User pragmatism is stronger than ever

This is the third of a series of posts about why we thought the world needed another DevOps oriented company and so invested in and started StackStorm.   I hope we are touching on general themes that can help others understand the rapid disruptive shift towards DevOps approaches to building and operating technology.

When starting StackStorm we were inspired by OpenStack.  This week is the OpenStack summit and we are contributing heavily to some pieces of OpenStack, so we remain enthusiastic community members.  However, our third reason for StackStorm has to do with how we lost our naive perspective on OpenStack and understood it more as a symptom of a new, more enlightened approach to technology selection, development and operation.

OpenStack is important – however, users are more pragmatic and agnostic than ever.

OpenStack is the full stack plus, plus, plus; it is very different than almost every other open source community thanks to its breadth, from storage through networking, security, compute, management and more. Not surprisingly, OpenStack is a massively diverse community. And it has unstoppable momentum. However, when we went to interview practitioners we consistently saw that the DevOps savvy see OpenStack pragmatically. The operators we know see OpenStack as a means to an end.

To that point, a group of about 30 operators of OpenStack were recently asked at the OpenCompute 2014 summit in San Jose – what distribution do you use? There are of course many, many distributions and there has been talk of a distribution war. So we were really interested in the answer – who are these operators using?

The answer – NO ONE. Top operators are taking the bits they need. While RedHat and presumably others will succeed over time in selling support for a distribution, I don’t think most commentators really understand to what extent the DevOps mindset alters the equation for legacy open source models as well as, of course, legacy proprietary models.

A DevOps operator, generally speaking, takes the pieces that make sense and then ties them together so that their operations environment, their hybrid cloud, their software defined data center, are truly theirs and operate together as one system. To avoid accidental lock in, maintenance burden and technical debt, each of the many, many, many pieces that together comprise a DevOps environment are themselves almost always open source and broadly deployed by others. This way the operator avoids lock in while also having what they need for their business.

So – open source and specifically OpenStack pieces are fundamental to the operators we know. However, through formal and informal communities these operators are now empowered to take the best of breed components and integrate them into a whole. And what does this get them?

Refer back to an earlier post – this approach is delivering 10x-100x productivity improvements, which means a chance to stay in business because if you don’t make this transition and your competitors do, they will cycle faster than you closer and closer and closer to the customers.

This brings me to a discussion of DevOps architectures. How can you tie together so many loosely coupled pieces? Does the Legos analogy stand up? Yes it does. More on that soon.

About the author  ⁄ Evan Powell

Evan Powell

Evan Powell is the CEO and Co-Founder of StackStorm, a software company leading the third wave of operations automation and delivering the increased productivity of DevOps approaches to a broader market. StackStorm software is currently available via a private, invitation-only beta. Interested users can request an invitation at: www.stackstorm.com/beta. Previously, as founding CEO of Nexenta Systems, Evan led the transformation of the storage industry towards a software defined future and achieved an excess of $350 million in partner sales. Prior to Nexenta, Evan was founding CEO of performance management software company Clarus Systems, now owned by Riverbed Technologies. Evan was named “Entrepreneur of the Year” by the leading European venture fund Finaves in 2010 and was named one of the Top Ten Leaders in Storage in 2012.

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