While OpenStack has been the darling of the open-source world for some time now, it’s only recently that the project has become an appealing target for enterprises. While, a year ago, implementing OpenStack took a large team and millions of dollars, today ISVs are offering distributions of the platform aimed at making installation and maintenance easier.

Indeed, when we checked in a year ago with developers and IT operators working on integrating OpenStack, there were often complaints. One administrator implementing the platform at Korea Telecom even went so far as to accuse the project’s corporate interests of ignoring API compatibility in favor of jamming features into its project. That project, in particular, was created early on, and thus the team was forced to roll its own OpenStack. Third-party distributions did not exist when Korea Telecom began its implementation.

(Related: OpenStack launches app marketplace)

Today, however, it seems the OpenStack project—at its core at least—has congealed into something both Mirantis and OpenStack can distribute as a software product. Gary Chen, research manager for cloud and virtualization system software at IDC, said that OpenStack might never be as easy to install as Linux, but that the distributions out there now can certainly save teams time and money.

“OpenStack is kind of a loose collection of modules,” he said. “You sort of want them to work and innovate independently. But the past couple of releases, they’ve been working on getting the integration together, so now the teams have started collaborating.”

Chen said that companies like Canonical, Mirantis and Red Hat all have compelling OpenStack distributions, but that there is still a lot of work to be done before these distributions and the project as a whole are truly easy to maintain.

“I think they have a long way to go,” he said. “Things like doing upgrades and installing still aren’t there yet. I think distributions will make it easier. I don’t know that it will ever be turnkey, like Linux. Even Linux can be complicated. I think OpenStack is going to be even more complicated. I don’t know if it will ever be OpenStack-in-a-box, or one-click-to-deploy. Certainly I think it’ll be easier, and administrating will be easier, but for large-scale complicated deployments, there’s still going to be a bit of a learning curve, and there will be a lot of services attached to it.”

Pushing out versions fast
Adrian Ionel, president and CEO of Mirantis, said that his company’s latest version of its OpenStack distribution addresses many of the topics Chen discussed. Mirantis OpenStack 5.0 was released last Wednesday.

“We make OpenStack extremely easy to deploy, with a point-and-click visual interface,” said Ionel. “Building an OpenStack cloud is as easy as configuring your cloud on the Web. It’s a five-minute exercise, and 30 minutes later your cloud will be up and running.”

Mirantis has also added high availability to OpenStack in its 5.0 release. “OpenStack does not come with [high availability] built in, so as a company you have to recreate it with third-party technology. It’s difficult to create, so we ship it as part of Mirantis OpenStack, straight out of the box,” said Ionel.

Mirantis OpenStack 5.0 also supports ESX and VMware, so developers and administrators can install this version inside of a VMware-controlled data center.
Ionel disagreed with the characterization of OpenStack as having compatibility issues in its core, but he did not argue against the point when discussing non-core OpenStack projects. “If you’re looking at the core projects of OpenStack, there is a lot of cohesion, which is what you need. Around this core, there is a lot of innovation happening, and projects are going in several directions at the same time,” he said.

“There, there is a lot less cohesion. I think that’s very, very healthy because you have to create an environment where engineers and customers can go wild, as long as you make sure the core is stable. This is happening to a large degree. The distribution vendors, like ourselves, add a level of discipline and curation on top of it, turning it into a product enterprises can easily consume and get value from.”