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Build a strong OpenStack cloud computing platform with these tips

When it comes to the open source cloud computing market, OpenStack is the clear leader -- but it still has a ways to go. Learn more about OpenStack with these five quick tips.

Created in a joint effort from Rackspace and NASA in 2010, OpenStack is an open source cloud computing platform designed with interoperability in mind. In 2012, Rackspace turned over the rights to OpenStack to the newly-formed OpenStack Foundation. Over the past few years, the platform has become a popular option for building infrastructure as a service environments due to its ability to quickly spin up new instances upon which cloud components can run. OpenStack also allows users to avoid vendor lock-in, and there are multiple vendor-specific distributions from which to choose.

Learn more about OpenStack cloud computing platform, its strengths and shortcomings, and its future with these five handy tips.

Interest in OpenStack is high, but adoption rates remain low

Since its introduction, OpenStack cloud computing platform has garnered a great deal of attention and become a real contender in the cloud computing software market; the software owes much of this momentum to its open source design, as well as its ability to easily integrate cloud elements from different vendors. Why, then, has it become something of a niche technology?

Many have pointed to OpenStack's complexity as the source of this issue. OpenStack is made up of many moving parts, or components -- 54 in total -- making it difficult to deploy. OpenStack also suffers from a dearth in experience: There are few qualified OpenStack technicians, making support hard to come by. These are just two reasons why many organizations are reluctant to adopt OpenStack. The news isn't all bad, though. The OpenStack Foundation is hard at work finding solutions to these problems, such as an official OpenStack certification training program. Once OpenStack moves out of its infancy, experts anticipate that adoption rates will rise steadily.

OpenStack cloud components place it ahead of competitors

Until the OpenStack Foundation finds a concrete way to eliminate OpenStack deployment complexity, users are stuck figuring things out for themselves. Fortunately, there are a few things you can do to reduce that complexity when deploying the open source platform.

I know what you might be thinking: "54 components? Doesn't that seem a bit excessive?" Although OpenStack's multitude of components complicates the deployment process, they each play an integral part in the system. For example, Neutron for networking creates virtual networks and network interfaces and connects to proprietary vendor networking products, and Glance for image services creates VM images and provides a comprehensive catalog of the VMs you have uploaded and made available to your organization. The redundancy of these components contributes to their overall resiliency and availability.

What really gives OpenStack an edge is its collaborative nature. Since OpenStack is an open source platform, programmers are free to make changes to the original source code via GitHub. Often, these contributors work for major corporate sponsors. This means that OpenStack is in a constant state of flux, with new improvements being made daily. It also means that OpenStack is flexible -- OpenStack is not a hypervisor itself, but it is compatible with a number of different hypervisors through abstraction layers.

Overcoming OpenStack deployment complexity

Until the OpenStack Foundation finds a concrete way to eliminate OpenStack deployment complexity, users are stuck figuring things out for themselves. Fortunately, there are a few things you can do to reduce that complexity when deploying the open source platform, many of which require nothing more than a little common sense. The first, and perhaps most crucial, step to successfully deploying OpenStack is to carefully consider how you intend to deploy it. OpenStack isn't one-size-fits-all, so it won't play as well with legacy, on-premises workloads as it would with, say, containers. By applying OpenStack to greenfield applications only, you can save yourself time and frustration.

Another trick to working around a difficult deployment is to take advantage of the resources available to you. The OpenStack Marketplace provides consulting services, drivers, an application catalog and more, and users should consider selecting an OpenStack distribution to gain access to support services from vendors like EMC, Rackspace and Red Hat. With these tools -- amongst others -- at your disposal, you too can become an OpenStack success story.

What can you gain from pursuing OpenStack certification?

As part of its effort to increase adoption rates and strengthen its competitive edge against major vendors like VMware and Microsoft, the OpenStack Foundation has developed an official OpenStack certification program. Although you could just as easily use online resources to train yourself in the ways of OpenStack, obtaining certification can boost your resume and seriously impress potential employers. If you do decide to pursue OpenStack certification, there are two tracks to choose from: generic OpenStack and vendor-specific OpenStack. As their names imply, generic OpenStack covers basic OpenStack components to prepare students for the OpenStack Certified Administrator exam, while vendor-specific OpenStack offers vendor-specific training. Companies such as Red Hat and Mirantis have partnered with the OpenStack Foundation to create their own versions of OpenStack, though these are not free to use. If you're interested in learning more about the OpenStack certification program, start by visiting the OpenStack Training Marketplace to get a better idea of the benefits each certification exam has to offer.

Looking ahead: The future of OpenStack

Much has been made of OpenStack over the past six years, but what do experts really think of it? The jury seems to be split, with some experts arguing that its complexities negate the value of its cost savings, and others pointing to its rapid evolution as evidence of its success. Whatever the case, it's clear that OpenStack is here to stay -- so what comes next? OpenStack still has quite a ways to go before it reaches maturity, but if the OpenStack Foundation continues to address and remedy issues such as OpenStack's lack of easy installation tools, it'll be well on its way to cementing OpenStack as the platform of choice for private and hybrid clouds.

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