Crossing The Chasm: an OpenStack Summit Recap

The sense that OpenStack is reaching a point of maturity that will propel it across the chasm to mainstream adoption was palpable during last week’s OpenStack Summit in Austin, where roughly 7,500 gathered — a one hundred-fold increase from the summit’s inauguration just six years before.

The signs of maturation were everywhere — in the keynotes, presentations by vendors in breakouts and the Expo Hall, and in hallway discussions among the attendees — all pointing to that leap across the chasm. If you missed the main speakers, check out my recaps of the first day’s keynotes and the second day’s keynotes.

For those unfamiliar with the term “crossing the chasm,” the concept was articulated by Geoffrey Moore in his classic tech marketing book of the same name. In that seminal work, Moore argued persuasively that in the adoption curve for any new technology, there is a chasm between the early adopters and the early majority. This early majority group is made up of pragmatists who adopt new technologies once they can see measureable benefits for doing so — and if they see their industry peers doing the same.

Early majority support, in the form of purchase orders, user references and feature requests, are critical in helping a technology cross over to the mainstream where the early and late majority reside. Many new technologies have failed to gain mainstream adoption because they are unable to cross this chasm.

At the Austin Summit last week, signs of this move across the chasm were visible in the topics discussed and the makeup of attendees.

OpenStack adoption

The keynotes focused on OpenStack’s place as an integration engine for the diverse set of technologies used in any enterprise. How should OpenStack integrate with new technologies such as Kubernetes and NFV along with more traditional technologies such as SAP?

The talks were often less about revolution rather than the evolution of IT and how OpenStack could be the foundational and enabling infrastructure for managing disparate technologies like bare-metal servers, virtual machines and containers.

There was also acknowledgement that technology alone cannot effect change in the enterprise, and that the OpenStack community must also focus on cultural change, such as training new users and helping companies adopt processes that align with recommended practices for operating their new cloud infrastructure.

The importance of people and process changes with technology adoption was also a frequent theme in the keynotes. It started with Gartner promoting the idea of “bimodal IT” and the need for new skills and processes to deal with new workloads. The theme continued with the announcement of the Certified OpenStack Administrator certification by the OpenStack Foundation; a sign of its commitment to bolster the roster of trained OpenStack operators. Boris Renski, CMO of Mirantis, encapsulated much of the theme in his keynote, talking about how being successful in cloud computing is one part technology and nine parts “DevOps Ninjas” and updated processes.

The need to train more users was evident, not only in the keynotes, but in the various OpenStack 101 breakout sessions.

I led a “Getting Started with OpenStack” workshop with Dan Radez from Red Hat in a packed ballroom where the majority of participants had never completed an installation before. I heard similar stories from other speakers who led various types of OpenStack 101 sessions. A frequent topic of discussion in the convention center hallways and at the Rackspace Cantina was the lack of OpenStack talent in the market and the need for more cloud operators. In many ways, this is a good problem to have, since it signals that the early majority is looking at what is needed now to adopt OpenStack.

This is an exciting time for the OpenStack project, as it poises to move into the mainstream. Rackspace, as co-founder of OpenStack and its number one operator, is in a unique position to help push the project forward across the chasm, as we contribute code and expertise. For example, we helped the Foundation to develop the Certified OpenStack Administrator certification program and continue to offer training to the community through our classes, workshops and books.

Our vision at Rackspace is for the continued growth of OpenStack public clouds and the creation of many OpenStack powered private clouds. We will enable this through sharing our knowledge as the operator of the largest OpenStack public cloud in the world and of some of the largest private clouds in the world.

By providing OpenStack as a managed service, we empower users everywhere to transform their businesses through innovation on public and private clouds that they can simply consume — without requiring their own DevOps Ninjas.

The future looks bright for OpenStack and we at Rackspace look forward to leading the community forward into this new phase.

Kenneth Hui was a Senior Technical Marketing Engineer and Cloud Solutions Architect at Rackspace. Ken has 20+ years of experience in the IT industry and is passionate about helping customers with their cloud computing journey. He lives in New York City where he can indulge in his love of great food from all around the world. You can follow Ken on Twitter @kenhuiny.


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