1134RA - “Open” is Good for Building and Selling Products, but What About the Workloads?
What is Happening? — This week (15 – 18 Oct.), the OpenStack Summit is being held in San Diego, CA. Saugatuck believes this event, which combines sessions for developers, users, and administrators of OpenStack Cloud software, points out that the fundamental benefits of Open Source software can bring value to many aspects of IT including the underlying infrastructure of private and public Clouds.
However, Saugatuck believes that most efforts of the OpenStack group, as well as other Cloud-oriented “open” groups like CloudStack, The Open Group, and even the Open Grid Forum, will deliver limited benefit to enterprise Cloud users, mainly because these efforts tend to miss a core enterprise user Cloud need for openness and standardization: The ability to migrate and utilize workloads in Clouds, between Clouds, and between Clouds and on-premises IT (i.e., hybridized environments). Without this, such groups, while doing great work, are not developing / delivering Interoperability for users, as much as they are defining, developing and delivering new products.
Why is it Happening? — An enduring objective for most IT users is to seek solutions that are vendor agnostic – applications and workloads that would be easily portable across vendor hardware and software platform offerings. Such portability would provide increased alternatives and promote competitive pricing for IT products and services.
This ‘Holy Grail’ of vendor independence has been the driving force behind numerous innovations beginning with COBOL in the early-‘60s, followed by Unix, and leading to the current growing number of software offerings which are labeled as Open Source.
From our discussions with IT leaders and users, Open Source software such as OpenStack cloud software has the aura of providing workload portability / interoperability. Unfortunately, “open” does not mean “standard,” and “standards” especially within consortia, gets interpreted and implemented with wide latitude.
Saugatuck reminds users that due to individual differences in vendor implementations (some resulting from differences in hardware, others resulting from attempts to offer differentiation) COBOL did not provide inter-vendor compatibility until the implementation of ANSI standards. Similarly, Open Source software, alone, does not eliminate incompatibilities between offerings that utilize the same Open Source code.
Along those lines, OpenStack states on their website that they “strongly believe that an open development model is the only way to foster badly-needed cloud standards, remove the fear of proprietary lock-in for cloud customers, and create a large ecosystem that spans cloud providers.” We agree wholeheartedly with this position, but also believe that something extremely important and useful for Cloud IT buyers and users is missing: What about the workloads?
Saugatuck sees the key requisite for user Cloud adoption and independence centering on standards, open or otherwise, for defining workloads, interoperation, and interfaces. Without these, the core benefits of Cloud – affordability, portability, and scalability – mean little.
Market Impact — Saugatuck applauds the efforts of the OpenStack Foundation and other organizations collaborating to produce open source computing stacks for public and private Clouds. The objective is to deliver interrelated components for a Cloud operating system which are functionally rich, simple to implement and massively scalable.
The work is good and beneficial, and in many cases has been driven by desires of both providers and users. OpenStack, for example, was founded by Rackspace Hosting and NASA, and has grown to be a global software community of over 5,000 developers (see Note 1 for a partial list of vendors that are members or sponsors) with a common mission: to enable any organization to create and offer cloud computing services running on standard hardware. And, OpenStack cloud software is being adopted by user enterprises, service providers, VARS, SMBs, and researchers seeking to leverage the support and technology of a diverse, global open source community.
To enable true user Cloud independence, however, Saugatuck urges OpenStack and all Cloud IT standards groups to vigorously pursue the definition and adoption of standards which provide workload interoperability and ease of workload migration / portability. Such standards would necessarily have to include areas which include:
- Workload. The definition of a cloud workload should likely state that the workload consists of all modules (including required DLLs and Drivers), data files, and terminal inputs required for proper execution.
- Workload operation. This area may include specification of interfaces (APIs) which are used during operation of the workload to request or trigger services from the Cloud operating system such as dynamic provisioning of resources.
Saugatuck expects that, in real life, the above definitions and standards frequently will be tailored to specific workload types (e.g., Windows, Linux, Ruby, etc.), and to specific industry verticals (e.g., healthcare, manufacturing, etc.).
Saugatuck urges all prospective users of Cloud IT to seek clear explanations from vendors about areas such as detailed above, which directly impact workload interoperability and portability. Functional capabilities and interoperability/portability are the key factors to consider when selecting a Cloud offering.
In the end, selecting a Cloud offering based on whether the underlying Cloud operating system is Open Source is analogous to selecting a server based on the color of its electrical power cord.
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Partial list of OpenStack vendors or sponsors (from the OpenStack website):