OpenStack Icehouse Supports Rolling Upgrades and Tighter Overall Integration

On April 17, the OpenStack Foundation announced the availability of the ninth release of OpenStack, the open source, Infrastructure as a Service collaboration. Codenamed Icehouse, the release boasts 350 new features, 2,902 bug fixes and contributions from over 1200 contributors. Icehouse focuses on maturity and stability as illustrated by its attention to continuous integration (CI) systems, which featured the testing of 53 third party hardware and software systems on OpenStack Icehouse. The hallmark of the Icehouse release consists of its support for rolling upgrades in OpenStack Compute Nova. With Icehouse’s support for rolling upgrades, VMs need not be shut down in order to install upgrades. Icehouse “enables deployers to upgrade controller infrastructure first, and subsequently upgrade individual compute nodes without requiring downtime of the entire cloud to complete.” As a result, upgrades can be completed with decreased system downtime, thereby rendering OpenStack significantly more appealing to enterprise customers that can afford little to no downtime for mission-critical applications and services. Icehouse also features a “discoverability” enhancement to OpenStack Swift that allows admins to obtain data about which features are supported in a specific cluster by means of an API call. On the networking front, OpenStack now contains new drivers and support for the IBM SDN-VE, Nuage, OneConvergence and OpenDaylight software defined networking protocols. Meanwhile, OpenStack Keystone identity management allows users to leverage federated authentication for “multiple identity providers” such that customers can now use the same authentication credentials for public and private OpenStack clouds.

In total, Icehouse constitutes an impressive release that focuses on improving existing functionality as opposed to deploying a slew of Beta-level functionalities. OpenStack’s press release claims “the voice of the user” is reflected in Icehouse but the real defining feature of this release is a tighter integration of OpenStack’s computing, storage, networking, identity and orchestration functionality. Just when Google Compute Engine, Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure looked set to turn the battle for IaaS market share into a three horse race with some impressive functionality announcements and price cuts, the release of OpenStack Icehouse serves as a staunch reminder that OpenStack continues to innovate aggressively and systematically in its bid to assert feature parity with respect to proprietary IaaS platforms. This release, for example, announced three incubator projects in the form of OpenStack Sahara, OpenStack Ironic and OpenStack Marconi. OpenStack Sahara enables the provisioning of Hadoop clusters within an OpenStack environment, OpenStack Ironic provisions bare metal physical servers as opposed to virtual machines and OpenStack Marconi aims to deliver “highly-available messaging to web applications that run on OpenStack” in ways analogous to the Amazon Simple Queue Service (SQS). The bottom line here is that OpenStack is rapidly catching up to its competitors while making a compelling case for inter-operability given the volume of contributions from Red Hat, IBM, HP, Rackspace, Mirantis, SUSE, OpenStack Foundation, eNovance, VMware and Intel in the Icehouse release. The key thing OpenStack needs now is more production-grade deployments and case studies of customer success that compel even more innovation and credibility within the IaaS space.

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Amazon Web Services Continues To Increase IaaS/PaaS Market Share According To Synergy Research Group

A recent article by the Synergy Research Group (Synergy) claims that Amazon Web Services continues to dominate the IaaS and PaaS space in terms of revenue. According to Synergy, Amazon Web Services increased its quarterly revenue by 55% to over $700M in Q3 of 2013, whereas the aggregate of revenue for Salesforce, IBM, Windows Azure and Google was less than $400M for the same time period. Worldwide, total IaaS and PaaS revenues exceeded $2.5 billion for the quarter, with IaaS accounting for 64% of cloud revenues, a surprisingly small proportion given the limited penetration of platform as a service within the enterprise. Synergy Research’s John Dinsdale remarked on the company’s findings as follows:

We’ve been analyzing the IaaS/PaaS markets for quite a few quarters now and creating these leadership metrics, and the relative positioning of the leaders really hasn’t changed much. While Amazon dwarfs all competition, the race is on to see if any of the big four followers can distance themselves from their peers. The good news for these companies and for the long tail of operators with relatively small cloud infrastructure service operations, is that IaaS/PaaS will be growing strongly long into the future, providing plenty of opportunity for robust revenue growth.

Here, Dinsdale remarks that the “race is on to see if” Salesforce, IBM, Microsoft and Google can decisively secure second place in the battle for IaaS/PaaS market share. Strikingly, Microsoft, Google and IBM have revenues that are very close to one another, even though one might reasonably expect Microsoft’s Azure platform to edge out its competition given its earlier entry into the market than IBM and Google’s Compute Engine (GCE). That said, IBM’s sizeable IaaS revenue derives largely from its acquisition of SoftLayer, which itself had a rich and venerable history that predated IBM.

Synergy’s chart illustrating Q3 IaaS and PaaS revenues is given below:

Notable omissions from the findings include Rackspace, HP, Oracle, Pivotal One and Red Hat, the middle three of which (HP, Oracle and Pivotal One) are still relatively nascent, and hence justifiably excluded from the present calculation. As Dinsdale notes above, however, “the good news for these companies” and for remainder of the space is that revenues are set to increase significantly in the near term. Going forward, one of the key questions for subsequent IaaS market share analyses will be whether OpenStack’s momentum and gradual maturation propels disproportionate growth amongst OpenStack-based cloud platforms for vendors such as HP, IBM, Oracle, Rackspace and Red Hat.

Windows Azure IaaS Takes Aim At Amazon Web Services Via Price, Functionality And Service

This was the week where Microsoft announced the general availability of Windows Azure Infrastructure as a Service. More than a simple declaration of production-grade availability, Microsoft’s announcement about its IaaS platform delivered the strongest possible elaboration of its intent to compete head to head with Amazon Web Services in the IaaS space to date. In a blog post, Microsoft’s Bill Hilf accurately assessed enterprise readiness with respect to cloud adoption by noting that customers are not interested in replacing traditional data centers with cloud based environments. Customers typically want to supplement existing data infrastructures with IaaS and PaaS installations alongside private cloud environments and traditional data center ecosystems. In other words, hybridity is the name of the game with respect to enterprise cloud adoption at present, and Hilf’s argument is that no one is better suited to recognize and respond to that hybridity than Microsoft. In conjunction with the general availability of its Azure IaaS platform, Microsoft pledges a commitment to “match Amazon Web Services prices for commodity services such as compute, storage and bandwidth” alongside “monthly SLAs that are among the industry’s highest.”

Microsoft also announced new, larger Virtual Machine sizes on the order of 28GB/4 core and 56 GB/8 core in addition to new Virtual Machine image templates featuring a gallery of image templates including Windows Server 2012, Windows Server 2008 R2, SQL Server, BizTalk Server and SharePoint Server as well as VM templates for applications that run on Ubuntu, CentOS, and SUSE Linux distributions. Overall, the announcement represents an incisive and undisguised assault on the market dominance of Amazon Web Services within the IaaS space that is all the more threatening given Microsoft’s ability to match AWS in price, functionality and service. The key question now is the degree to which OpenStack and Google’s Google Compute Engine (GCE) will emerge as major players within the IaaS space. OpenStack has already emerged as a major IaaS player, but it remains to be seen which distribution will take the cake at the enterprise level. Nevertheless, analysts should expect a tangible reconfiguration of IaaS market share by the end of 2013, with a more significant transformation in place roughly a year from the release in general availability of Google’s Compute Engine, which was released in Beta in June 2012.