The Past, Present and Future of OpenStack

OpenStackdescribed the world’s most widely project as open source cloud software, will mark its 10-year anniversary milestone later in 2022. In September 2012, the OpenStack Foundation launched as an organization to manage and promote the technology—a watershed moment for a announced just two years earlier.

Today, with contributions from more than 34,000 people at 550 companies, OpenStack is one of the three most active open source projects, alongside the Linux kernel and the Chromium web browser, according to the group now known as the Open Infrastructure Foundation (OIF). More than 25 million OpenStack cores are running in production worldwide.

It’s easy to forget that only a few years ago many predicted OpenStack’s demise. Initially, OpenStack was positioned as a general-purpose private cloud platform that offered an open source alternative to Amazon Web Services (AWS), but it never stood much of a chance in that matchup.

Then, after OpenStack regained momentum and pivoted to become a platform for telco network function virtualization infrastructure (NFVI), it was rumored that it would be overtaken by the new ‘next big thing’—Kubernetesthe open source orchestration and coordination system for containerized applications.

The Kubernetes-as-OpenStack-killer talk was silly, in retrospect, because the technologies are complementary, not competitive. In fact, more than 70% of OpenStack users reported running Kubernetes on top of OpenStack for container coordination, according to the OIF.

And OpenStack adoption should continue to flourish in 2022. Gartner forecasted that global spending on cloud services will exceed $480 billion this year, up from $313 billion in 2020, as more organizations invest in hybrid cloud: A mix of pay-as-you-go public clouds and private clouds that can offer lower, more predictable operating costs and greater customization. As the hybrid cloud market expands and open source continues to become more firmly entrenched in development and IT organizations, OpenStack is more relevant than ever.

If you’re not familiar with OpenStack, here are 10 things you should know about its past, present and its future.

1. OpenStack began in early 2010 as a collaboration between Rackspace and engineers at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Mountain View, California. Rackspace wanted to rewrite the infrastructure code running its cloud servers and the NASA team wanted to standardize the space agency’s websites. Their original mission was “to produce the ubiquitous Open Source Cloud Computing platform that will meet the needs of public and private clouds regardless of size, by being simple to implement and massively scalable.”

2. The first OpenStack design summit was held in Austin, Texas in July 2010, and the project was officially launched at the O’Reilly Open Source Convention (OSCON) later that month.

3. A whopping 80% of OpenStack clouds are used in production, while 13% are under development and 8% are in the proof-of-concept stage, according to the OIF. With that level of adoption, no wonder OpenStack is considered the most widely used open source cloud software.

4. An OIF survey showed that nearly half of the organizations using OpenStack have at least 1,000 cores. The breakdown: 29% of organizations have 1,000-9,999 cores, 13% have 10,000-99,999 cores, 6% have 100,000-999,999 cores and 1% have one million or more cores.

5. An enormous corporate ecosystem supports OpenStack, including IBM, Red Hat, HP Enterprise, Intel, Huawei, NEC, Cisco, VMware, AT&T and Canonical, whose Ubuntu Linux distribution is the most popular operating system for OpenStack deployment (used by about 40 % of OpenStack clouds globally).

6. OpenStack has a great resource guide available on with all kinds of helpful information for developers, including for those new to the platform.

7. One of the main qualities people love about OpenStack is that it’s a modular architecture with interconnected components including, for example, services that API endpoints and handle basic cloud functions, a dashboard, SQL databases that store records created by OpenStack services and message queues for facilitating inter-process communication.

8. OpenStack jargon includes several special terms. A tenant, for example, is a user or group of users with isolated cloud resources. (OpenStack is multitenant.) An image is a template containing an OS for instance provisioning. A flavor is a template defining cloud resources for instance provisioning. An instance is a virtual machine (VM) provided from the image and flavor. And so on.

9. The platform has expanded through the years to include a panoply of core services, such as the Keystone identity service that manages domains, projects, roles, groups and user accounts, the Glance service that manages the catalog of cloud images, Nova for instance provisioning, scheduling and termination, the Neutron network service and the Cinder block storage service.

10. Beyond these core services, several newer services are seeing increased adoption. For example, according to the OIF, use of Ironic, A project that provisions bare metal, nearly tripled between 2016 and 2021. Others with growing traction include Octavia, which provides load balancing capabilities, Manila for file system sharing between instances and OpenStack Charms which provide rich life cycle management capabilities for services.

As these 10 points show, far from being on its deathbed, OpenStack has survived, sometimes against the odds, and thrived as a unique force in open source and cloud computing. Given its journey over the last 10 years, it will be interesting to see what lies ahead in the next decade.

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