a wider audience by building out its ecosystem of partners and CSP alliances. As enterprises move to hybrid cloud and multi-cloud infrastructure, the OSF is also leveraging Kubernetes momentum; the majority of OpenStack customers surveyed by OSF in 2018 reported they are using the Kubernetes orchestration platform.

The new strategy will place OpenStack technologies in enterprise software tools that are used by a wider range of enterprises and mid-size organizations, including SMBs. This is the case with direct OpenStack support for Red Hat’s Ansible management software, Red Hat OpenShift and AWS’ Firecracker. Firecracker is a new virtualization technology from Amazon for serverless environments that leverages the KVM hypervisor.

OSF’s strongest supporters include large companies and telcos building customized private and public clouds. These include large telecommunications firms moving to 5G networks, and Edge computing, include AT&T, Verizon, Deutsche Telekom, and China Mobile. Enterprise examples include Comcast in the U.S.; Ericsson in EMEA; China Railway in China and Commonwealth Bank in Australia. In all, there are 675 groups worldwide participating in the OpenStack community by contributing code, with a total of 100,000 individual members worldwide.

To stay on its growth curve – with most of its customer implementations co-installed with open-source Kubernetes orchestration software – the OSF is taking these steps: 

  • Sponsoring new projects focused on fast-growing market areas. The new Open Infrastructure projects, launched in November, 2018, are: Airship for resource management; Kata Containers for lightweight security with microVMs in container platforms; StarlingX for edge computing; and Zuul for multi-repository (multi-repo) CI/CD lifecycle management. All of these projects are designed to work with Kubernetes orchestration platform, which is being deployed by more than 60% of organizations using OpenStack.
  • Supporting bare-metal infrastructure. The OpenStack project for bare-metal deployments – named Ironic – allows abstracted workloads to flow over bare-metal cloud infrastructure. Ironic is part of OpenStack infrastructure, just as Nova for compute and Cinder for storage are other OpenStack open-source building-blocks designed for cloud deployments. An OSF survey found that use of Ironic for bare-metal deployments had sharply increased for companies that are deploying Kubernetes orchestration software – exceeding 20% in 2018.
  • Collaborating with CSPs. The Kata Containers community is collaborating with Amazon Web Services (AWS) around Firecracker, which provides lightweight micro-VMs for serverless infrastructure. In the future, we believe that working with more CSPs, such as Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud Platform (GCP), will be vital as enterprises move more strongly into multi-cloud deployments.
  • Increasing OpenStack adoption in Asia/Pacific. The OpenStack Foundation launched an initiative to increase usage in China, given the large market opportunity in that country, and its strong interest in open-source cloud infrastructure. The next Open Infrastructure Summit is scheduled for Shanghai in November, 2019. Several large CSPs in China –including Alibaba, Baidu and TenCent –  are already active in OSF groups, and they give talks at the semi-annual conferences. We expect that more formal partnerships will evolve from those open-source community relationships, because these CSPs are publicly presenting they ways in which they use OpenStack technologies in their infrastructure.


Changing the Organization

The OpenStack organization was created in 2010 through a partnership between RackSpace and NASA.  In recent years, OpenStack had been criticized for allowing small projects to proliferate, which led to several hundred small projects growing under what was called “The Big Tent” before 2018.

In 2018, the OSF Board decided to gather up many of the smaller projects – and to consolidate them for greater efficiency and faster results. One sign of the new strategy is that the OpenStack Summit is now called the Open Infrastructure Summit, broadening its development agenda for multiple cloud scenarios. This format is seen as inviting more cross-organizational partnerships, going forward. Now, OSF leadership plans to get more of its technologies adopted in third-party ISV software products and CSP cloud services — making the OSF software more accessible to more types of enterprise and SMB customers.

Faster development of new projects – and a strong focus on new and emerging market spaces are key to OSF’s strategy. The new “Stein” release of OpenStack software, shipped in May, brought increased support for bare-metal deployments; better network management; network upgrades for Edge and NFV use cases; and faster launching of Kubernetes clusters. These changes are designed to meet important Edge requirements – and to provide more support for NFV virtualized networks.

Clearly, the process of bringing Open Infrastructure projects to the broader marketplace is speeding up. The new projects are moving into production as the OSF board confirms them, one by one: Kata Containers, launched in December, 2017, was confirmed as an official OSF project in May – as was Zuul, which was launched in 2012. Two other projects announced in November, 2018, are now in a pilot stage: AirShip V1.0 for resource management and Starling X for edge computing.


What’s Next 

As the world’s computing migrates onto more cloud platforms powered by Kubernetes, faster development and deployment is becoming a fundamental requirement for enterprise customers. OpenStack software is most often co-installed with Kubernetes – and is benefiting from wide Kubernetes adoption worldwide. Broadening the OpenStack ecosystem will help keep OpenStack central to these Kubernetes-led cloud migrations.

The OpenStack Foundation has correctly and wisely determined that it can only achieve its goals by partnering more closely with dozens of other open-source groups. Now, to reach its goals of easier and faster adoption of software developed through open-source collaboration, OpenStack has to become more visible and influential to other open-source communities. The scope and scale of that work will require active partnerships – and a mindset that OpenStack must work with many other open-source communities as their mutual customers prepare for the next wave of cloud computing.

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About Jean Bozman

Jean is a senior industry analyst focusing her research on server technology, storage technology, database software and the emerging market for Software Defined Infrastructure (SDI).