OpenStack Summit Austin 2016 Retrospective: Becoming a User Conference

AT&T won the  Austin Summit’s Superuser award. Since 2007, AT&T has seen a 150,000% increase in network traffic — one example of how OpenStack is helping businesses expand and evolve.

AT&T won the Austin Summit’s Superuser award. Since 2007, AT&T has seen a 150,000% increase in network traffic — one example of how OpenStack is helping businesses expand and evolve.

If you headed down to Austin, Texas for the OpenStack Design Summit last week, chances are as high as the humidity that you noticed OpenStack continuing to grow and mature as a product. Gone are the days when customers might say “OpenStack is AN option;” these are the days of “OpenStack is THE option.”

Jonathan Bryce, the executive director of the OpenStack Foundation, kicked off the summit at Monday’s keynote, reminding the audience that they were back where OpenStack started: 2010, Austin, joint NASA/Rackspace project. The first OpenStack Summit way back then had 75 people; Austin boasted 75,000 in attendance. A few orders of magnitude over six years isn’t too shabby.

This was my fourth OpenStack Summit (Paris, Vancouver, Tokyo, Austin), and across the keynotes, the marketplace show floor, and the never-ending litany of sessions, it was clear the summit is truly becoming what it always intended to be: a user conference. Previous summits were replete with contributors, vendors looking to figure out “that OpenStack thing,” and a handful of extremely forward-thinking customers looking to harness the benefits of cloud in their own data centers.

This show felt like a sea change. AT&T, this Summit’s Superuser award winner, got on stage and talked about its huge IT transformation — AT&T Integrated Cloud — and how OpenStack is the muscle behind it. Since 2007, AT&T has seen a 150,000% increase in network traffic. That is not a typo. AT&T has 114 PB of data on any given day traveling via its network and will grow 10 times by 2020. Their infrastructure needed to evolve — thus the move to AIC, no small undertaking.

But OpenStack isn’t just a tool for the big game, like AT&T, Comcast, WalmartLabs, etc. It’s a tool for data center transformation for the smaller users, as well. SolidFire announced OpenStack customer HedgeServ, a global, independent fund administrator, who is utilizing VMware-integrated OpenStack to change how their infrastructure is deployed. The results of the latest OpenStack User Survey showed 65% of respondents are using OpenStack in production. HedgeServ is one such customer, having deployed SolidFire for both its production and test/dev environments to support all-alternative investment strategies and fund structures, as well as to continuously develop and deploy customized client applications.

OpenStack’s success in the future will reside with these smaller users, those companies who can show what a great change agent OpenStack can be, how it can help them revitalize their IT and thereby invigorate their businesses. Superusers still have their place; they lend visibility to OpenStack and often contribute immense amounts of code upstream. But once all the big game is hunted, what next? Any business knows — whether it is Open Source-based or not — that continued viability comes not only from landing big name customers but from the revenue streams unlocked by a steady stream of new users, big or small. Businesses looking to make their strategic IT shift successful want to see someone who “looks like them,” so they can mirror those successes (and often sell the idea to their management). It builds confidence that you don’t have to be a Fortune 100 company with an armada of engineers and experts to make OpenStack work.

The keynotes both days were full of great customer stories, as well as insight from vendors about what makes an OpenStack deployment successful. Many of the sessions I attended were crowded, hinting at themes for the show:

  • Containers continue to be buzzy. The demo during the keynotes on day 2 showed how you can run containerized OpenStack on Kubernetes. Twitter was awash with #wow and #verycool, clearly showing how forward leaning OpenStack can be with new technologies

  • Docker plug-ins are cool. Whether storage-native (like the NetApp Docker Volume Plug-In and SolidFire’s Docker Driver) or on top of Cinder (SolidFire’s John Griffith demoed a Docker Driver for Cinder, again to a packed room), the need for persistent storage with containers is a growing use case that users wanted more information about.

  • NFV for you and me! Software-defined networking/network function virtualization (first garnering “it” status in Tokyo) was ubiquitous in Austin. Most of the major telcos have adopted it in some form, with some (like AT&T) going all-in.

  • Cinder replication and live migration sessions were standing room only. As much as OpenStack is focusing on cloud-native (Mode 2, according to Gartner), there remains that persistent challenge of legacy applications needing to find a new home in the cloud. Technologies like replication and live migration play well to those legacy apps that need cloud care and feeding.

The every-six-month release cycle and summit gives OpenStack contributors, vendors, and users a real-time view of growth and change, making for subtle changes that can often be difficult to notice. But the changes between Tokyo and Austin were on bright display, from increased production usage to the embracing of disruption and change-agent technologies to the influx of end users looking to make OpenStack not just the solution but a successful solution. To learn more about SolidFire and our OpenStack solutions, visit www.solidfire.com/openstack, or request a demo.

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