Canonical founder: "OpenStack no lifeline for legacy tech suppliers"

Canonical founder Mark Shuttleworth warns legacy tech suppliers may struggle to get the “magic returns” they may be expecting from aligning themselves with OpenStack

Legacy suppliers banking on OpenStack to revive their ailing server sales and cloud strategies could be in for a nasty shock, said Canonical founder Mark Shuttleworth.

Speaking to Computer Weekly at the OpenStack Summit in Austin, Texas, Shuttleworth said a number of legacy suppliers have aligned themselves with the open source cloud platform in the hope it will deliver “magic returns”, but are set for disappointment.

“There are a bunch of legacy suppliers that are going to die. OpenStack isn’t going to change that. OpenStack is not going to give VMware a cloud strategy, and it isn’t going to give Hewlett Packard 10% more margin on their servers,” he continued.

“There are legacy suppliers who have come to OpenStack because they don’t believe they can be successful selling through Amazon, Google or Microsoft, so they see OpenStack as the only place they could possibly be successful.”

The likes of Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE), Dell and IBM have all moved to nail their flags to the OpenStack mast since the initiative’s inception in 2010, and outlined plans to use the software to underpin their cloud plans.

In the specific case of HPE, OpenStack played a role in the build of its public cloud service, which shut down in January 2015, and is featured in its HPE Helion private cloud offerings.

The company also stipulates that organisations wanting to join its Europe-wide Cloud 28+ marketplace must ensure their services play nicely with the HPE Helion version of OpenStack.  

Supplier lock-in fears

Shuttleworth admits his view point may be unpopular with some portions of the OpenStack community. However – with supplier lock-in an enduring concern for enterprise CIOs – opting for a legacy supplier-backed version of the platform is not something they are rushing to do.

“What do customers want? They don’t want to get locked in to someone’s database as a service they happen to have dumped on OpenStack,” he said.

“They want database as a service and they want it on every public cloud and on private cloud. They’re not going to get it just on OpenStack.”

Canonical’s open source Ubuntu operating system is widely used in the OpenStack user community to manage their cloud deployments, while the company itself is renowned for being the first out of the blocks to start commericially distributing the platform. 

Disconnect between customers and suppliers

If and when OpenStack does fail to deliver the returns the legacy supplier community dreams of, the initiative may come under fire as a result, but the supporting community will rise above it, Shuttleworth added.

“A lot of that disconnect you see between what customers want and what suppliers hope customers want is about to come crashing to the floor. On the way out, those suppliers will say ‘OpenStack has failed’, and ‘here are all the things OpenStack did wrong’,” he said.

“In 1999 and 2000, when the dotcom bubble burst, the internet didn’t stop. A bunch of dotcoms died, but the internet did not stop. In the same way, OpenStack will emerge from all of that controversy and hysteria, stronger, more focused and more confident in itself.”

So, while some portions of the supplier community may come away from OpenStack feeling short-changed, the project will succeed in giving users what they want, he added.

“I have no qualms about OpenStack’s relevance or its success, but I absolutely believe there are folks who hope to get things out of it they won’t get out of it. But the world will get everything it needs out of this project,” he said.

Computer Weekly contacted both HPE and VMware for a response to this story, but had not received a response at the time of publication.

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