An MSP’s Introduction to OpenStack

Scott Calonico

Have you heard of OpenStack yet?

With IBM adopting the open-source technology platform as the core of its cloud strategy, and pundits referring to it in terms of a cloud-computing equivalent to Linux, it’s certainly something that should be on your radar. This article introduces you to the basics of OpenStack.

OpenStack Foundation’s Chief Operating Officer Mark Collier describes OpenStack as a Cloud operating system. As described in the introductory video available here: http://www.openstack.org/software/, the OpenStack software pulls together the components of a cloud infrastructure in the same way that a desktop OS makes each part of a traditional PC work together.  By this he means various types of storage, computing resources, network topologies, and services such as authentication.

The OpenStack software links everything together, and then provides for “pluggable” Web-based dashboards and other components that can simplify both use and administration.

OpenStack’s open-source architecture and documented APIs mean that the software can be integrated into all kinds of cloud environments – from specialist private-cloud systems that small providers may wish to design and sell to clients, to the large enterprise cloud environments used and sold by the likes of huge corporates such as IBM.

Why does this matter to me, as an MSP?

As an MSP, you must surely be aware of the general move towards cloud-based computing. While, undoubtedly, many companies continue to use traditional on-premise IT solutions and will do for the foreseeable future, more and more of the IT world is moving to the cloud.

You can be sure that, five years from now, the computing world will bear little resemblance to that which we know at present. At the time of writing, it’s less than three years since the first iPad was released, yet Apple now sell more of them than PC manufacturers sell computers.

This fact alone proves that, as an MSP, you cannot stand still, otherwise you’ll find yourself with very little business in the years ahead. We’re approaching an era where people will expect to work not just from anywhere, but from any device. This rapidly brings us to a point where “on premise” no longer makes sense, and neither does “vendor-specific.”

So, going back to OpenStack, as an MSP, you need to at least be aware of this industry development. OpenStack has public support from industry-leading companies including Intel, Dell and Cisco, and is committed to a constant cycle of development. One way or another, you’re going to encounter Openstack itself, or solutions that use its APIs, in the months and years ahead.

Of course, being aware is one thing, but you can also be at the forefront. The open source nature of OpenStack means you can use it as the foundation for your own private cloud services. When your more traditional clients decide it’s time to jump fully towards the cloud, you can have perfect solutions just waiting for them. Or, you can watch them tempted away by other companies who’ve stayed one step ahead.

Which would you prefer?