Snapdeal gives OpenStack a much-needed pre-summit fillip

A much-needed story of broad OpenStack adoption

openstack cupcakes
Credit: flickr/Aaron Hockley

OpenStack is an interesting initiative -- it has, perhaps more than any other open source initiative, polarized commentators. On one end are those who say that OpenStack is a “dead duck,” that it will see no success and that it is hampered by too many conflicting commercial and governance drivers.

On the other end of the continuum are those who suggest that OpenStack is, most likely, the best thing since sliced bread. OpenStack will, it would seem listening to these folks, deliver world peace and a cure for cancer.

Of course the truth is somewhere in between these two extremes and OpenStack will be an important part of the technology landscape, alongside a host of other products and projects.

This moderate view would be greatly helped were there more great example of OpenStack actually being used in production. Over the time that OpenStack has existed, it has been frustratingly hard to actually get these success stories out. Either they don’t exist or, more likely, the commercial parties don’t want to go on record with their OpenStack stories.

Given that relative dearth of proof points, it is pleasing to read that Snapdeal has just launched its own private cloud platform. Snapdeal is India’s largest online marketplace, which means that, unless you’re reading this in the sub continent, you’ve likely never heard of them. I have to admit that I hadn’t come across them before today -- but notwithstanding their lack of global recognition, they’re a serious player.

Launched at the beginning of 2010, Snapdeal has grown hugely, fueled in part by the massive population and internet adoption of India. It now boasts over 50 million products supplied by a staggering 125,000 regional, national and international brands and retailers. Snapdeal has 300,000 individual sellers and delivers products to over 6,000 towns and cities in India. Snapdeal is riding a wave that is only starting to build -- digital commerce in India is in the early stages of growth with about 80 million online shoppers, which is expected to grow to 175 million by 2020.

Anyway, Snapdeal recently launched its own cloud platform, Snapdeal Cirrus, which is built entirely on open source products, with OpenStack at its center. This makes in one of the largest OpenStack deployments globally -- spanning three data center regions and with an architecture encompassing 100,000 cores, 16PB of storage and with 100G SDN acting as the conduit for all that data.

Snapdeal is embarking on a full hybrid approach, that abstracts the applications form the underlying infrastructure, thus allowing workloads to be dynamically assigned to run in different parts of the cloud. Snapdeal riffed on this ability:

“Snapdeal was born in the cloud, but public clouds stops being cost efficient after a scale, which became the case for Snapdeal sometime last year. In a short span of 10 months, we have succeeded in building an extremely resilient, scalable and secure solution,” said Rajiv Mangla, chief technology officer of the company. “Snapdeal Cirrus is a fully automated software defined data center and cloud platform, where infrastructure is built and managed as code. We are extremely proud of what our team has achieved -- Snapdeal Cirrus is one of the few successful examples globally of a large hybrid cloud built at a scale of public cloud, purely using open source technologies like OpenStack and Ceph.”

It should come as no surprise that the OpenStack foundation, the body that manages the underlying open source initiative, is giddy about the news. And rightly so, this is a foundation that has been under pressure for some time -- internal politics, new approaches towards technology and harsh criticism about the efficacy of the project have had them under pressure:

“At more than 100,000 cores and 16 petabytes of storage, Snapdeal Cirrus is one of the largest OpenStack deployments globally,” said Jonathan Bryce, executive director of the OpenStack Foundation. “Retail is one of the fastest growing vertical markets for OpenStack, and Snapdeal is among a growing group of ecommerce players outside of North America who are embracing OpenStack and the open source approach in delivering services and innovation to their customers.”


With only six weeks or so until the next OpenStack summit, this news comes at a perfect time. The foundation made something of a misstep six months ago when it created a divisive tone at its last summit by inviting a Gartner analyst to speak. It would seem that the foundation has moved on from that, however, and this news, along with a hopefully far more pragmatic and helpful agenda for the next summit, should see Bryce and his colleagues feeling confident.

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