Why an OpenStack Cloud Deployment Practice Is Good Channel Business

Cloud computing

Grant KirkwoodBy Grant Kirkwood

You know about the rewards that come with cloud: agility, flexibility, lack of vendor lock-in, accelerating the growth of revenues, automation of tasks, and innovation across all industries, all of which result in improved productivity. One thing you may not know is that OpenStack is a generally cost-effective means for maintaining control over the management and provisioning of cloud services.

OpenStack is an open-source cloud stack that’s in use by AT&T, Comcast, PayPal and hundreds of other companies looking to avoid being locked in. There are a number of sources for professional support, much like you can download Linux or purchase a bundle from Red Hat.

The first step in deciding if an OpenStack cloud is right for a given customer is establishing the “why” — what are the reasons for the cloud deployment? What pain points is the service expected to solve? Is it about reducing costs, or maybe improving the customer’s ability to execute strategy?

It’s important to note that cloud migration is a business decision, not a technology decision. Business requirements are the “why.” Technology is the “how” — the means to build the platform and manage and transport data and applications. Don’t recommend technology for its own sake. When preparing to justify OpenStack versus, say, VMware as the basis of a private or hybrid cloud, build your case around the customer’s business requirements and how the OpenStack cloud implementation will meet their needs.

Pros, Cons

When adopting private or hybrid cloud, each company has a choice: Build or buy the infrastructure? Manage it ourselves or outsource?

The downside to OpenStack is that it may be difficult for customers – especially smaller ones – to deploy and manage. That’s where trusted business and technology advisers come in. You have a selection of OpenStack-based hosted cloud service providers to choose from, each with its own approach to deploying, integrating and managing customer clouds and applications. 

The hosted model is the “purest” for simply consuming cloud and freeing customers to focus on the core business because 100 percent of the operational responsibility is placed on the service provider. The partner and customer IT team can focus on the applications and connectivity.

A few things to consider:

  • A hosted cloud may be public, private or multi-tenant.
  • Some providers allow for a high degree of customization and integration in the private model, while others are fairly rigid in their offerings and take a cookie-cutter approach for all but the very largest customers. 
  • Disadvantages to a hosted cloud include being tied to one specific service provider and having to take a leap of faith that it will be a good partner.

Because there are so many providers in the marketplace, one must navigate through dozens if not hundreds to find the one with the best fit. If you as the partner builds the cloud infrastructure, on the other hand, you can customize it to a customer’s particular needs. The downside is that the deployment process requires extensive testing and rewriting to assure that all functions are performing properly. 

Expertise in Demand

Generally, enterprises have come to recognize that a hybrid cloud strategy is the likely answer to the question, “What is the best way to deploy cloud within my organization?” That means systems integrators and channel partners specializing in OpenStack are in high demand. Few customers have the expertise required to build and operate hybrid clouds, even as the model gains mindshare.

When choosing a supplier to help them fill that need, it is important that partners ask about:

  • A step-by-step modernization plan — vital for transitioning customers from legacy networks and processes to a modern cloud and open-source environment driven by DevOps and agile processes.
  • A self-service dashboard that enables partners developing cloud-aware applications to access resources on-demand. The OpenStack cloud operating system provides a web-based dashboard for provisioning compute, storage and networking resources throughout a data center. It may be used for both private cloud and a hybrid-cloud strategy, whether an enterprise is building its own cloud or using a managed cloud. 
  • A unified 24x7x365 monitoring platform that provides full support and visibility for managing the performance and health of customers’ IT environments.

One does not only build a cloud. You need to create an entire practice around it. This practice must include people and process backed by operational rigor and support infrastructure to keep each customer’s cloud – and the applications that reside on it – functioning and accessible by employees, customers and business partners, regardless of the user’s location. 

Building such a practice is not an easy process, but with the proper support and resources, the results can be well worthwhile. You can help customers meet productivity and revenue goals while making yourself invaluable to the business.

As the founder & CTO of Unitas Global, Grant Kirkwood is responsible for designing and building cloud solutions based on OpenStack technology for enterprise clients needing IT infrastructure solutions delivered as a fully managed service. Prior to founding Unitas Global, Grant served as CTO at PacketExchange, and was the founder, president and CTO at Mzima Networks and served as CTO at Netixs.

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