The dark side of OpenStack

Just weeks before for the big  OpenStack Summit, a new report cautions prospective users not to buy into the hype around this (or any) open-source cloud computing platform.

Gartner(s it) Research VP Lydia Leong suggests that prospective users proceed with eyes wide open and recognize that OpenStack, while promoted as an end to vendor lock-in can represent its own sort of “ecosystem lock-in.”  She recommends the use of a third-party cloud management tool or API  library that will work with multiple clouds.

OpenStack hype vs. reality

In the report (entitled “Don’t let OpenStack hype distort your selection of a cloud management platform in 2012”) Leong wrote that while people have been led to believe that because OpenStack is open source it is an “open and widely adopted standard.” The reality is different. She wrote:

“OpenStack is dominated by commercial interests, as it is a business strategy for the vendors involved, not the effort of a community of altruistic individual contributors. Some of the participants, notably Rackspace and other service providers are afraid of the growing dominance of AWS(s amzn) in the cloud IaaS market and do not believe that they have the ability to muster, on their own, the engineering resources necessary to successfully compete with [Amazon Web Services(s amzn)] at scale, nor do they want to pay an ongoing license fee for a commercial [cloud management platform]  like VMware’s(s vmw) vCloud stack.”

And, perhaps of more concern to the OpenStack faithful, Leong added: “Do not plan the future of your data center with the assumption that OpenStack will be at its core.” Ouch.

On the other hand, OpenStack is fine for companies that consider themselves early adopters and are willing to do the blocking and tackling needed to field early code, according to the Gartner report, which is dated September 14, but was released broadly on Friday.

OpenStack: Linux or Unix?

One nagging concern about OpenStack is that it comprises the work of a lot of industry giants — initially Rackspace and NASA, but with IBM(s ibm), HP(s hpq), Cisco(s csco), Dell(s dell), SUSE, and now VMware jumping on board — that have their own competitive agendas. All of them are concerned, at least privately, with Amazon’s huge cloud clout, but all of them also compete with each other. The question then becomes whether OpenStack will really become the Linux of cloud — widely adopted by competitors but also broadly interoperable — or the Unix of cloud, with companies churning out slightly different and semi-interoperable versions.  In short: stuff happens.

The formation of the OpenStack Foundation — now pretty much complete — alleviated some concerns that Rackspace held too much influence over the effort. And the latest  “Folsom” release out  this week shows less Rackspace influence according to some observers. Still worry persists.

Some other common sense advice from Leong: Evaluate OpenStack or CloudStack (backed by Citrix (s ctrx), once a big OpenStack backer)  or Eucalyptus or OpenNebula or whatever open-source cloud infrastructure just as you’d check out any vendor’s offering.