Clouds and containers are not all about what’s new and hot


This past Spring at London’s OpenInfra Days UK 2019, Mark Shuttleworth, executive chairman at Canonical and creator of Ubuntu Linux, said in a keynote, “I believe OpenStack is important. It’s become trendy to say: ‘I’m skipping OpenStack and going straight to Kubernetes.’ It’s like skipping salad and going straight to steam – they both solve different problems.

Exactly. OpenStack, the open-source Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) cloud, isn’t sexy anymore. As Gartner would put it in its Hype Cycle, OpenStack is now in the Trough of Disillusionment. This is the stage where interest wanes as experiments and implementations don’t deliver everything and the kitchen sink you dreamed it would.

Guess what? Most technologies go through the Hype Cycle.

As Shuttleworth, who knows a thing or two about the Hype Cycle, explained to DevClass after the keynote: “For a crowd of people who hop from shiny to shiny, OpenStack is no longer shiny and other things are shiny. But at the end of the day, what matters is the problem that’s really being solved and I think OpenStack solves some important problems for very large organisations.”

Of course Shuttleworth, who supports OpenStack, has a dog in this fight, but he’s not wrong. If you want a private open-source IaaS cloud, I’m hard pressed to think of a more full-featured and flexible alternative.

Kubernetes, which is still riding up the Hype Cycle, has climbed up to the Peak of Inflated Expectations. That’s not to say Kubernetes isn’t great. It is.

As Shuttleworth said, “Kubernetes is super-useful for modern-designed applications. So the idea of there being tension between them, the idea of there being winners and losers, is kind of crazy in a world where both play an important role.”

Kubernetes is the most popular container orchestration program. Hype Cycle or not, it’s destined to be very important as we continue our journey into a container/cloud dominated IT world. But, for all its virtues, it’s not an IaaS.

I mean, did you know you can build a Turing machine in PowerPoint? That there’s a language, whitespace, which consists entirely of spaces, tabs and linefeeds? Would you really want to do either of those things in production? I Don’t Think So.

Neither would you want to build a private cloud using just Kubernetes.

The risk in skipping straight to Kubernetes or trying to build a private cloud simply with Kubernetes — and without the elastic framework, storage and management fabric of OpenStack — is you end up getting stuck with a custom infrastructure that demands on-going support.

Is OpenStack perfect? No. “The reality is OpenStack did make mistakes,” said Shuttleworth. “OpenStack is complicated, and for a lot of people that makes it something they won’t achieve so it’s something that’s easy to dismiss. Lots of organisations were disappointed by OpenStack because their first run at it – of throwing a pile of Python at their IT department — didn’t work out.”

That’s true of any technology. Don’t think for a New York minute that the next shiny new cloud program is going to make everything easy, wonderful, and give you rainbow-colored unicorns to boot. It won’t.

Learn how to use the tools you already have in hand. Sure, there are some fields — artificial intelligence and machine-learning spring to mind — where the newest programs probably are the best. That’s not often the case.

You must also look carefully at any old, or new, tech that you’re considering deploying. Does it really do what you think it will do? Are you just reinventing the wheel? Or, as in the case of confusing Kubernetes and OpenStack, are you trying to use a Kubernetes hammer to drive in an IaaS cloud screw?

Done correctly, OpenStack can work well for you. So, can Kubernetes. Use the right tools in the right places. You’ll be glad you did.

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