Alan Perkins, the Former CTO of Rackspace Asia Pacific, was named by The Australian as one of the Top 20 people to watch in technology 2012. The ex-CIO of Altium is considered as ‘one of Australia’s most cloud-savvy chief information officers’. During his recent visit to India, Perkins shared his thoughts on the future of OpenStack, new generation cloud computing technologies and responded to a recent statement by a Gartner analyst that made light of OpenStack.
The alternative is to have lots of proprietary Cloud Operating Systems - and that’s a bad place for the world to be.
A Gartner analyst recently said that the OpenStack has a long way to go before it’s truly an enterprise-grade platform. As a founder of OpenStack, how does Rackspace receive it?
Perkins: These are early days, but the shift from Infrastructure-as-a-Service to Platform-as-a-Service is another sign of the maturity of the fundamentals and it will lead to an increase in adoption at the enterprise level. We anticipate a substantial increase in adoption of the OpenStack platform in the coming 6-12 months. We are at that point now where OpenStack is airborne. It has moved on from its initial stages of development to real delivery and enterprise adoption. An onward process of analysis and refinement will now strengthen the platform further. Projects that are easy to get off the ground typically have a limited life. Projects that are more all-encompassing (like the enterprise adoption of OpenStack) take more time to get off the ground, but once launched will be all pervasive and long lasting and that is what will determine its ultimate success.
Gartner also said that OpenStack companies make altruistic statements, but in reality, they are just trying to advance their product.
Perkins: With OpenStack, there is freedom from infrastructure, freedom from hypervisor, freedom from location, freedom from vendor, freedom from operating system. As for the questions around altruism and what the wider agenda might be here, it is clear that Infrastructure-as-a-service is increasingly being commoditized, but this is in humanity's best interests, and it is because of OpenStack this is happening. The alternative is to have lots of proprietary Cloud Operating Systems - and that’s a bad place for the world to be.
The key now is to make money by being of service to the users of this technology. Companies that back the OpenStack platform typically have a natural interest in service-based computing. This of course reflects Rackspace’s emphasis on the Fanatical Support provided by our team.
Rackspace had announced that it was keen on increasing its use of technology based on the Open Compute Project (OCP), like Google or Facebook. Have you completely moved out traditional hardware vendors?
Perkins: No, we are not completely out of it. We are still working on it, but are certainly not at a stage where we have abandoned the traditional architecture. But we are working with companies like Dell and HP to move them along to Open Compute project. You will probably see us continue to buy from the traditional server vendors. We typically use best-of-breed hardware.
But wasn’t OCP an alternative route and a validation of the fact that a company does not have to limit itself to buying traditional gear from the likes of HP, Dell or IBM?
Perkins: It is and it isn’t. The open compute project was initially started off by Facebook. They ‘open sourced’ their infrastructure. People like Rackspace and others have since then proved what Facebook started off--the idea of passive cooling in data center. The most important thing here is that our data center designs are open source based. It thus makes it possible for all sorts of companies to use it. Whether you build it yourself or whether you approach a company that is already an expert at building infrastructure—is secondary.
In fact, I feel it’s better to use best-of-breed hardware by those who know how to build things to that (open) standard than to try and build those things by yourself. The key thing here is the fact that the ‘standards’ are open. So buying from one vendor does not lock you into a proprietary design from them in the future. So it is very easy to mix and match different players, because it’s all built to a standardized open source design. Just like how we adopted Open Stack, the open source cloud operating system, we now have open compute, which is the open source infrastructure platform. So factors like who does the software design or who does the hardware manufacturing are actually secondary.
How relevant is the ‘open compute’ discussion to an end customer?
Perkins: It depends on the customer. If they have a corporate conscience around green IT, or if they want to market a green message, then it’s very relevant for them. The savings in open computer environment are quite significant in terms of power consumption. Typically, there is no air conditioning being used. Most of such data centers use the air conditioning only one or two days a year. The usage of metal is up to 40 percent lesser than proprietary designs.
Do you think the recent cloud outages have shaken the customer confidence in public cloud?
Perkins: As a CIO, who has had a chance to use many of these technologies, let me tell you that this can happen to any computing system. The whole notion of cloud, public cloud particularly, is built around the fact that ‘computers are designed to fail’. The beauty of cloud is, it enables you to design your architecture in such a way that computers can come up and take the load if their ‘peers’ go down. Cloud providers need to build their system keeping this factor in mind. At the customer place, the buck still stops with the CIO. That’s why SLAs are very important now. We give our customers monthly SLAs now, rather than annual ones. It’s much easier in an annual SLA for a vendor to get away with a big outage because it’s spread across the year.