OpenStack take-up set for warp factor 10 on its 3rd birthday

Happy birthday candles

Hands up who remembers Wellfleet? You’d have to be of a certain age to recall the company but, for a brief period, it was second to Cisco in the router market. OK, when I say second, it was a long way behind Cisco.

I hadn’t thought of Wellfleet for ages, but the company cropped up in a conversation I had with John Igoe, vice president of technology at Rackspace. I was speaking to him on the eve of OpenStack’s third birthday, in recognition of Rackspace's position as prime mover on OpenStack.

I couldn’t help draw parallels with the Wellfleet/Cisco battle when discussing OpenStack’s market position against Amazon Web Services. I didn’t want to be the party-pooper, casting a cloud over the birthday celebrations, but it’s hard not to notice that OpenStack is definitely playing second fiddle to AWS.

At least one commentator has predicted that OpenStack has got a grim future ahead as it tries to compete with AWS. Respected cloud pundit Simon Wardley is blunt has described OpenStack as a dead duck, He also pointed out OpenStack’s strategy was to talk about differentiation and not being beholden to Amazon, on the basis that “if you grow your ecosystem to be the larger, then you actually control the API.”

Needless to say, Igoe has little time for that view, pointing out there’s both a drive towards hybrid cloud implementations rather than the public cloud of AWS and that there’s an impetus coming from users who are “really resisting proprietary solutions”.

He also raised the issue of the cost of AWS’s offering, adding: “My colleague John Engates has pointed out that public cloud can actually be more expensive and private cloud.”

Igoe also adds there’s a philosophical element to the rise of OpenStack. “A major label wanted to do some co-development work with us, and wanted to manage the service both in our data centre and theirs ,” he said. “We said that when the work was completed, we’d want to hand it back to the community – and the customer was happy with that. You’re not going to see that sort of thing as a proprietary stack.”

The growth of OpenStack customers seems to continue unabated and Igoe is keen to draw attention to this growth. “I’ve had 25 years in technology and not seen anything like it,” he said. “We have two international conferences and have seen an increase of more than 100 percent for all of them. It’s far exceeded my expectations.”

The trend in cloud has been the way that decisions have been taken away from the techies. Indeed, Igoe has already seen a change in the participants in OpenStack meetings. “In the early days, it was just technical people – everyone was coding but if you go to a conference today, users and operators have now joined the party,” he adds.

Igoe says that one of the most impressive achievements is the way in which vendors can push their differences aside. The underlying community are all natural competitors, but when it comes to OpenStack meetings, every member checked their vendor badge at the door – that’s a remarkable thing.”

He sees this co-operation as driving cloud forward, again drawing parallels with the router development and the emergence of OSPF. “I remember a Wellfleet customer, a bank, bought a US subsidiary and they had problems integrating the routers as the US bank was a Cisco customer,” he ponders.

“Networking vendors had to sort that out. We saw a similar process with the mobile phone community, phones now work whatever country you go to.”

Igoe says that’s the next stage for cloud but is confident the international community will iron out concerns. He thinks the cloud industry is set to push ahead at great pace. “In Star Trek terms, I’d say we’re at warp factor 10,” he muses.

That’s certainly creating a blaze across the galaxy and his hope must be that the Klingons at AWS aren’t lurking in the next galaxy.

Max Cooter

Max Cooter is a freelance journalist who has been writing about the tech sector for almost forty years.

At ITPro, Max’s work has primarily focused on cloud computing, storage, and migration. He has also contributed software reviews and interviews with CIOs from a range of companies.

He edited IDG’s Techworld for several years and was the founder-editor of CloudPro, which launched in 2011 to become the UK’s leading publication focused entirely on cloud computing news.

Max attained a BA in philosophy and mathematics at the University of Bradford, combining humanities with a firm understanding of the STEM world in a manner that has served him well throughout his career.