A first serious attempt to make OpenStack interoperability real.

During OpenStack Summit in Austin, probably close to a hundred press releases have been published, tough to find the most important one, but this one from IBM stood out for me. Interoperabiity has always been a promise of the OpenStack community and vendors, but it is tough to prove it (and build for it). 


So let’s dissect the press release in our customary style (it can be found here):
Austin, Texas - 26 Apr 2016: In a move to drive greater cloud interoperability, IBM (NYSE: IBM) today announced it has contributed significant new features to the RefStack Project, which was created as part of the OpenStack community’s effort to drive interoperability across clouds. The ability to move data and apps from one cloud to another is a major obstacle in the evolution of cloud and business.
MyPOV – Defines well what this is about, making interoperability real.
RefStack, officially launched last year and to which IBM is the lead contributor, is a critical pillar of IBM’s commitment to ensuring an open cloud – helping to progress the company’s long-term vision of mitigating vendor lock-in and enabling developers to use the best combination of cloud services and APIs for their needs.
MyPOV – Good to see the history, and a major OpenStack player like IBM getting serious about interoperability.
RefStack’s new functionality includes improved usability, stability and other upgrades, ensuring better cohesion and integration of cloud workloads running on OpenStack.

RefStack testing ensures core operability across the OpenStack ecosystem, and passing RefStack is a prerequisite for all OpenStack certified cloud platforms. By working on cloud platforms which are OpenStack certified, developers will know their workloads are portable across IBM Cloud and the OpenStack community.
MyPOV – More explanation, good to see the importance of RefStack.
“The OpenStack ecosystem is very rich and rapidly evolving, and provides an extremely strong foundation for real interoperability. However, achieving this will require deep, sustained collaboration across the open community,” said Angel Diaz, Vice President of Cloud Architecture and Technology at IBM. “We are ready and willing to work with every single OpenStack cloud provider on this, and are challenging the OpenStack community to collaborate with us. We are determined to provide customers with the flexibility they want – regardless of their provider – so that they have a global platform for business and innovation.”
MyPOV – Good quote from Diaz – the sad part is that IBM needs to ‘challenge’ the OpenStack community. As vendor ‘diversity’ was a key argument made in the OpenStack keynotes here in Austin this week, would be good to see that the support for interoperability would be a ‘normal’ step and not a challenge.
At the OpenStack Summit in Austin, Texas, IBM also announced a formal challenge to community members, asking them to pledge participation in the first-ever October 2016 Interop Challenge. This project will directly work towards building a core language between OpenStack cloud providers by building and deploying test cases for real-world activities performed by everyday users of OpenStack across environments. In October 2016, it will culminate in a public demonstration of interoperability across on-premises, public and hybrid OpenStack cloud deployments.
MyPOV – Good to see a real challenge, will be good to learn more about the details and if there are any other OpenStack members taking up the challenge.
As the primary resource for cloud providers to test OpenStack compatibility, RefStack also maintains a central repository and API for test data, allowing community members visibility into interoperability across OpenStack platforms.

The specific upgrades to the upcoming RefStack release include:
- User functionality and usability enhancements to allow easier, more streamlined visibility into test data for OpenStack release compatibility.
- Tempest plug-in enablement to allow users to expand existing test suites to include external test cases.
- Stability enhancements to expand the availability of the RefStack service and support a growing number of RefStack users.
- Additionally, RefStack will soon enable vendor registration, allowing community members to easily correlate test results in RefStack’s central repository with specific OpenStack vendors – ensuring results are more transparent.
MyPOV – Good to see what is coming soon on the RefStack side

Overall MyPOV

Good to see an OpenStack member stepping up to an attempt to make the OpenStack interoperability and portability more tangible. Practically all vendors in the field mention this as an advantage, but a heterogeneous ecosystem like OpenStack needs to work harder at making this not only marketing slide ware but real tangible and proven benefits. That is hard work and cost for the vendors involved, with the ultimate risk that loads become portable to the point at being lost from from vendor A to vendor B. So a good topic to talk about, a less attractice one to make really work in practice. To be fair – stickiness is a feature all enterprise software players strive for…

A look at the contributors (courtesy of stackalytics.com) shows IBM (274 person days), Mirantis (107) and Indendents (70) shows who is working on making RefStack real. It’s not clear what the other vendors will need to do – but I am sure a few vendors will now read up on the RefSteak project. That alone is a benefit for OpenStack.

The ultimate drive for the challenge would be customer endorsement – all the way to making RefStack test cases part of the RFP and operating SLAs – going beyond the self-policing of the community. We will be watching – stay tuned.

Check out my first take on OpenStack Summit here.