OpenStack, which turns 10 years old in July, remains the leading open source infrastructure component in private clouds. But, there is a plethora of OpenStack distributions out there, and selecting the right one is vital to the success of every organization’s OpenStack project.
How do you know which is best? It’s an important question because, despite OpenStack’s popularity, companies often face serious challenges when adopting and deploying it. Put simply, OpenStack can be time-consuming and skill-heavy in order to deploy it, unless the chosen distribution is equipped to overcome those challenges.
Thus, anyone planning to deploy OpenStack should make sure the distribution they pick meets the following seven criteria.
Cloud environments are supposed to be more cost-efficient than proprietary hardware. That’s why enterprises love the cloud, after all. Therefore, the number one priority when choosing an OpenStack distribution is to make sure it can indeed reduce costs. That means steering clear of OpenStack platforms that are hard to deploy, maintain, upgrade and force you to struggle with basic operations. It’s also important that the distribution’s pricing model be clear and predictable so that organizations can plan expenses accurately.
Totally Open Source
While OpenStack itself is open source, the installers provided by the vendors as part of their distributions often are not. This can lead to additional costs being applied to the licenses and situations where organizations are forced to pay for the distribution before even trying it out. Furthermore, all types of environments in use—including staging and development—need to be covered by the license, too. These pitfalls are sidestepped with OpenStack distributions that are 100% open source, providing better economics and flexibility for organizations.
Predictable Release Cadence
While the release cadence of OpenStack is predictable and well documented, not all distributions follow the upstream quickly enough. Making sure the OpenStack distribution you choose supports the latest stable upstream release as soon as possible is crucial for a few reasons. The upstream release may have features that are important for the organization. Or there may be bug fixes that they feel are critical. Picking a downstream distribution with a predictable release cadence that stays in sync with the upstream ensures transparency and allows organizations to plan the upgrade process.
Long Support Runway
Support services are essential for OpenStack production environments, especially when service level agreements (SLAs) apply. But, how long vendors will support older versions of OpenStack can vary. Though there is always an option to upgrade or re-deploy, there are times when it may be beneficial for organizations to stay with the current version. Thus, how long the vendor will provide support services is a key factor in choosing a distribution.
Upgrades Made Easy
There inevitably comes a time for most organizations when they want to upgrade their upstream OpenStack. However, OpenStack upgrades are known to be complex, and many commercial distributions do not support them. Even if they do, the process is complex and must be executed manually. Thus, choosing an OpenStack distribution that provides support for fully automated upgrades is essential for the success of the cloud operations team.
Even after an OpenStack cloud is deployed, consideration must be given to the ongoing operations that can become complex and fragile. Maintaining the cloud on a daily basis includes operations such as scaling the cluster out or recovering it from failure. While most OpenStack distributions don’t provide mechanisms to simplify these tasks—forcing users to execute them manually—some do. Organizations should look to distributions that do a good job automating complex operational tasks, saving time and money.
Flexible Technology Choices
OpenStack is a flexible cloud platform, supporting various hypervisors, software-defined networking (SDN) solutions and storage plugins. But many distributions are tied to a single stack. That means an organization may need to re-platform or move to a heterogeneous environment in the future. Avoid that trap by selecting a distribution that can adapt to work with new technologies.
By looking for these seven qualities, organizations can get the most out of their OpenStack distribution and optimize the cloud infrastructure on which they increasingly rely.