Curation as a service
OpenStack’s growing popularity was evident at the last Summit in Vancouver.

This blog post is written, partly, in response to a post on techreplublic.com titled “Marketing OpenStack’s Progress: Now ‘It actually works’” by Matt Asay

Admittedly, I wasn’t at the OpenStack Summit in which Randy Bias declared in his State of the Stack talk that “OpenStack is at risk of collapsing under its own weight,” but I’m familiar with the sentiment, as I’m sure a lot of people close to the OpenStack community, and open source in general, are.

At least one other industry pundit has gone on record that the community-powered fast moving development is a double-edged sword for the OpenStack project at large. While propelling projects forward with, at most times, consistent momentum, it has lacked focus on interoperability, which has resulted in a number of conflicts among projects that, while disparate, all carry the OpenStack brand.

The result is the slow adoption of the cloud platform due to complexity and growing preference and focus on streamlined technologies that focus on simplicity. “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,” explained Gartner’s Alan Waite, further declaring that adoption will continue to suffer in the face of complexity and lack of compatibility.

But what if you could have the best of both worlds? What if you could have the collective mindshare of the OpenStack community, focused on growing the project in way that addresses real world problems? What if you could depend on a team that aims to move the right needles in terms of business objectives? What if you had a version of OpenStack that was as reliable and simple to use as some of its leaner competitors?

Cisco, equipped with an arsenal of resources and expertise, is providing one of the most critical services of all when it comes to their Private Cloud-as-a-Service offering: curation.

Rather than adopt the latest version of OpenStack, unabridged, as soon as it becomes available, the team (formerly of OpenStack startups Metacloud and Piston) has a clearly defined framework of values and priorities that OpenStack is measured against. “We operate customer-prem private clouds that are powered by an opinionated version of OpenStack,” explains Chief Architect of Cisco OpenStack® Private Cloud, Chet Burgess. “Since it’s delivered in a SaaS-type model, we’re on the hook for stability, performance, and meeting our SLAs, so we have to make sure new features included in our distribution of OpenStack are rock solid before we deliver those to customers.”

The framework for priority-based organization and engineering also factors in customer feedback and feature requests. As a result, the platform offers unique features, including an enhanced user interface, self-service project administration, resource allocation geared at simplifying Windows VM licensing, and a beefed up admin dashboard with historical and live performance statistics for every level of the stack. On average, the team rolls out non-disruptive upgrades to all of their customers’ availability zones every six to eight weeks.

Real differentiation, as in the case of Cisco OpenStack Private Cloud, is attained when OpenStack is viewed as a starting point from which a team of engineers and product specialists use their expertise to build a deliberate version of the software, including the prescribed hardware on which it should run, to deliver a developer-friendly public cloud experience in the sanctum of a customer’s data center. It’s this viewpoint–that OpenStack is a raw material—that allows Cisco to turn it into a refined digital alloy that is defining the how the value of the cloud platform is to be extracted and delivered to meet the evolving needs of enterprises.

The bottom line is that the (growing) immensity of the OpenStack project, described by Randy Bias and others, allows the engineers behind Cisco OpenStack Private Cloud to treat OpenStack like a catalog of parts and pieces. OpenStack doesn’t and shouldn’t have to be treated as an inseparable, monolithic code base. While a number of companies have created a business out of offering OpenStack to companies, the differentiation is in how it’s delivered and what version of OpenStack will deliver the results that their customers expect.

Questions? Comments? Leave them below, or tweet me at @palumbo.