OpenStack launches a new, more broadly relevant, release

Fourteen releases on and OpenStack is ducking and weaving to deliver dual objectives.

openstack cupcakes
Credit: flickr/Aaron Hockley

OpenStack, the oft-discussed open source cloud computing platform first developed by Rackspace and NASA a few years ago has just announced the 14th version of its software.

It’s hard to think back to those very early days -- as someone who has been following OpenStack since it was first conceived, long before the advent of a formal foundation to run the project, it has been a fascinating journey. I wasn’t following the space in the early Linux days, but having watched the growth, growing pains and understandable politics around this initiative, it has been interesting.

Like any open source project, OpenStack feels as much like a family as it does a tech project. The OpenStack Summits (Disclosure: I regularly attend these events and will be doing so again in Barcelona in a couple of weeks) really feel like a bit of a family reunion. It’s not that they’re small affairs -- in recent times they have grown to multi-thousand participant extravaganzas. But despite the growth, it still feel family-like with OpenStack Foundation executive director Jonathan Bryce and COO Mark Collier sharing the role of camp dad to the masses.

But like any family, OpenStack has had its problems -- internecine warfare between vendors (and, yes, I can’t help but make a mention of perennial combatants Mirantis and RedHat here) as well as a few twists and turns in terms of products as various interest groups have had a rush of blood to the head about the latest shiny thing.

Of course, many say that this dynamism is what makes open source products great, but if you’re a large enterprise wanting certainty and solidity, it all gets a bit difficult. Which is why the recent news that SnapDeal is going “all in” on OpenStack was, as I put it, a good fillip for the initiative, providing a much-needed proof point for enterprise readiness.

So with the next summit only days away, and some good user wins, it is interesting to see the launch of Newton, the aforementioned 14th release of OpenStack. Newton is an attempt to balance the dual aims of supporting new and interesting technologies, while still making the core parts of OpenStack more scalable and robust.

According to the foundation, over 2,500 developers had a hand in creating this version of the software. That alone is an indication of both the scale of the community, and the interest in terms of getting involved at the grass roots -- a fact that also builds confidence.

Anyway, in terms of those new features and shiny new things, OpenStack now better supports both containers and bare metal servers. This is less, as Collier puts it, about rolling out net new features, and more about supporting a flexibility around workload type. And this is the right approach given that, increasingly, OpenStack is about delivering infrastructure in an workload non-specific way. Want to run virtual machines? Containers? The next upcoming thing? OpenStack is the platform that helps you do it all, in a consistent manner. The term “single pane of glass” is, frankly, becoming a bit of a pain (pun intended) but that is exactly what OpenStack is trying to become here.

It’s also a pragmatic approach since the multitude of organizations that use OpenStack have varied appetites -- some want more traditional infrastructure approaches while others want to dive in to the new stuff -- so OpenStack is right to support both models.

In terms of those core features, Nova (the compute offering), the Horizon dashboard and the Swift storage components have all become more scalable. In turn, Magnum, which is a project tasked with helping users manage containers on OpenStack, has moved beyond support for Docker Swarm, Kubernetes and Mesos and now allows the running of Kubernetes on bare metal servers (i.e., without virtualization on top).

Overall it is a good, solid release for OpenStack and this, alongside those user wins, should provide some smiling faces in sunny Barcelona later this month.

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