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New arrivals seek to simplify OpenStack private clouds

Building an OpenStack private cloud can be challenging, but new options aim to help enterprises do it without a headache.

Building an OpenStack private cloud continues to be on the to-do list at many enterprises, but it's just not that easy.

Building a private cloud promises better security and control of ongoing workloads but also involves lots of heavy lifting. New options including Rackspace's OpenStack Everywhere and ZeroStack aim to help simplify private cloud deployments using OpenStack.

Many companies see the platform's openness as the best way to set up a private cloud and be prepared for the future, according to Lynda Stadtmueller, cloud computing program director at analyst firm Frost & Sullivan in Mountain View, Calif.

It may not have the bells and whistle of other commercial cloud platforms, but many enterprises believe that an open platform is better, and support is growing to make OpenStack the leading open private cloud platform, she said.

"It is still a baby and experiencing growing pains," she said.

IT pros at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, Fla., began to realize firsthand that building an OpenStack private cloud was too complicated and time-consuming for the school's small IT staff.

"We were falling flat on our faces," said Mahesh Neelakanta, director of the college's technical services group. He and half the time of another IT staffer worked on the project.

Building a private cloud using VMware was rejected because of the cost, and CloudStack looked good but similarly raised concerns about increased demands on the college's IT resources. Neelakanta turned to ZeroStack, which he got up and running in a day, simply racking and stacking the hardware and assigning IP addresses. Most of his time, he said, was spent teaching users how to run it.

Florida Atlantic University isn't alone in its attraction to OpenStack even as it faced challenges.

Most midsize companies share Florida Atlantic University's experience, where "building a public cloud has been a daunting experience," said Ajay Gulati, co-founder and CEO at ZeroStack and formerly a senior staff engineer at VMware.

It is one thing to stand up OpenStack, but it is another thing six months later to make sure it is running well with all your apps.
Patrick Moorheadfounder, president and principal analyst, Moor Insights & Strategy

The company's goal is to help customers build a "zero touch" private cloud providing a user experience similar to public cloud, with self-service offerings for developers, kept behind a firewall for predictable performance. The company ships a 2U hyper-converged node with four servers, which users connect to ZeroStack to get real-time insights and capacity planning capabilities and get going with OpenStack APIs. Costs are per server for the first year and then change to a subscription starting at less than $100,000.

"They do not need to worry about building a cloud or stitching together a platform," Gulati said.

Two of the most significant barriers to an OpenStack deployment are the complexity of the platform and a lack of OpenStack talent, echoed Darrin Hanson, vice president and general manager for OpenStack Private Cloud at Rackspace Inc.

Downloading the OpenStack trunk or a do-it-yourself software distribution without ongoing managed service can be more difficult compared to an as-a-service or managed service model, he said.

Thus, Rackspace has expanded its managed services business with OpenStack Everywhere, unveiled this week. This expands the company's capabilities from its eight worldwide data centers to almost any data center in the world, as long as it can furnish 8 kilowatts of power per rack and support two cabinets that weigh in at just less than a ton.

OpenStack Everywhere starts with preconfigured racks purpose-built for OpenStack and then remotely provides network engineering, operations and security plus backbone engineering and architecture . The hardware can be built around either Hewlett Packard Enterprise DL380 servers or an Open Compute Project-based architecture based on Quanta Computer Inc. servers.

"We deliver a full-blown architecture as if it was in a Rackspace data center," said Ryan Yard, Rackspace's director of solutions engineering.

Rackspace has partnered with data center provider Equinix Inc. so a customer can set up the Rackspace fully managed OpenStack private cloud in an Equinix data center, and then connect to its Cloud Exchange to create a hybrid cloud with Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud Platform, Microsoft Azure and others, Yard said.

In addition to Rackspace's OpenStack Everywhere, other private cloud options could include Azure Stack and a new offering from Oracle, plus professional services from Dell or Hewlett Packard Enterprise, said Patrick Moorhead, founder, president and principal analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy in Austin, Texas.

"I would expect a Red Hat response to this" as well, he added.

Enterprises also could turn to an outsourcing company such as Accenture PLC to set up a fully managed OpenStack private cloud in their own data center, Stadtmueller said.

Pricing for Rackspace's OpenStack Everywhere has not been released, but Moorhead said he would expect it to be "comparatively inexpensive" to other options.

Rackspace's OpenStack Everywhere likely will appeal to enterprises that want an availability metric such as uptime across multiple sites but don't have the staff or skills to accomplish that, Stadtmueller said. Those same companies also may want low latency, such as a content provider.

"Companies would essentially be getting peace of mind," she said. "It is not going to be 'set it and forget it;' the ongoing management [from Rackspace] is going to be important."

Other potential users of OpenStack private cloud as a managed service could include financial services companies that are "one step below" large enterprises such as Bank of America and Citi, as well as manufacturing companies which may have a small IT staff, Moorhead said.

"It is one thing to stand up OpenStack, but it is another thing six months later to make sure it is running well with all your apps," he said.

Robert Gates covers data centers, data center strategies, server technologies, converged and hyper-converged infrastructure and open source operating systems for SearchDataCenter. Follow him on Twitter @RBGatesTT or email him at [email protected].

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