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Architecting OpenStack for enterprise

reality
By Paul Miller
April 7, 2014

This report was underwritten by Canonical.

TABLE OF CONTENTS
Executive summary ................................................................................................................................... 3
Adding cloud to the enterprise IT mix ........................................................................................................ 4
From virtualization to the cloud .............................................................................................................. 5
Public, Private, Hybrid ........................................................................................................................... 5
The role of VMware ............................................................................................................................... 6
The road to the cloud ............................................................................................................................ 6
OpenStack ................................................................................................................................................ 7
Key components ................................................................................................................................... 8
Adoption to date .................................................................................................................................. 10
Building a bridge ..................................................................................................................................... 11
SDN hype or value? ............................................................................................................................. 13
Managing change.................................................................................................................................... 14
Key takeaways ........................................................................................................................................ 16
About Paul Miller ..................................................................................................................................... 17
About Gigaom Research ......................................................................................................................... 17

Architecting OpenStack for Enterprise Reality

Executive summary
Enterprise IT managers are watching the open-source cloud infrastructure project OpenStack with
interest, hoping it might offer an easy way to begin exploiting the cloud alongside their existing IT estates.
In this report, we briefly introduce each of OpenStacks core components before exploring the ways
OpenStack might realistically add value alongside existing investment in widely deployed on-premise
solutions such as those dependent on VMwares product family.
Todays enterprise data center is typically already heavily virtualized. Pools of servers are available for use
across the organization, in a manner that appears increasingly cloud-like. With VMware still dominating
this market for on-premise virtualization, we could argue that customers who have embraced VMwares
model of virtualization have no real need to take the additional steps required to deploy either public or
private cloud solutions.
In this report, we explore some of the ways in which VMware virtualization and OpenStack-powered
clouds complement each other, and we discuss the efforts of OpenStack Foundation member VMware
and other project participants to simplify the process by which existing enterprise IT investments might
be enriched with the addition of OpenStack.

Architecting OpenStack for Enterprise Reality

Adding cloud to the enterprise IT mix


The enterprise IT landscape has changed dramatically in recent years, and many of those changes
continue to affect IT planning and procurement decisions today. The full implications of cloud
computings rise are not yet fully understood, but an earlier wave of transformation the widespread
adoption of virtualization is increasingly seen as a logical step on the way toward enterprise cloud
adoption.
With well over 50 percent of the worlds x86-based servers likely now devoted to hosting virtualized
workloads and virtualization often exceeding 75 percent of the server estate in larger enterprises,
virtualization is clearly an established technique in the IT toolkit. These virtualized pools of computing
capacity change the way in which IT is provisioned and managed, and they set adopters on a path that
typically leads them toward the even greater flexibility offered by a cloud solution.
Virtualization offers a number of benefits over hardware-based provisioning of IT, including:

Centralized management of IT capacity, offering economies of scale in purchasing, more-efficient


resource utilization, and so on

Cost, power, cooling, and space savings, as a smaller number of servers can be operated at higher
levels of utilization (virtualized servers typically operate at 80 percent to 90 percent of capacity,
compared with 50 percent to 60 percent or less for non-virtualized servers)

Reduction of vendor lock-in, as the virtualization process creates a layer of abstraction between
the applications and the physical hardware on which they happen to be running today

Faster provisioning, as new virtual machines can be created from a pool of available capacity far
faster (minutes) than a new physical server can be specified, approved, procured, delivered,
installed, and made available (weeks or even months)

Improved reliability, as virtual machines and their applications can often be moved from one
physical server to another without significant impact on users

Architecting OpenStack for Enterprise Reality

Virtualization is not the answer to every IT challenge:

The hypervisor that controls the virtualization process introduces a slight performance overhead,
perhaps making it more efficient to leave servers devoted to a single application un-virtualized.

Some applications require dedicated access to specific hardware (such as a GPU for intensive
processing), and these will usually perform better without virtualization.

In certain circumstances, ensuring that a mission-critical application is able to draw on all of a


servers resources may be more cost-effective, even if those resources may be underutilized much
of the time when that application is idle.

