IBM backs OpenStack as the path to wider cloud adoption

Roy Illsley, Principal Analyst, Ovum Software

IBM recently made three significant announcements about its vision for how cloud computing will be adopted by enterprise customers.

First, IBM believes that open standards are needed to drive increased customer demand for workload portability in a hybrid cloud environment. Second, IBM has segmented the adoption of cloud computing as two different strategies serving two different reasons to adopt cloud computing, namely a cloud-enabled approach and a cloud-centric approach. A third element that IBM introduced to the cloud debate was role-converged infrastructure solutions, and how these will enable both of the cloud adoption strategies.

Ovum considers that the concept of an open standard-based approach to cloud computing represents one such way a technology can gain wider adoption, but cautions that it will need wide cross-vendor support to make an impact on the market.

IBM backs OpenStack as the way to wider cloud adoption

At the recent IBM Pulse event in Las Vegas, more than 8,000 delegates from 80 different countries heard Deepak Aduani, Tivoli Software general manager, announce that the IBM SmartCloud Foundation solutions will be underpinned by OpenStack. The OpenStack Foundation was launched in the fall of 2012 with IBM as one of the founding members and a platinum sponsor. More than 8,300 developers from 87 countries are active in the OpenStack community and IBM is one of the biggest vendor contributors to the project. Ovum considers the use of open standards is a positive move to increase adoption.

OpenStack is only one of several open standards on the market, and is not the market leader in terms of commercial deployment, but IBM is betting that with its support, OpenStack technology can become the clear leader. Ovum believes that only by gathering a critical mass of vendors will any open standard become a viable solution, so the test for IBM will be to help gather this vendor support.

IBM predicts that by 2015 cloud computing will create 7 million new jobs in IT. Ovum considers that while this may be a correct assessment, concerns about interoperability and a lack of skilled people is holding back many organizations from accelerating cloud projects.

Scott Hebner, vice president marketing, IBM Tivoli Software, confirmed this by sharing some results of IBM’s research that showed 1.7 million jobs in cloud computing remain unfilled because of a lack of skilled people.

Ovum believes the solution to this problem is to make the technology as simple as possible to deploy and manage, and to reduce the complexity of dealing with multiple proprietary technologies.

Using an open standard such as OpenStack is one way to address this. However, in addition to OpenStack, IBM’s support of OSLC for standardizing integrations between technologies, and TOSCA for standardizing application topology deployment, can also help reduce the complexity.

Organizations need to adopt both a cloud-enabled and cloud-centric strategy

The dilemma for many organizations when considering cloud computing is what to do with existing legacy systems. Ovum recommends that a dual strategy should be adopted for the deployment of cloud computing.

The cloud-enabled approach takes existing middleware technology and by understanding the patterns of usage exhibited allows organizations to use the existing environment in a more effective way. The cloud-enabled approach is predicated on understanding the patterns of usage, rather than just understanding the different images that an organization has.

IBM SmartCloud Orchestrator, which was announced at Pulse on open beta release, is designed to allow workloads to be transformed to resemble a more service-focused delivery method. This cloud-enabled approach should be combined with a cloud-centric approach that is designed to exploit new environments and ways of working.

Cloud-centric is easier to implement for new deployments and can be implemented on a per-project basis, but to be successful it needs to be underpinned by open standards to support heterogeneity of environments. Ovum believes implementing only one approach can introduce a two-speed IT service to customers, where the new cloud-centric customers appear to be getting a better service than existing customers.

By adopting the dual strategy, customers receive improved services and help in transitioning the entire organization.

Workload optimization is not a one-size-fits-all approach

The converged infrastructure segment includes everything from a reference architecture approach to a “black-box” engineered solution.

Ovum believes that end customers are confused by the wide range of offerings in the converged infrastructure space, and has categorized the market in a simple model: build (customers or partners must source approved components and construct the entire solution), configure (the hardware is pre-built but the virtualization, management software, and integration capability must be added to the solution), or install (the solution can either be simply plugged in and it works or just needs the application software or data to be loaded).

These different approaches are clearly aimed at the different markets, but Ovum considers the overriding customer requirement is for these to enable speed and flexibility of IT delivery to match business demand.

The issue is how to decide which approach to converged infrastructure solutions matches the particular set of requirements of the organization.

While the “black box” approach simplifies the deployment challenge it may be a sub-optimal solution for the workload. Workloads are currently split between those that require data and transactional integrity (a system of records) and those that operate in the new models of engagement such as social and Big Data.

At the Pulse event IBM positioned PureSystems as the next generation of infrastructure that will enable organizations to bridge the gap between these two differing requirements.

Ovum considers that while these converged infrastructure solutions can help, the optimization of the infrastructure for these different use cases remains a contentious issue. This is exemplified by the approaches taken by different vendors, because unlike some of its competitors IBM has not designed its PureSystems solutions as a single-purpose use case.

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