Cisco, IBM Bet Big on OpenStack

OpenStack, a free and open source (FOSS) cloud controller package that has been struggling to gain acceptance in the enterprise, took a giant stride forward when IBM and Cisco opened up their wallets last week.

IBM announced it would buy hosted OpenStack private cloud provider Blue Box Cloud.

Cisco announced plans to purchase Piston Cloud Computing, developer of the CloudOS operating system, which rapidly transforms clusters of commodity servers to turn them into a production-ready unified OpenStack environment.

The purchases show you reap what you sow — both Cisco and IBM have major investments in terms of product line and contributions to OpenStack, observed Bill Weinberg, senior director of open source strategy at Black Duck Software.

IBM has Cloud Manager, while Cisco uses OpenStack for its SaaS offerings and “has other products integrating it,” he told LinuxInsider.

Thinking Out of the Blue Box

IBM will use Blue Box’s software to help businesses rapidly integrate their cloud-based applications and on-premises systems into an OpenStack-based managed cloud, so they get a public cloud-like experience within their own data centers without having to go through the hassle of actually deploying a traditional private cloud.

Blue Box’s remotely managed OpenStack product also will let IBM provide clients with a local cloud and increased visibility, control and security, thus strengthening its existing OpenStack portfolio.

IBM already has 500 developers working on open cloud projects.

Cisco ‘s Intercloud Dreams

Cisco and its partners are building a globally connected network of clouds known as the “Intercloud” to deliver secure cloud services worldwide.

Piston Cloud Computing’s distributed systems engineering and OpenStack talent will help accelerate the product, delivery and operational capabilities of Cisco Intercloud Services.

Piston CloudOS lets IT rapidly deploy big data services such as Hadoop, Yarn and Spark, or container orchestration solutions including Kubernetes, Mesas and Docker Swarm, on bare metal. Users can monitor, adjust, scale and optimize the unified pool of resources CloudOS builds from clusters of commodity servers.

Customers will be able to build their own private clouds or consume cloud services from a trusted Intercloud provider.

OpenStack Commitment

“In both cases there appears to be an effort to double down on OpenStack in the hope the result lets them develop a solution that will scale,” said Rob Enderle, principal at the Enderle Group.

“Neither company is yet willing to abandon OpenStack, and both feel there’s still a solution in it someplace,” he told LinuxInsider.

OpenStack has been finding it difficult to penetrate the large enterprise market. That struggle was apparent to Gartner analyst Alessandro Perilli, who in 2013 suggested four factors underlying the struggle:

  1. lack of clarity about what OpenStack does and doesn’t do;
  2. lack of transparency about the business model around OpenStack;
  3. lack of vision and long-term differentiation; and
  4. lack of pragmatism, with purists insisting OpenStack can’t be a general-purpose cloud environment.

The Cisco and IBM purchases “may correct some of the problems with OpenStack, which should improve penetration,” Enderle suggested, “but if enterprises aren’t seeing a viable solution, they won’t buy OpenStack.”

Scaling Up Is Key

Another problem with OpenStack is that it doesn’t scale well. Plain vanilla main trunk OpenStack software apparentlycan’t scale past 30 nodes.

That means anyone who wants to run OpenStack at significant scale will be locked in to a vendor.

That led Mirantis, a pure-play OpenStack company, to expand its engineering partnership with Juniper Networks, with the goal of providing customers with an open source software-defined networking (SDN) fabric to deploy OpenStack clouds at scale.

“It’s not that OpenStack doesn’t scale — it’s that it doesn’t scale far enough in certain parameters,” Weinberg said.

“All open source products start up in unscalable or semi-scalable mode and in a state that’s good enough,” Weinberg pointed out. They adapt when they hit the market, and “that’s what happened with Linux.”

Richard Adhikari

Richard Adhikari has written about high-tech for leading industry publications since the 1990s and wonders where it's all leading to. Will implanted RFID chips in humans be the Mark of the Beast? Will nanotech solve our coming food crisis? Does Sturgeon's Law still hold true? You can connect with Richard on Google+.

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