A number of applications still ship with licenses that do not permit virtualization.

Some older applications may not perform reliably in a virtualized environment.

From virtualization to the cloud


Once an organization recognizes and embraces virtualizations core proposition of a device-independent
pool of computing capacity, seeing the additional value offered by cloud computing is relatively simple.
Self-service provisioning of virtual machines, elastic scaling up and down of compute capacity, the ability
to access additional computing power outside the data center when required, fine-grained metering, and
billing on the basis of consumption all offer clear and achievable benefits. For an organization that is
already virtualizing a lot of its workloads, the additional step to a cloud solution is often in theory, at
least not a large one.

Public, private, hybrid


Early cloud solutions, such as those offered by Amazon Web Services (AWS), tended to be in the public
cloud. They were compelling to startups without existing IT infrastructure, and even for larger
organizations they made a lot of sense for short bursts of activity such as the New York Times batch
conversion of unwieldy image formats for use online back in 2008. But for organizations with existing IT
infrastructure, established workflows, and compliance frameworks, moving mainstream workloads to the
public cloud was more complicated. Whether justified or not, the perception that the cloud might be less
secure, less reliable, or simply too different to existing systems created hurdles that slowed adoption.
Typically, those hurdles were only tackled when a pressing business requirement made change less
painful than preserving the status quo.

Architecting OpenStack for Enterprise Reality

Private cloud solutions and, more recently, hybrid cloud solutions have emerged to tackle these perceived
shortcomings in the public cloud, lowering the barriers to adoption and simplifying the process of
realizing at least some of cloud computings benefits.
Activities such as the Eucalyptus project from the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) quickly
offered software that allowed customers to run Amazon-compatible private clouds in their own data
centers. More recently other open-source initiatives like the CloudStack and OpenStack projects gained
traction and grew to become widely supported by a significant proportion of vendors operating in the
market. OpenStack, for example, powers public cloud offerings from Rackspace, Hewlett-Packard, and
others, and it can be downloaded to create private clouds that run inside customer data centers. In
principle, at least, public and private OpenStack clouds can be combined to create a hybrid cloud, and the
OpenStack code distributions from the likes of Rackspace and Canonical are explicitly marketed on this
promise.

The role of VMware


VMware dominates the server-virtualization market today, with IDC cited as suggesting a market share of
50 to 55 percent. That dominance is being squeezed mostly by competitors Microsoft and Citrix but
VMware remains a significant player in the space. The companys vSphere hypervisor is likely to be
deployed at many organizations considering a move to the cloud, and some of the companys other
products may also be used to manage some or all the existing on-premise infrastructure.
VMware is increasingly pushing cloud-like solutions such as the private vCloud Suite and its more
recently launched hybrid equivalent. Both of these are most likely to appeal to customers with an ongoing
and near-exclusive commitment to VMwares family of products. More-cautious customers may be wary
of the growing risk of lock-in and will therefore look elsewhere.

The road to the cloud


The perception that VMwares cloud products are the only way to move from a VMware virtualized data
center to a cloud-based model is not necessarily true. The perception that companies with heavily
virtualized IT infrastructure (using VMware or one of its competitors) need to throw a lot of that
investment away and begin again as they adopt a different cloud solution such as OpenStacks is also not
the case, as we shall see below.

Architecting OpenStack for Enterprise Reality

OpenStack
Launched in 2010 by Rackspace and NASA and supported by a broad and growing set of technology
companies, the OpenStack project today dominates the discussion of private and hybrid clouds.
Significant backers such as HP and Rackspace also offer public clouds to compete with AWS, powered by
OpenStack. Other open-source cloud projects such as CloudStack have loyal followings of their own, and
they are frequently described as easier to deploy than OpenStack. But OpenStacks broad industry
backing, plus the speed with which projects form to tackle perceived weaknesses in the code, make it the
open-source AWS alternative to beat.

