Q&A: Alan Clark on OpenStack Summit, SUSE Cloud, and Vendor Support

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Alan ClarkOpenStack Summit wrapped up in Atlanta last week as the open source cloud platform's largest event yet. Held every six months, the summit is an opportunity for users, developers, and vendors to discuss ongoing issues and design new features.

The recent Icehouse release in April and the forthcoming Juno release, set for October, provided plenty for attendees to work on. Many of the project's supporters – including Red Hat, IBM, Mirantis, and Brocade – also chose the summit to debut new OpenStack-based products and services. The event coverage brewed some controversy as well, with Red Hat taking some heat on its OpenStack support policies.

With so much happening at the event, we caught up with Alan Clark, director of industry initiatives, emerging standards and open source at SUSE and chairman of the OpenStack Foundation's board of directors, for his big takeaways.

Linux.com: How was the OpenStack Summit last week? What was the highlight for you?

Alan Clark: The OpenStack Summit was an exciting event. With more than 4,700 participants, it proved to be a very busy week. It was amazing to see the community growth since the previous Summit. That many participants bring a lot of energy.

For me there were many highlights: the new work efforts launch by the board, the joint meeting of the board and technical committee, and the many design sessions. But if you fold these all together, the highlight for the week can be summarized as the momentum resulting from all the positive community collaboration.

What was your big takeaway from the OpenStack Summit?

Clark: I found a big takeaway from the Summit was seeing firsthand the rapid rate at which the OpenStack project and community continues to grow. This type of growth is not just through contributions of code, but through design, usability, test, technical training, documentation, evangelism and marketing. Essentially, the community involves talents from all aspects of the cloud ecosystem. Our challenge is to continue to integrate the community growth and talent into the community.

SUSE announced at the summit that your SUSE Cloud OpenStack distribution is gaining high availability support. What's the technology behind that?

Clark: SUSE did indeed announce at the Summit the addition of high availability to SUSE Cloud. SUSE Cloud 3 is the first enterprise OpenStack distribution with automated high availability configuration and deployment. That's pretty exciting news. The underlying technology is proven technology that SUSE has distributed for many years as part of the SUSE Linux Enterprise High Availability Extension. The focus of the technology is to eliminate service failures due to the downtime of the control plane. The resulting business benefit makes SUSE Cloud a viable solution for mission-critical workloads.

Why is high availability important in the cloud? How many enterprises are really running mission critical applications/ production in the cloud?

Clark: High availability provides confidence to IT and to the line of business that they can deliver and maintain a high level of service through their private clouds. This confidence is critical as cloud is rapidly advancing beyond the test and development environments to telecommunications, film and media, retail, healthcare, finance, consumer goods and many other industries. These industries have a high expectation for service.

Will SUSE be contributing that capability back to the OpenStack project?

Clark: Contributing back to the project began even before SUSE shipped SUSE Cloud 3, including discussions and sessions from last week’s Summit. The effort is well underway.

How has the controversy around Red Hat's reported OpenStack support policies affected the conversation around the open cloud? What's the lesson there for OpenStack vendors?

Clark: Support policies vary among the different vendors as they tailor their products to the needs of their customers. The beauty of open source is the flexibility it gives to the technology. OpenStack runs on a wide range of operating systems, virtualization platforms and has been built to work with a large number of networking drivers, storage systems and authentication services. While commercial support for the many options is a decision left to each vendor, you will find commercial support is available for the wide range of options from the many OpenStack vendors.

What is SUSE's support policy for other OpenStack distributions?

Clark: SUSE recognizes that today's enterprise data centers consist of many technologies and product solutions. The tag line for SUSE is "We adapt. You succeed." As enterprises expand their cloud capabilities, SUSE helps them maintain previous investments with its enterprise OpenStack distribution SUSE Cloud by offering support for a broad choice of third-party solutions. For example, SUSE Cloud supports mixed hypervisor environments using KVM, Xen, Microsoft Hyper-V and VMWare vSphere. SUSE Cloud also supports many networking, storage and management solutions, so organizations can construct an enterprise-ready private cloud that meets their IT and business requirements.

SUSE also offers support for other common Linux platforms, including Red Hat Enterprise Linux. SUSE also offers the management of SUSE Linux Enterprise Server and Red Hat Enterprise Linux along with Windows Servers through one single console using SUSE Manager.

But the flexibility doesn't end there. With SUSE Studio, our award-winning image building solution, enterprises can rapidly adapt and deploy applications for use within both private and public clouds. By managing workloads across public or private clouds with SUSE Manager, enterprises can efficiently maintain and monitor their Linux environment, both inside and outside the cloud.

And of course, SUSE is well known for its premium-level support for mission-critical enterprise environments and has been ranked number-one in Linux support worldwide.

What is SUSE looking forward to in the OpenStack Juno release, due out in October? How are you participating?

Clark: SUSE participates in several of the OpenStack projects. In particular you will see SUSE, for the Juno release, continue to contribute in those areas which will enhance ease of deployment, virtualization, storage, performance, scalability and security as well as the development of technical and operations documentation. Also of note is that SUSE is participating in the mentoring programs, as well.

Any other thoughts or impressions from the summit you'd like to share?

Clark: During the Summit there was a speed contest called "Rule the Stack." The contest was a race to see who could deploy a complete OpenStack infrastructure with compute, storage and networking and launch some virtual machines. Dirk Mueller outstripped the competition, deploying SUSE Cloud in 3 minutes and 14 seconds. Pretty amazing results! This simply proves that deploying cloud doesn't have to be hard.