The five-minute CIO: Jonathan Bryce, OpenStack Foundation

5 Aug 2016

Jonathan Bryce, executive director, OpenStack Foundation

“The biggest goal that people usually have when they go OpenStack is to be able to manage infrastructure in a more automated way,” explained Jonathan Bryce, executive director of the OpenStack Foundation.

Jonathan Bryce was involved in the inception of OpenStack while working at Rackspace. OpenStack originated as a joint project of Rackspace Hosting and NASA.

It is a free and open source platform for cloud computing, mostly deployed as an infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS).

The technology and methodologies of OpenStack development have been embraced by some of the biggest companies and technology organisations in the world, including eBay, BMW, AT&T, CERN, Intel, NASA, PayPal, Walmart and Sony.

Bryce was in Dublin recently to speak at the very first Intel-hosted OpenStack day.

How did the OpenStack movement and methodology originate?

OpenStack was founded out of Rackspace about six years ago as an open source project to enable organisations to build and automate the cloud: automate all the equipment they have in their data centres, the servers, the storage devices, networking devices etc.

In my previous role, I started the Rackspace cloud and when we went open source we weren’t sure what the responses would be but, over the last six years, it has grown to be one of the largest open source projects ever.

We have 50,000 members participating from more than 170 countries. It’s been pretty unbelievable.

A couple of years after doing that, there were a lot of organisations getting involved or contributing software and, at that point, we decided what we needed was an independent foundation to be the long-term home for the software and to manage our community.

We started the OpenStack Foundation in 2012 and it is a totally independent, non-profit organisation that manages that massive community and the intellectual property and everything else around it.

How has OpenStack been embraced in the data industry?

The biggest goal that people usually have when they go to OpenStack is to be able to manage infrastructure in a more automated way. That is something that has been a big trend in the last few years and we see it in public cloud with the adoption rates that Amazon and Google and Rackspace and others see. We also see it in a lot of large data centres.

We do a big event every six months called the Open Stack Summit, the next one is in Barcelona, which is where we get the community together and we usually hear about the latest use cases.

The most recent one was at the end of April and we had AT&T, China Mobile, Volkswagen, SAP and others, literally the largest companies in the world, talking about what they are doing with OpenStack.

AT&T is the largest integrated telecoms carrier in the world and right now faces a situation where the amount of data usage on their network has exploded and, especially with the advent of smart cars, smart cities and IoT applications, they have seen network usage increase 1,050pc since 2008.

They are basically in a different business now than they were 10 years ago, but the way that telecoms companies acquire technology historically has been extremely long development cycles, standards bodies and through vendors. And that doesn’t work as dynamically in the market they face now.

They are implementing OpenStack so they can rapidly develop new products and change the way their networks work.

Instead of having a single set of physical devices that can do only so many tasks, like SMS routers, they are moving to the same model that enterprises use where they are virtualising those workloads.

They can create multiple text message routers and, if they are getting a lot of 4G data usage, they can allocate those resources to virtual machines that are running data routing instead of message routing.

And it really changes the way they can manage the network and handle usage from their customers.

Another example I mentioned was Volkswagen. The car industry is undergoing a crazy shift where it is not just about how well can you make that physical good now, the car industry is going into self-driving autonomous cars, in-car entertainment and that is a lot about software development. So Volkswagen is having to understand how to become a technology company, a software company in addition to being a world-class manufacturer.

How does OpenStack complement other movements such as the Open Compute community around software-defined networks (SDNs) and virtualisation?

What it shows is how the technology landscape is really embracing open design and development as a way to produce tech for people to use.

We have worked with the Facebook team that launched Open Compute since they launched because, at the end of the day, OpenStack needs servers and storage and networking gear to run on and that’s kind of what Open Compute is about.

Best Buy, which is a retail company in the US, uses OpenStack and makes use of Open Compute technology in their data centres. It is interesting because one of the areas they found advantage with was on the storage side because Open Compute focuses on very power-efficient and high-density systems.

Retail used to be about the logistics of getting goods into a store and into the hands of customers. Now it is about understanding what customers are buying, how to make recommendations and help them find other things they would like to purchase.

That is a big data analytics problem and that requires a lot of storage, computing power and Best Buy has implemented a combination of Open Stack on top of Open Compute for that.

What are the leading issues that dominate the OpenStack community today?

Our conference in Ireland had several companies with software development teams based here. Half the audience had used OpenStack and the other half were there to learn more. That’s pretty close to what we see through most of these events in Europe.

The thing that is interesting to me [is that] we’ve had some very large and successful users for a number of years, but in the last 12 months the number of companies that have moved from testing to production has grown a lot and that is definitely visible in the kind of topics that are discussed at these events.

What does the future look like for OpenStack?

OpenStack is a set of technologies that are produced collaboratively by this global community but it has also become a strategy for how to work with a variety of diverse technologies in an augmented way.

For me, the future is really exciting because we are getting to the point where we are seeing what people are putting on top of compute, storage and networking.

Having programmable infrastructure is critical to being able to get to the next generation of technology like orchestration, platform as a service, and that’s what we are just starting to see companies do.

We have users who are using things like Cloud Foundry. SAP, for instance, has a Cloud Foundry Stack, which they call the SAP HANA Cloud Platform, and it is OpenStack and Cloud Foundry.

What is interesting for me is seeing how all these different technologies come together and unleashes a wave of developer innovation.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years