Google Trends data, tracking interest in competing open-source cloud projects

Source: Google

OpenStack continues to evolve rapidly, with new versions of the code released roughly every six months.
The current version, OpenStack Havana, was released in October 2013. Core capabilities around compute
and storage are relatively mature, but other aspects of the project are not so complete. Across the project,
more emphasis tends to be paid to core functionality than to ease of use, sometimes leading newcomers
to consider OpenStack modules complex or difficult to deploy. A wide range of companies, including
Canonical, Mirantis, and Rackspace, offer professional-services engagements designed to mask some of

Architecting OpenStack for Enterprise Reality

this complexity behind delivery of an installation tailored to meet their clients requirements. These
companies and others also offer their own distributions of the OpenStack code, often adding richer
installation tools or tighter integration with other open-source projects (such as Ubuntu, in Canonicals
case) or their own products.

Key components
Core components of the OpenStack cloud

Source: OpenStack

OpenStack originally launched with a focus on two core modules, an object-storage module (Swift),
contributed by founding partner Rackspace, and a compute module (Nova), contributed by founding
partner NASA. Development on each of these has continued, with a growing number of contributions
from others too.
The OpenStack project now offers nine core modules, composed of:
1. Nova (compute). One of the original OpenStack modules and still the most widely deployed,
Nova is broadly equivalent to Amazons Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2). Nova is central to any
OpenStack deployment, providing the APIs that developers use to start, manage, and stop virtual
machines within an OpenStack cloud. Nova is designed to be horizontally scalable and to operate
effectively on commodity hardware. Nova does not include a hypervisor of its own, but it is

Architecting OpenStack for Enterprise Reality

designed to manage the deployment of most major hypervisors, including KVM, Xen, and
VMwares ESX (via an API call to vCenter). As well as the x86 architectures typically found in
todays data centers, Nova can also run on alternative infrastructures such as those using lowpower Atom chips designed by ARM.
2. Swift (object storage). The second of OpenStacks original modules, Swift is loosely similar to
Amazons Simple Storage Service (S3). Swift provides OpenStack users with a scalable and
redundant object-storage solution, and it should not be confused with the block-storage module
Cinder. Contributors such as SwiftStack have also commercialized Swift for use in OpenStack and
non-OpenStack environments.
3. Cinder (block storage). Cinder is OpenStacks block-storage module, designed to manage a
wide range of commercial storage arrays in delivering persistent block-level storage to highperformance applications such as databases. A further project, Ceph, has been growing in
popularity as a replacement for (or adjunct to) both Swift and Cinder. Ceph is offered as a
supported option within the OpenStack distributions of companies such as Canonical.
4. Neutron (networking). Neutron (previously known as Quantum) is OpenStacks networking
module, designed to manage communication among OpenStack instances across a wide range of
physical and virtual network architectures. Neutron supports OpenFlow, one of the principal
specifications for the emerging area of software-defined networking (SDN).
5. Horizon (dashboard). Horizon is OpenStacks web-based dashboard, augmenting the APIs
offered by each OpenStack module with a single graphical management console.
6. Keystone (identity service). Keystone is OpenStacks central directory service, which manages
registration, authorization, and authentication of users. Keystone can integrate with existing
authentication services such as LDAP to reuse user credentials created elsewhere.
7. Glance (image service). Glance is OpenStacks repository of disk and server images, which can
be used to store and quickly deploy predefined virtual machines (for example, an Ubuntu web
server or database server or a CentOS development machine). Images may be stored locally within
a single OpenStack cloud or shared across a number of clouds with querying via a standard REST
interface.

Architecting OpenStack for Enterprise Reality

8. Ceilometer (telemetry). Ceilometer offers a single repository for storing usage data from
across an OpenStack cloud. This usage data is intended to support billing systems and audit
processes, and it also aids in the general monitoring of a clouds performance under load.
9. Heat (orchestration). Heat is OpenStacks orchestration service, designed to support human
and machine-driven management of a cloud, its infrastructure, and its applications. Heats
primary focus is the management of infrastructure, but it is designed to work with widely used
software-configuration tools such as Puppet (see disclosure) and Chef in order to offer an
integrated view across the whole.
(Disclosure: Puppet Labs is backed by True, a venture capital firm that is an investor in the parent
company of Gigaom.)

