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OpenStack in Asia – Where Business Agility Trumps Cost Savings

Meeting business needs with speed is key for customers

Enterprise customers are frustrated with growing costs and limitations of traditional IT software. This problem is exacerbated when start-ups appear out of nowhere to compete with agile businesses powered by the cloud. To meet customers' needs, I have seen a number of legacy IT vendors extend the OpenStack cloud platform to give their customers a viable cloud computing operating system that does not lock customers in with a single provider and limited options.

Recognizing the growing popularity of OpenStack among enterprise developers, HP sponsored OpenStack "Stackups" across Asia to promote open discussion of OpenStack-related solutions and encourage community feedback. I moderated panel discussions at three of these Stackups in Hong Kong, Singapore, and Bangalore and personally interacted with hundreds of developers and other IT professionals and learned a great deal about the challenges they face in evaluating OpenStack and other technologies.

Opening the Stackups to demos by OpenStack members in each community helped create an understanding of possible benefits when OpenStack is used in their environment. Attendees at all three events were made up of a combination of enterprises and start-ups with a sprinkling of consultants with OpenStack experience. There were others who were just beginning to learn about managing IT resources with cloud technology. The following are some insights I gathered from the audience during the events:

  • While OpenStack promises a flexible cloud infrastructure, attendees were not aware of the continuous delivery model that solutions like OpenStack enable. Business requirements are changing at a much higher pace, requiring IT to modify its strategy on how to meet those needs at an increased pace. The cycle of modifying code, testing, and deploying applications under current technology is cumbersome and slow. The opportunity for OpenStack-based solutions to significantly reduce the time and cost to meet business needs is often overlooked. Labor costs in Asia are lower than other economies, so the cost benefits of continuous delivery are a lower component of value; however, attendees seemed to embrace the benefit of increased business agility as an incremental benefit to cost reduction.
  • The DevOps capabilities of OpenStack-based solutions needed to be clearly explained to attendees. Developers view operations as a roadblock to their success and often overlook the new role that operations now play as a deployment enabler. The organizational change required for developers and IT to work together to deliver business applications to end users does not yet seem to be a priority. Once the capability of delivering new functionality with more agility is recognized, customers are quick to embrace this new business and delivery model.
  • OpenStack as an enabler to help transform ISVs to SaaS providers was another value discussed extensively at these events. There were a number of start-ups at each event as well as ISVs currently delivering on-premise solutions. ISVs had domain knowledge in specific areas but needed to understand the value of new delivery models before they were convinced of making the investment to use OpenStack as the cornerstone of their strategy. The benefits of multi-tenancy and continuous delivery led many attendees to view OpenStack-based technology in a new light.
  • While many predict direct migration of workloads to public clouds, enterprise customers seem to be adopting cloud technology with a hybrid-first strategy.

The opportunity for improved data center utilization due to increased agility is very attractive. OpenStack-based solutions provide the capability to improve the management of the entire stack of a data center technologies including compute, storage and networks at a lower cost. As evidenced from attendee feedback on all these events, the market for IT optimization is growing in Asia not just for cost cutting but also business agility. These Stackups provided a forum for attendees to learn about these benefits as they begin their cloud journey.

The preferred hybrid approach needs a vendor who can integrate a strong private cloud infrastructure with a reliable public cloud offering. While HP leads in private cloud implementations, the challenge I see for HP is to combine their current hardware-based business model in delivering its new style of IT with the melting pot of cloud-based resources available, including their own. A hybrid cloud strategy is complex. And the road to OpenStack-based solutions is new and unpaved. Continuing to engage with customers in the community is one way to reduce the confusion and smooth out that road. I expect we will see many more customer-focused events in the near future.

More Stories By Larry Carvalho

Larry Carvalho runs Robust Cloud LLC, an advisory services company helping various ecosystem players develop a strategy to take advantage of cloud computing. As the 2010-12 Instructor of Cloud Expo's popular Cloud Computing Bootcamp, he has already led the bootcamp in New York, Silicon Valley, and Prague, receiving strong positive feedback from attendees about the value gained at these events. Carvalho has facilitated all-day sessions at customer locations to set a clear roadmap and gain consensus among attendees on strategy and product direction. He has participated in multiple discussion panels focused on cloud computing trends at information technology events, and he has delivered all-day cloud computing training to customers in conjunction with CloudCamps. To date, his role has taken him to clients in three continents.