OpenStack gains new momentum, as deployments increase during the pandemic

OpenStack, the open-source project that gives large enterprises and public cloud providers the tools to run their own AWS-like private clouds in their data centers, today announced the release of OpenStack 24. Codenamed Xena, the release focuses on polishing many of the system’s sharper edges.

It’s no secret that the OpenStack project, which now falls under the umbrella of the OpenInfra Foundation, has had its ups and downs. So it maybe comes as a surprise to many that it is actually seeing quite a bit of growth in usage lately. As the Foundation shared today, the number of total cores managed by OpenStack grew 66% over the last year.

OpenStack remains the backbone for many telco companies and indeed, nine of the 10 largest telcos run OpenStack. If you’ve made a 5G call on the Verizon network lately, OpenStack played a major role in making that happen (Disclosure: Verizon, through Verizon Media, used to own TechCrunch. They don’t anymore, which is obviously their loss). But companies like Workday and Walmart, too, now run OpenStack deployments, with over 1 million cores. But still, China Mobile, for example, is in its own league with over 6 million cores.

“This is the biggest jump I think we’ve ever seen year over year,” OpenInfra Foundation COO Mark Collier told me. “There’s been a lot written about the massive growth in demand for infrastructure because of the pandemic. And there’s been lots of articles written about the hyperscale public clouds and all of a sudden, they’re needing to grow much faster — but I think that that’s absolutely driving OpenStack demand. We added 10 million cores in a year. It’s just awesome. One hundred new clouds were built just in the past year. We have seven organizations now running over a million cores.”

Image Credits: OpenInfra Foundation

It’s also worth noting that Microsoft joined the OpenInfra Foundation as a top-tier $350,000/year Platinum member a few weeks ago, joining the likes of Ant Group, AT&T, Ericsson, Facebook, FiberHome, Huawei, Red Hat, Tencent Cloud and Wind River.

After 24 releases, after all, the core tools it takes to run a private cloud (compute, storage, networking, etc.) are now well established. But there are still some features like support for virtually any PCI device, something enterprises were looking for to attach SmartNICs (basically programmable networking devices) to OpenStack’s Nova compute and Neuton networking service.

“As far as specific themes that we saw with this release, one of them is the integration of projects. So OpenStack Cyborg [which provides support for hardware accelerator], Nova, Neutron, did a lot of work on this peripheral component interconnect device flexibility, the PCI devices, proving that our projects are better together sometimes,” Kendall Nelson, OpenStack’s Upstream Developer Advocate, explained.

This also includes adding support for more functions from more components to the unified OpenStack command-line tool.

“Historically, we’ve had the individual clients for each one of the services,” Nelson said. “They’re closer to the API and more maintained by the individual projects. We’ve been focusing on this OpenStack client and the OpenStack SDK that lives underneath it over the last couple of releases, so that we can remove a bunch of the project-specific clients so that users only have one command line they need to interact with and they can do everything.”

As far as many of the other updates, the OpenInfra Foundation’s VP of Engineering Thierry Carrez noted that they were often driven by new hardware requirements, as well as the scale at which many OpenStack users now operate.

“It’s interesting to see how the development priorities shift,” he said. “At this point of OpenStack, the core features are pretty stable, but it’s actually hardware enablement that drives most of this new development.”

In addition, though, the team also used the last development cycle to address some technical debt that had amassed over the last decade, including removing support for long deprecated APIs, for example.

The OpenInfra Foundation, which also now supports projects like Kata Containers, CI/CD platform Zuul, the edge computing platform StarlingX and the lifecycle management tool Airship, also today announced a return to in-person conferences, starting in Berlin from June 7 to 9, with registration opening next month. Ahead of that, it’ll host a virtual event, OpenInfra Live: Keynotes, this November.