Blog post

Is OpenStack a Success?

By Alan Waite | April 27, 2015 | 2 Comments


Sure it is.

Of course one has to define the measurement criteria before declaring something a success, and that is where many organizations fall down with OpenStack. There is no doubt that OpenStack has become the best known and most widely supported open source framework for building private IaaS, so in that area it is a success. It has a long line of powerful companies supporting the project and contributing to the code and marketing of OpenStack – successful there. It definitely has a future.

In fact in my recent paper Is OpenStack Ready for Mainstream Private Cloud Adoption? I list five key strengths of OpenStack:

  1. Widely accepted cloud management API
  2. Broad Ecosystem
  3. Adaptability
  4. Open source
  5. Interoperability

On the other hand if you consider “success” to be massive adoption across many industries and in a majority of virtualized estates, then OpenStack has not succeeded. From the data I have seen the number of production OpenStack deployments worldwide in 2014 was on the order of hundreds – not thousands or tens of thousands. This is not surprising if you think about the limited use cases where an OpenStack cloud would actually be the right solution. When Gartner clients ask me if they should be using OpenStack in their organization I first ask three questions:

  • Should you be building an IaaS private cloud?
  • Do you have the skills and resources available for a project of this complexity?
  • Is an open source framework like OpenStack the right tool for the job?

For most organizations the answer to at least one of these questions is NO. Sometimes that is not a show-stopper, for example a problem with internal skills and resources might be solved by hosted or managed solutions or services contracts, but these involve a loss of control and potential long term expensive contracts. Anyone who thinks that the obvious next step for all server virtualization users will be OpenStack is sadly mistaken; the opportunity is much smaller than that.

In addition to this issue, the weaknesses of OpenStack hold back its adoption in many of the clients I speak to:

  1. Difficulty of implementation
  2. Shortage of skills available in the market
  3. Conflicting or uncoordinated OpenStack project governance
  4. Weak spots in some OpenStack projects
  5. Integration with existing infrastructure

I expect OpenStack adoption to grow. I also expect public cloud adoption to grow faster than OpenStack. What I do see for OpenStack is that it is our current best hope for a private workload control layer able to operate across technology silos. OpenStack Nova provides a control plane and API for compute in much the same way that software defined networking and software defined storage are beginning to do for networks and storage. Somewhere at the intersection of OpenStack and Container management frameworks lies the new realm of “software defined compute”, the third leg in the tripod of software defined infrastructure. But I think that’s a blog post for another day.

I will be presenting on OpenStack, Private Clouds and Software Defined Computing at the Gartner conferences this year:


Gartner Catalyst Conference 2015

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  • Swarna says:

    Enjoyed reading the post. I think you’ve articulated the definition of OpenStack’s success along with its strengths and weaknesses very well. If I get to attend Catalyst again this year, I look forward to attending your session.

  • Steve Obanda says:

    Thanks for sharing your valuable words. OpenStack is now broadly adopted by many businesses but still there are some cons, as you discussed in the post, that might stop organizations to use OpenStack software. But I am sure the fastest growth of OpenStack will make it simple and let businesses adopt it more quickly in near future.