OpenStack connects developers with new tools while leveraging a common foundation, says Foundation COO Mark Collier.

With so many new cloud technologies emerging, many companies are carefully considering which platform technologies to standardize on and which to consider experimental or to avoid until the winners shake out. Those chasing the latest hyped technologies risk a proliferation of platforms to maintain – and each one becomes just another island in the data center.

But competitive pressures mean companies can’t afford to wait too long, as the benefits of rapid application development and deployment are becoming the minimum required for most industries.

Take containers for example – they are meant to be a common building block to encourage reuse of resources and promise to reduce the headaches involved with packaging, deploying and managing applications. Though Linux Containers (LXC) and other forms of isolation have been around for a while, Docker was the first to really get serious attention. That first wave was quickly followed by rkt from CoreOS, itself an implementation of the open “app container runtime for Linux.” Confused yet?

If a common building block is the point, how can so many formats be a good thing? To answer this frequently asked question, a new effort has emerged to unify the disparate formats under the Open Container Initiative.

As the container islands converge to form a continent you can count on, harder questions emerge about just how to actually deploy, manage and network these containers and the apps that live in them. Docker Inc. (the parent company of Docker, the open-source project) has their own answer in Docker Swarm, while Apache Mesos and Kubernetes (spun out of Google) also seek to ease the management of containers through what are sometimes called “container orchestration engines.”

While companies experiment with the open territory of “container clouds” for so-called “cloud native apps” using some of these orchestration tools, many are reluctant to create yet another set of platforms for ops to manage and maintain for years to come. After all, the original promise of cloud computing was to reduce complexity, not multiply it.

Beyond the headaches for operators, we also must consider that distributed applications are growing increasingly complex, with some workloads best deployed on a mixture of virtual machines, bare metal and containers (one, either, or both), which all need to live on the same network.

To give developers access to the latest tools while giving operators a single infrastructure layer to manage that is battle-tested with drivers for the compute, storage and networking gear they use today, many of the world’s largest companies are turning to OpenStack. Companies are already layering new technology like Kubernetes on top of their OpenStack clouds to manage Docker containers, leveraging the same security and network models they’re used to.

At the OpenStack Silicon Valley event, Amit Tank, a principal architect of cloud architecture and OpenStack at DirecTV, joined the Foundation’s executive director Jonathan Bryce onstage to discuss how OpenStack offers a path to production to users trying to solve problems using containers.

“OpenStack is the only platform that allows you to pick and choose the best-of-breed and make it work with your existing infrastructure,” said Tank. “We see that as our real way to bring containers as well as other emerging technologies into production.”

At that same event, Lachlan Evenson, cloud platform engineering team lead at Lithium Technologies, gave a talk about how the company integrates Kubernetes with OpenStack and benefits from combining these technologies with minimal effort.

By working with other open-source communities like Mesos, Kubernetes, Cloud Foundry, and Docker, OpenStack users get faster access to new developer productivity tools. Each of these communities can, in turn, leverage OpenStack’s common networking and security models while running a wide range of compute, storage, and networking gear without reinventing the infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) wheel. By eliminating islands and connecting communities, everybody wins.

If your company wants to build on a solid foundation for the next 10 years, join Walmart, PayPal, IBM, eBay, NTT and thousands of others by joining the OpenStack powered planet!

This article was originally published in the print editon of Superuser magazine distributed at the OpenStack Summit Tokyo, where Collier delivered a keynote about OpenStack’s future.

Cover Photo // CC BY NC