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Canonical: OpenStack is dead, long live OpenStack

It might not be trendy anymore, but apparently it keeps on selling

In a slightly curious blog post, Ubuntu recently dismissed the idea that OpenStack was no longer relevant and had been "abandoned" – making it the second outfit in the past six months to state how confident it remains in the IaaS platform.

The post, titled "OpenStack is dead?" echoed a similar statement from Docker Enterprise owners Mirantis, stating that users now "probably think that OpenStack has been supplanted by Kubernetes" – and talking about the growth in OpenStack adoption.

When multiple companies strenuously deny something, it tends to cause more suspicion than it allays. As The Reg pointed out when OpenStack turned 10, several big players have killed off their OpenStack products. Cisco invested heavily in it in 2014, only to then ax it a couple of years later.

In the same period, HP launched its own version, promoted it… then HP and Mirantis laid off much of the relevant teams.

HPE sold the rest off to SUSE as part of its restructuring.

In early 2019, the newly independent SUSE was still gung-ho about the platform… but then a new CEO took over and soon SUSE, too, killed its product. The OpenStack Foundation remained unbothered.

Part of the issue is that OpenStack is complicated, which makes it relatively hard to explain – and things that are hard to explain are hard to sell. The Reg has described it at length over the years, from a high-level overview, to software-defined networking and virtualized storage, and on to hyperconverged infrastructure.

The flip side is that this is not trendy tech. As a Red Hat staffer put it to us at a DevConf a couple of years ago: "OpenStack lets you take a garage full of racks of servers and switches, and turn it into your own little private company cloud. You can treat it just like AWS or whatever, but they're your boxes on your own site."

This is not the sort of message that the cloud giants want to sell. It can intimidate customers, and it doesn't let you sell contracts. It sounds much friendlier to suggest they go serverless.

Some companies are legally obliged to care about where their data is at all times. With a cloud service, you may not control where your data is. The provider's data center might even burn down. As Red Hat put it: "OpenStack allows you to say 'I am the Jeff Bezos of my cloud'." For some customers, that's a very appealing proposition.

It's interesting to look at where the customers Canonical cites in its blog post are situated: Russia, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia. Not everywhere can rely on stable, fast internet. Being able to use software-defined infrastructure and still have everything on your own campus, with cheap or unreliable external links, is a desirable proposition. You never know when your government might start a war, your internet gets cut off, or your suppliers stop dealing with your country.

Ultimately, this means the platform will remain alive and kicking for some time. As per the bootnote here, Betteridge's Law of Headlines applies. "Any headline that ends in a question mark can be answered by the word 'no'." ®

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