Adoption to date
According to October 2013 results from the OpenStack Foundations ongoing survey of its users,
OpenStack adoption broadly mirrors trends observed in other cloud activities. The majority of reported
deployments are small, with 45 percent constituting less than 100 virtual machine instances and only 6
percent with more than 10,000 instances. Similarly, 67 percent of deployments are across fewer than 50
physical servers, and only 8 percent require more than 1,000. OpenStack use is still dominated by proofs
of concept, with 32 percent of survey respondents reporting running some form of production workload.
Open-source technologies dominate the environments in which OpenStack was deployed at the time of
the survey, with Linux distributions such as Ubuntu (55 percent overall) and CentOS (24 percent overall)
clearly the default choice for host operating systems at all scales of deployment. The KVM hypervisor
used by many Linux distributions is also dominant in 62 percent of responses, but Microsofts HyperV
and VMwares ESX also make the list of chosen hypervisors (3 percent and 8 percent, respectively). The
appearance of enterprise-grade networking from Cisco (10 percent) and VMwares Nicira (6 percent) as
well as storage solutions from the likes of NetApp (8 percent) and EMC (3 percent) combine to suggest
that some, at least, are trying to integrate OpenStack with solutions less frequently associated with
adopters of open-source projects. Effective deployments that include these companies mainstream
solutions will, of course, be key to more-widespread adoption of OpenStack in the future.

Architecting OpenStack for Enterprise Reality

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Building a bridge
VMware as a company is keen to remain relevant as its biggest customers move from a largely virtualized
IT infrastructure (that VMware dominates) toward a model in which public and/or private clouds play an
increasingly significant role. Equally, those advocating the greater adoption of cloud infrastructure
benefit if prospective customers see that their new cloud projects will be able to leverage existing
investment in the virtualization of their data centers. For the moment, at least, it is in the interests of both
VMware and the clouds champions to be seen to be working together, even as each works to extend the
reach and capability of its own emergent alternative solutions (VMwares private cloud and hybrid cloud
vCloud offerings, for example).

Integration between OpenStack and VMware

Source: VMware

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Officially sanctioned and supported free drivers already exist to support interoperation between
OpenStacks Nova nodes and vSpheres compute cluster capabilities and to direct OpenStack Cinder
requests to vSpheres storage services. There are also drivers in Canonicals OpenStack distribution to
exploit the software-defined networking (SDN) capabilities of Nicira NVP (acquired by VMware and now
marketed as VMware NSX) within OpenStacks Neutron.

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SDN: hype or value?


The virtualization of compute and storage is relatively well-understood and accepted within the broader
IT industry. As discussed above, the majority of enterprise-compute workloads are now virtualized, and
the creation of virtual pools of storage is also well-advanced. The virtualization of networking or
software-defined networking (SDN) is at an earlier stage of adoption. Many organizations have
significant investments in perfectly serviceable physical network devices from established incumbents
such as OpenStack Foundation member Cisco and are at an early stage in evaluating the additional
benefits of virtualizing their network. VMwares 2012 acquisition of SDN startup Nicira was one
validation of the trend, and even stalwarts of the physical-networking paradigm today offer SDN products.
OpenStacks Neutron module is designed to integrate with existing SDN projects such as OpenFlow, as
well as connecting relatively easily to commercial SDN products from VMware and others.
Software-defined networking is at an early point in adoption, but most indicators suggest that the SDN
market is heading toward significant growth. The foundations laid in Neutron should enable those
deploying OpenStack clouds to benefit from a wide range of SDN solutions as these emerge in the market.

