OpenStack For Private & Hybrid Clouds: Costs, Benefits & Risks

OpenStack For Private & Hybrid Clouds: Costs, Benefits & Risks
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OpenStack is a popular set of open source software for implementing clouds with the support of major vendors like HP, IBM, Rackspace, Dell and Red Hat, but is it right for you? For those that are early in the process of evaluating the feasibility of a private or hybrid cloud it can help to assess the costs, benefits and risks of deploying an OpenStack cloud before investing too much time in implementation details.

There are several broad cost categories to keep in mind about private or hybrid clouds -- including costs of hardware, training and consulting, system configuration and deployment, and on-going operations.

OpenStack Hardware Costs

If you are considering a private cloud you have likely already made a substantial investment in hardware (or you have the luxury of a large capital expenditure budget but that is less likely). OpenStack pools commodity servers and makes them available on demand rather than dedicating servers to a particular set of virtual machines. This can lead to more efficient use of servers that may have hosted a single operating system or multiple virtual servers. Improved utilization will only occur if you have sufficient demand for the computing resources in place.

As demand for computing resources increases, you have several options for expanding the pool of serves, including purchasing, leasing or new pay as you go models for on-premise hardware. HP, for example, offers HP Flexible Capacity Service that provides on-site infrastructure that is billed based on actual use rather than the time period the equipment is in your data center.

When your plans for an OpenStack cloud include a significant increase in hardware, you may need to consider the physical capacity of your data center, particularly with regards to power and cooling. Alternatively, co-hosting your cloud in a third party data center can help avoid the up front costs of modifying your data center.

OpenStack Training and Consulting Costs

In addition to hardware costs, you should plan for training and or consulting services. OpenStack is a large collection of integrated modules and its complexity should not be underestimated. OpenStack includes a set of services shared by the core compute, storage and networking services. Shared services include identity management, disk and server image management, metering and orchestration. 

Depending on your needs, you may want to deploy additional modules, such as Savanna for provisioning Hadoop clusters in an OpenStack cloud.

OpenStack Deployment & Management Costs

There will be additional costs for startup and deployment of your cloud. These will include the cost of designing your server, storage and network architecture. Policies are needed to specify authentication, authorization and auditing practices. You may be able to modify existing policies to cover cloud resources. Cloud specific topics, such as resource limitations and cloud security procedures, may need to be added to existing policies.

Other startup costs will include creating a set of images, implementing a service catalog and configuring the self-service dashboard. Since image management will be an ongoing process, it is worthwhile to establish procedures to streamline it. Chef and Puppet both support OpenStack automation.

A Chef repository for OpenStack is available on Github; multiple cookbooks are available for OpenStack components, such as image service (Glance), identity service (Keystone) and the dashboard (Horizon). For cloud administrators who prefer Puppet, the Puppet OpenStack module is available on Github as well. Cloud administrators will use the dashboard to monitor cloud resources, create users and projects, and specify resource limits. Cloud users will utilize the dashboard to provision OpenStack resources.

Cloud administrators may want to deploy and monitor Ceilometer, the cloud metering module that collects data on compute and network usage.

About the Author

Dan Sullivan is an author, systems architect, and consultant with over 20 years of IT experience in systems architecture, enterprise security, advanced analytics and business intelligence.

More by Dan Sullivan

Implementing a private or hybrid cloud entails a number of different costs, from hardware acquisition to on-going maintenance and monitoring. Although these costs can be substantial, there are corresponding benefits as well.

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