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OpenStack private clouds are SCIENCE PROJECTS says Gartner

Don't Try This At Home and watch out for the lock-in from hired help

OpenStack can run a fine private cloud, if you have lots of people to throw at the project and are willing to do lots of coding, according to Alan Waite, a research director at Gartner.

Waite works at Gartner for technical professionals, the arm of the analyst aimed at hands-on IT pros rather than suits. His opinion is therefore informed by product tests as well as the other scrying methods Gartner's Delphic Ones use to investigate the future. OpenStack, he predicts, will be a success, only the degree of that success is to be decided. But the reason the stack will succeed is that plenty of big hardware vendors are pushing it. One reason they've chosen to do so is that by selling a private cloud they get the chance to sell more hardware and/or services and/or managed cloud. Selling any of those keeps dollars out of the paws of pure-play cloud outfits, which partly explains their interest in OpenStack.

If you are thinking of OpenStack, Waite reckons you'll therefore do worse than to hand over an implementation project to its backers because working with the stack is not straightforward.

“OpenStack is great as an open source standard for infrastructure access,” Waite told the Gartner IT Infrastructure, Operations & Data Center Summit” in Sydney today. “It has great APIs. But it is not a cloud management tool. It is a framework on which you build and this is why people get into trouble: it is a science project and you need to be aware what you are getting into.”

That complexity, and the need to do a fair bit of integration between modules, is the reason Gartner sees mainly large organisations trying OpenStack. Indeed, Waite said the firm has counted just 740 implementations anywhere, “because the use cases are pretty small.”

Hyperscale operations are the sweet spot, for now, which is why the likes of eBay, PayPal, WalMart and BMW are prominent among implementers.

Waite also said OpenStack's structure deserves scrutiny. Organisations fond of medium-term roadmaps from key suppliers will need to come to terms with OpenStack's six month-horizons. Those who accept Linus Torvalds' control of Linux as a useful stabiliser need to understand that OpenStack's many project co-ordinators could conceivably choose almost any path for the projects they lead.

The main thread in Waite's talk was that if you decide OpenStack really, really is for you, Don't Try This At Home. Hire the few experienced hands on offer, brace yourself for bumps and, above all, don't even get to the starting line unless you absolutely need infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS).

And even if you think you need IaaS, ask yourself how much you need it: Waite said Gartner surveys have found that under five per cent of in-house IaaS adoptees are happy with the resulting rig. ®

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