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Managing change
Organizations with an existing investment in server virtualization from VMware or one of its competitors
would not likely consider throwing that investment away in order to move wholesale to a completely new
cloud. However, even organizations with fully virtualized IT infrastructure will benefit from the elastic
and self-service nature of a well-architected cloud solution. Adding the ability to draw on additional
compute capacity from outside the data center when required simply makes the proposition more
compelling.
VMwares own cloud products offer one means of achieving these ends, but it is also increasingly feasible
to implement more-open cloud environments (such as OpenStack) without giving up any of the benefits
seen in the already virtualized data center.
Use of the same hypervisor (e.g., KVM) and operating system (e.g., Ubuntu) both on- and off-premise
certainly simplifies that process of extending a cloud, but cooperation among the technology companies
in this space means it is often possible to move workloads across architectures. PayPal, for example,
integrates its existing VMware investment with an OpenStack cloud. That cloud combines virtual
machines using both OpenStacks dominant KVM hypervisor and VMwares ESX under a single
management layer.
As OpenStack matures, the code distributions from various partners are becoming increasingly robust
and more tailored to deployment in the sort of mixed environments likely to be found in many production
settings. Both Canonical and Mirantis, for example, offer their own OpenStack distributions, and both
have signed agreements and undertaken development work with VMware to simplify real-world
deployments like PayPals.
Production environments are rarely as neat and single-source as the clusters used for pilot deployments
or devtest activities. There are no convincing indications that IT buyers are likely to restrict their options
by buying more from a smaller set of vendors, which would suggest that the IT landscape will continue to
be diverse and complex. Indeed, as the number of choices on the market continues to expand, the
complexly diverse nature of most IT deployments will only grow. As such, efforts to improve
interoperability among different pieces of the whole should be welcomed, and activity to improve
interoperability among VMware solutions and open-source clouds powered by OpenStack is one recent
example of this.

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We have come a long way since early hype-filled discussions in which OpenStack was often unrealistically
pitched as a direct replacement for much of an enterprise's existing IT estate. There is now far less
interest in simply replacing existing systems and processes and far more in discovering the most costeffective and advantageous ways to blend the best of old and new.
OpenStack has clearly reached a level of maturity at which it is feasible to deploy for key workloads inside
the enterprise data center. The project's rich partner ecosystem includes both the technical
underpinnings to integrate established infrastructure and systems (such as VMware-based virtualization)
and the consultancy and services expertise to support these deployments in production environments.
For those who are ready to embrace a hybridized solution and who wish to reduce the perceived risk of
becoming too dependent on a single technology partner, it's time to seriously explore the opportunity
offered by the OpenStack ecosystem.

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Key takeaways

The virtualization of servers is increasingly common, especially in larger enterprise data centers,
and VMware continues to dominate this market today.

OpenStack attracts much of the attention in the open-source cloud space. Adoption still lags far
behind industry leader Amazon, but a growing number of organizations publicly support
OpenStack. These include public and private cloud operators such as Rackspace, Hewlett-Packard,
IBM, and others, as well as smaller companies like Canonical and Mirantis, which can help with
local OpenStack deployments.

Virtualization is a step on the path toward cloud deployment, and it introduces many of the
concepts and procedures needed for an effective cloud.

Organizations do not need to adopt a VMware cloud solution to benefit from existing investment
in VMware virtualization.

Equally, there is no need to throw away existing investment in virtualization in order to build an
OpenStack cloud.

VMware is an active member of the OpenStack Foundation, and there are supported drivers that
simplify the process of managing VMware virtual machines within an OpenStack cloud.

OpenStack continues to evolve, with new code released every six months. There may be value in
working with a partner if you are deploying an OpenStack cloud for production workloads.

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About Paul Miller


Paul Miller is an analyst and consultant, based in the East Yorkshire (U.K.) market town of Beverley and
working with clients worldwide. He helps clients understand the opportunities and pitfalls around cloud
computing, big data, and open data, as well as presents, podcasts, and writes for a number of industry
channels. His background includes public policy and standards roles, several years in senior management
at a U.K. software company, and a Ph.D. in Archaeology.
Paul was the curator for GigaOM Researchs infrastructure and cloud computing channel during 2011,
routinely acts as a moderator for Gigaom Research webinars, and has authored a number of underwritten
research papers such as this one.

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