While certainly not without hiccups as it matures, I think we can all agree OpenStack has come a long way in five years. From its promising beginnings in 2010 as the joint project of Rackspace and NASA - to the creation of the OpenStack Foundation as a managing body in 2012 (disclosure: I serve on the board) - OpenStack has grown to include hundreds of companies and thousands of developers actively engaged in the project, including some of today’s most exciting tech enterprises.

Last year was particularly important for the platform, as OpenStack’s Win the Enterprise program took off – an ongoing initiative key to the long-term future of the project. Momentum could also be seen in the hockey-stick attendance growth at OpenStack Summits: OpenStack is realizing its potential as the most innovative development community and software for delivering cloud services to enterprise.

Against that backdrop, here is where I see the important trends in OpenStack – with a particular emphasis on enterprise adoption.

OpenStack logo design
– Raul Chan

Increasing ease-of-implementation for the enterprise

The OpenStack Foundation has been actively bringing in new major corporate sponsors and contributors (Fujitsu became a Gold member in July), and the OpenStack developer community led by the Technical Committee (TC) has tightened co-ordination on project roadmaps and release cycles under the new “big tent” paradigm. Mid-cycle planning sessions and simplified communication from users and operators to the TC has led to a much more integrated and well-documented stack.

OpenStack is still complex, highly configurable software that runs across distributed systems, requiring specialized expertise not only to choose from the range of storage sub-systems and networking options for your use case, but also to manage a production environment at scale. But there are now plenty of excellent distribution and implementation partners around the world (Mirantis, Canonical, Red Hat, and Aptira to name a few) who can help deliver a production cloud at a fraction of the cost, and headaches, of proprietary alternatives.

If you want strength, work on your core

Last year also saw a new approach to the question “what is OpenStack?” This is important for giving enterprise and operators confidence in making consistent implementation decisions for their clouds, and important to developers who may need to run their applications across multiple public and private OpenStack clouds in different regions.

The DefCore project - championed by key members of the OpenStack technical community and board like Rob Hirschfeld – sought to move beyond the rudimentary initial definition of OpenStack, and introduce a definition based on core capabilities, implementation code and APIs, backed by verification tests called RefStack. The DefCore process has now gone through a number of monthly definition cycles,,and is relied on by OpenStack distributions and operators to ensure as much consistency as possible when it comes to implementation.

OpenStack-ing up wins

OpenStack is already an established success in the public and private cloud space, with plenty of user stories. Companies that choose to build OpenStack expertise, actively participate in the OpenStack community, and use or implement an OpenStack cloud receive more than just the direct tangible benefits of flexible, open, and cost-effective cloud software. They also receive the soft benefits of being on the cutting edge of distributed systems innovation, and get exposed to new server, storage and network hardware and sub-systems that are driven by cloud use cases but can be applied to broader IT evolution in the enterprise.

Significant examples of game-changing software and hardware innovation accelerated by the OpenStack ecosystem include configuration management tools (Chef, Puppet, Ansible), software-defined storage (Swift, Ceph, SolidFire), network virtualization software (MidoNet, Akanda) and a whole host of hardware components and systems that are denser, faster, and more open and extensible. 

OpenStack’s prospects: an open question?

Call me biased, but OpenStack is the right platform for operators or enterprise to invest time in building expertise, capabilities and clouds. The energy and drive of the technical community working on OpenStack is incredible to behold. Come to the next OpenStack Summit in Tokyo and you will likely see over 6,000 inspired and engaged developers, IT professionals and business managers learning how to use and contribute to OpenStack – as well as plan out the next release. 

Many global tech companies naming OpenStack as core to their plans five or ten years into the future. There’s an absolute need out there to get past the legacy holdbacks and product development and management slowdown that results from “overly proprietary” hardware and software, especially in delivering efficient and instantly available cloud computing resources, and OpenStack will continue working diligently to meet that demand.

The public cloud hasn’t yet seen the same kind of decisive victory for OpenStack, but that arena certainly represents a huge opportunity for adoption. Wouldn’t it be wonderful for developers to have open choice in their use of public cloud – say, for projects other than their day jobs – where they could use the same dashboard and API? Don’t be surprised if OpenStack’s private cloud story sets the stage for making similar strides with public cloud in the near future.

Simon Anderson is the CEO of service provider DreamHost