OpenStack Complexity vs Docker Simplicity

OpenStack, as you'll recall, is an open source cloud platform that anyone can deploy publicly or privately. Docker, meanwhile, is an open source container technology that allows software developers to more easily write and move applications from one cloud or server to the next. So, does OpenStack compete with Docker -- and vice versa?

Instead of focusing on the competitive threat, the OpenStack crowd is trying its best to position OpenStack as a platform that supports container technology. Apparently that's the big theme at this week's OpenStack Summit in Vancouver, notes TechCrunch

My spin: I think some IT leaders and CXOs consider OpenStack to be a big, unwieldy platform that somehow competes and cooperates with traditional virtualization, operating systems and now containers. Folks aren't sure where OpenStack "starts" and "ends" as a platform. Warranted or not, that's the perception among some critics.

Yes, many businesses and cloud providers are adopting OpenStack. But I don't think OpenStack has lived up to its early hype -- especially for early backers like Rackspace. OpenStack was supposed to give Rackspace a leg up in the cloud wars. But in terms of growth rates and revenues, I believe Rackspace has consistently lost ground to Amazon Web Services, IBM Cloud, Microsoft Azure and perhaps even Google Cloud Platform.

To turn on OpenStack and get real value, you really need to make it your standard cloud platform. And that means you likely need to pull your CXO team into the conversation -- plus your IT infrastructure team and your developers and the list goes on. Everybody has to be on board to unlock OpenStack's value.

In stark contrast to OpenStack, the container concept and its Docker poster child are far easier to understand. Put an application in a container, and move it (i.e., activate it) anywhere in the world far more rapidly. It reminds me of the early days of Java -- when everyone instantly understood the "write once, run anywhere" concept, without necessarily getting bogged down in the very complex technical details.

To turn on Docker, all you need is one rogue developer who decides "this is the way I'm going to build applications." If she gets that proof of concept up and running, the Docker mindset can spread virally and organically across an organization.

Bottom line: OpenStack is popular, but in some IT corners OpenStack has a perception problem involving complexity. It's trying to solve too many problems. Meanwhile, the container concept and Docker thrive on a simple message and simple mission. 

Admittedly, Docker isn't that easy. But the need for Docker is easy to understand. That's why the OpenStack crowd is so eager to open their arms to Docker. Ditto for developers.

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