Red Hat slips through Platform 16 to OpenStack wizarding world, says customers still want to run their own cloud

With public cloud vendors now offering on-prem, why OpenStack? Cost and avoiding lock-in – Red Hat

Interview OpenStack allows you to say "I am the Jeff Bezos of my cloud," Red Hat's Sean Cohen, senior manager product management, told The Reg at the launch of OpenStack's Platform 16, its enterprise cloud platform, which has just become generally available.

OpenStack is open-source software for running computing resources, including virtual machines, storage and networking, using the on-demand cloud computing model. RedHat OpenStack Platform is an enterprise product that has a different release cycle to that of the upstream release.

OpenStack releases a new version every six months, the latest being "Train" from October 2019. Before that there was "Stein" (April 2019) and "Rocky" (August 2018). Currently in development is "Ussuri", expected in May 2020.

Red Hat's OpenStack platform lags the upstream releases and is slowing down its release cycle, according to Cohen. "There were customer requirements for more stable releases. For many customers, such as telcos, the internal processes of qualifying a new release takes around nine months to a year. We introduced the concept of long life releases that are supported from three to five years," he said.

"Going forward with 16, every release from Red Hat is going to be a long-life release. 16 is based on Rocky, Stein and Train together. OpenStack 17 is going to happen a year from now and that will productize two upstream releases."

Competition – we've heard of it...

The big public cloud vendors all now have initiatives for on-premises and edge implementations of their services. AWS has Outposts, Microsoft Azure has Azure Stack, and Google Cloud Platform has Anthos. Is this squeezing out OpenStack?

Cohen gives a long answer. "Thirty-one per cent of our customers have a hybrid cloud strategy, typically more than one public cloud, but also a combination with on-prem," he said. "There is also the evolution of Kubernetes (K8s). Our key customer base is already adopting OpenShift [Red Hat's K8s implementation] on top of the platform. OpenStack still plays a role because the open hybrid cloud needs an open infrastructure to power it.

"When we were acquired by IBM, Ginni Rometty, the soon- to-be-former CEO of IBM, pointed out that 80 per cent of the world's workloads are still on-prem. On-prem is not going away. And OpenStack is going through an evolution. When we designed OpenStack, the mission statement was, 'Let's create an open-source version of AWS.'

"Today, with our telco customers on the 5G journey, we had to extend from a core cloud infrastructure down to the edge. OpenStack Platform 16 addresses that by introducing distributed compute nodes capability. We even added storage at the edge. Going back to Anthos and Azure Stack and OutPosts, I think the public cloud recognise this is where it is going. Everyone's going after 5G and edge.

"We have many enterprises who have already mastered OpenStack. They are not looking for yet another on-prem offering. It is an open infrastructure play. It allows you to say, 'I am the Jeff Bezos of my cloud.' I don't think a package on-prem that goes to a single public cloud is what customers are after. There's a cost aspect to it, there's also the desire not to get locked into a single offering."

What is new in OpenStack Platform 16? It is not just an OpenStack update; you also get Red Hat Enterprise Linux 8 (RHEL 8), said Cohen. Along with the edge support mentioned above, there are improved virtual GPU capabilities, for AI and machine learning (ML), a major update to Ceph, the storage platform used by OpenStack, and improved live migration of virtual machines. There is also better monitoring, with a new Service Telemetry Framework. "It's leveraging a single message bus, we can collect information from all the OpenStack nodes including edge," Cohen explained.

There is also Kuryr. "If you are running an application platform such as OpenShift on top of OpenStack you end up with a problem called double encapsulation, with degraded performance in networking. We have a new upstream project called Kuryr to resolve that," said Cohen.

The integration between OpenStack and OpenShift is key. Some customers just want to deploy K8s on bare metal, so there is the Metal Kubed (Metal3) project. "This has become the bare metal K8s service," said Cohen. "The same Ironic from OpenStack evolved to become a K8s native API for managing bare metal hosts via a provisioning stack that also runs K8s."

15% of OpenStack deployments run on RHEL, according to a user survey

15 per cent of OpenStack deployments run on RHEL, according to a user survey

Last year SUSE dropped its OpenStack product, saying it would focus on K8s and DevOps. SUSE had a relatively small share of the market, whereas 15 per cent of OpenStack deployments run on RHEL, according to an OpenStack user survey. It is not going away, but its role will be increasingly focused on running K8s workloads. ®

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