November 21, 2013, 11:47 AM — Gartner analyst Allessandro Perilli recently attended his first summit for the open source cloud platform OpenStack and he says the project has a long way to go before it's truly an enterprise-grade platform.
In a blog post reviewing his experience, the analyst - who focuses on studying cloud management tools - says that OpenStack is struggling to increase its enterprise adoption. Despite marketing efforts by vendors and favorable press, enterprise adoption remains in the very earliest stages, he says.
"Don't believe the hype generated by press and vendor marketing: OpenStack penetration in the large enterprise market is minimal."Sure there are examples like PayPal, eBay and Yahoo using OpenStack. But these are not the meat and potatoes types of enterprise customers that vendors are looking to serve. Why? He outlines four reasons, most of which are related to the process and community nature of the project, and less around the technical maturity of it. By the way, this is not the first time a Gartner analyst has thrown cold water on the project.
[EARLIER CRITICISMS FROM GARTNER:Gartner report throws cold water on OpenStack hype]
Lack of clarity about what OpenStack does
There is market confusion about exactly what OpenStack is, he says. It is an open source platform that can be assembled together to build a cloud. It, by itself, is not a cloud though just by downloading and installing it. OpenStack requires some heavy lifting to turn the code into an executable cloud platform, which is why dozens of companies have come out with distributions or productized versions of OpenStack code. But, the code itself is not a competitor to cloud platforms offered by vendors like VMware, BMC, CA or others.
Lack of transparency about the business model
OpenStack vendors are not up front with customers about their reasons for participating in the project, Perilli says. Leaders of OpenStack companies make altruistic statements about how their efforts to advance the code are for the greater good of the project. In reality, Perilli says it's to advance their product. Enterprises want to hear a clear business model from their vendors in order to buy from them.
Lack of differentiation
Perilli says there are more than 17 vendors offering OpenStack distributions or products and they're not significantly differentiated among each other. There are nuanced differences - some for example preach greater fidelity with other public clouds like Amazon Web Services than others.
Lack of pragmatism
Most enterprises that adopt OpenStack will not jump all in with the platform, they will use it in conjunction with other platforms they already have. OpenStack vendors need to be able to support this heterogenous environment and not just cater to applications designed to run on OpenStack, Perilli says.
OpenStack backers rebuffed such claims. The project is young - going on three years old now - and is still maturing. It's come a long way and has a lot of positive attributes, momentum and backing of big-name players.
"The companies and individuals backing OpenStack for the most part seem to understand the OpenStack process - even if the pundits don't. Most OpenStackers tend to take a longer term view of the market space and see the bigger picture," wrote Diane Mueller who works on the development team at Red Hat, which is the single largest contributor of code to the project.
Others in the OpenStack movement seem to agree with Perilli on some points. One of OpenStack founders, former NASA CTO Chris Kemp, who now has a converged infrastructure OpenStack-based hardware appliance, says OpenStack has won the minds of developers, but not yet the hearts of IT administrators. The problem, he says, comes down to legacy IT shops not embracing new computing models. "Enterprise IT must either watch as their most strategic and critical applications are built on public clouds, or they must immediately invest in real, standards-based, API-driven private clouds," he says.
While Perilli takes no qualms telling it as he sees it related to OpenStack, he's not all negative about the project. In another blog post, this one written while at the OpenStack summit in Hong Kong, he mentioned some positive - or at least not so negative - attributes of OpenStack.
For one, OpenStack is catering to a whole new class of businesses that are not, nor will they ever be, customers of old-guard tech companies, he says. During one part of the summit the audience of nearly 4,000 attendees was asked which hypervisor they use - "very few" hands raised for VMware, he says. This may be unsurprising at an open source conference, but it still points to the disruption open source tools like OpenStack are causing in the market.
OpenStack is pushing the envelope at big-name tech companies involved in the project like HP, Dell and IBM too, Perilli says. There are cadres of developers and forward-thinking workers from these companies pushing OpenStack, which can be somewhat at odds with their legacy established mindset of how these companies have operated in the past. That helps big companies evolve, and that's a good thing.