Four ways OpenStack improves enterprise IT

Jeremiah Dooley, Cloud Architect at SolidFire

Industry discussion around the role OpenStack can play in the enterprise remains rife – given its open source nature, it is still viewed with suspicion by a number of businesses. When taking a closer look at how the industry is using OpenStack, however, it becomes clear that there are plenty of examples to prove OpenStack can be used in an enterprise IT context. This means that now is the time to move the discussion forward, and look at how OpenStack makes enterprise IT better.  

Looking at the current enterprise IT landscape, there are a significant number of “legacy” workloads that require support, but have increasingly been moving (especially on the customer-facing side) to a lightweight, web-scale deployment model. These new applications have different challenges than SAP, Oracle and Exchange workloads, and are delivered by specific teams, employing varying methodologies onto different infrastructure – often via public clouds.

It’s here that OpenStack can really support enterprise IT, and as a result the challenge has moved from “how do we deploy and manage these new kinds of applications?” to “how do we integrate that process into our existing operational model, so that enterprise IT as a whole improves?”.

OpenStack can be the enabler of this, and here are four top ways that it can support enterprise IT:

1. OpenStack Can Extend Your Investments in AWS

You probably have developers in your company using (and paying for) AWS right now, whether or not you know it (or admit it). The fundamental challenge is that their consumption model (programmatic, API-driven, use and dispose on demand) doesn’t match up with a traditional IT procurement and provisioning model, causing issues at many levels.

OpenStack can extend the AWS consumption model and all of the skills that your developers have learned by making internally hosted and managed infrastructure available in the same manner. Cloudscaling CEO Randy Bias lists this as requirement #4 of enterprise-grade OpenStack in his excellent series of enterprise cloud blog posts.

2. OpenStack Can Embrace Your Existing Enterprise Hardware

Every enterprise I work with has a varying tolerance for change, and in some part that tolerance is driven by how much existing investment needs to be protected. Hardware is expensive, and while change can happen quickly, amortization happens on a fixed schedule.

Rather than looking at new application models as an either/or proposition, or as a completely new operational model to manage, OpenStack can take advantage of your existing hardware, your existing staff that administers that hardware and your existing processes used to manage those assets.  The list of hardware companies that are actively involved in OpenStack (even if it’s just contributing drivers) is long and growing.

3. OpenStack Can Help Drive IT Transformation

Don’t underestimate the amount of money that large enterprises are willing to spend in order to drive more efficiency into their operational model.  The only way to do more, faster, is to become more efficient, and to use a “cloud first” model that embraces both on-premises and public cloud deployment models.  

By standardizing on a cloud management and deployment model, enterprises can start winding down the silos that have been created around hardware and its associated vendors. It’s amazing how misaligned those legacy silos are with the business process they are supposed to support, and the efficiency gains made here can be significant and lasting.

4. OpenStack Can Embrace Yesterday While Preparing IT For Tomorrow

Enterprise IT faces many challenges from many directions.  If the financial, business-alignment and operational-efficiency struggles we’ve discussed earlier in this list aren’t enough, challenges with staff retention, development methodologies, architecture adoption, learning curves and even basic troubleshooting are all increasing as the enterprise pivots into a new cloud era. Yesterday’s hardware vendors have become today’s liabilities. Yesterday’s applications have becomes today’s boat anchors.

Meanwhile, today’s development methodologies and workload patterns have become the pattern for how IT will operate in the future, and that’s where the best and brightest in this industry want to be. For every one server or disk hugger out there who is more interested in his Java-based GUI and annual trip to Vegas, there are dozens of people more interested in tackling the interesting questions around what cloud becomes when it grows up, and how to make every IT process align with the horizontal business policy it’s designed to support.

For every virtualization administrator who is content to sit and let the industry come to him, there are many who are instead trying to help decide where the industry is going.  OpenStack (even with its in-fighting, politics, and open source soul) is a huge part of that process, and embracing it allows enterprises a front row seat and a license to participate.

Ultimately, there’s still a long way to go until OpenStack is truly embraced by this community, and there will be bumps ahead. Still, it’s poised to not just be relevant in the enterprise, but become extremely beneficial for it. We are already seeing the front of the adoption curve jump in and find that the water isn’t as cold as they feared.

How far can it go? We’re about to find out.