OpenStack Omni, the Open-Source Alternative to VMware and AWS for Hybrid Cloud

According to the 2017 State of the Cloud report, hybrid cloud usage has increased to 71%, up 13% from the previous year. As hybrid clouds become more of a common occurrence, they introduce complexities to cloud infrastructure management and can result in vendor lock-in, if not done right, and added costs.

In a previous blog post “VMware on AWS – Lock-in Continues with the Hybrid Cloud,” VMware on AWS and the lock-in that it extended to a hybrid cloud approach were discussed. The VMWare and AWS partnership gives enterprises a pathway to hybrid cloud, with VMWare promising a single pane of glass to manage workloads that are both on-premise and in the public (AWS) cloud. The catch, however, is that enterprises are locked into the VMW ecosystem without much flexibility and must pay very high fees.

OpenStack is the on-premise open-source competitor for VMWare. The number one business driver for enterprises to choose OpenStack is avoidance of vendor lock-in for on-premise cloud, according to OpenStack user surveys.  Another key driver is the availability of a nonproprietary, standardized open API. Still, OpenStack has been more difficult to use (Platform9 solves this problem with our SaaS-managed OpenStack) and doesn’t extend to public clouds.  Therefore, enterprises using OpenStack on-premise plus a public cloud have to use different management systems to handle their workloads across them.

We increasingly realized that our customers are looking for the exact same benefits – standard, open APIs and no vendor lock-in that OpenStack provides on-premise – for their public cloud usage too. This realization is what led us to build OpenStack Omni, a common management system for both on-premise and public clouds, and contribute it back to the community as an open source alternative to VMWare+AWS.

OpenStack Omni for Open-Source Hybrid Cloud Management

First announced and demonstrated at OpenStack Summit Barcelona in November, 2016, Omni is an OpenStack Big Tent project, founded by Platform9, that enables broad application of OpenStack’s comprehensive and sophisticated open APIs (plus, in principle, other OpenStack orchestration facilities) to manage non-OpenStack public clouds. Omni’s set of drivers plug into various OpenStack components – such as Neutron Networking, Nova Compute, and Cinder Storage – and allow users to manage public cloud in addition to on-premise cloud infrastructure. Omni enables discovery of AWS VMs and display by OpenStack Horizon; and creation and integration of native AWS AMI-based VMs, EBS volumes, networks, subnets, routers, etc., by using standard OpenStack CLI or REST commands.

With Omni, customers have realized the benefits of having a single, well-known standardized API from which to manage both their public and private cloud workloads. Currently, Omni supports the three major public cloud providers– AWS, Azure, and Google Cloud. Since Omni is completely open-source, users are free to extend support to any other cloud providers they desire.

Platform9’s governing vision is to enable hosting of open cloud control planes in the cloud itself. This enables efficient operations, single-pane-of-glass management of geographically separate compute resources and reduction of operational complexity on-premise while enabling clean (and separate) scaling of compute and control-plane physical infrastructure — all at low cost, via widely-accepted, open source standard APIs, and without lock-in. Platform9’s Managed OpenStack product first brought this vision to reality for enabling on-premise cloud deployments. With the addition of the Omni capability to Platform9’s Managed OpenStack offering, this concept has been further extended to hybrid cloud deployments.

Omni’s Advantages Over Other Hybrid Cloud Management Solutions

The most basic Omni enabled Platform9 hybrid cloud setups aggregate OpenStack compute nodes and public cloud (AWS, Azure, GCP) virtual machines and has these aggregations under management by hosted control planes. This provides the ‘single pane of glass,’ giving insight into and control over compute resources on multiple regions, by means of open, standard APIs.

Omni introduces the somewhat counterintuitive, but powerful idea that ‘hybrid clouds’ don’t necessarily need public and private regions to run a deeply-harmonized, common software stack. Operational harmony under a single, broadly-accepted, standard API may be perfectly sufficient for many use-cases.

Our approach to enabling a hybrid cloud management platform presents an alternative to existing Cloud Management Platform (CMP) solutions such as RightScale, Cliqr, Scalr, and CloudForms. These solutions create an entirely new, and sometimes even privately controlled, API that subsumes other clouds underneath it. This approach is not only associated with a learning curve for the administrator, but also requires the refresh of an entirety of the tooling ecosystem that is one of the largest enablers of cloud usage.

With Omni, for the first time, there is a way to use OpenStack on-premise AND manage workloads in the public clouds more easily. Administrators get a single pane of glass with the added benefits of unified multi-tenancy and public cloud quota management. Developers and dev-ops engineers get a single API that abstracts out all the underlying nitty gritty details of the different cloud providers they’re using.  They get the choice to consume the right cloud platform that fits their organization’s business needs and strategy. They can continue leveraging their organization’s investments in tooling and automation around the rich OpenStack ecosystem – such as integrations with Packer, Fog, and Terraform – and use the same workflows to deploy to public and private clouds.

Could your enterprise benefit from Omni?

For enterprises looking to unify their private and public cloud workloads under a single open API that avoids vendor lock-in, Omni really is the best choice. To learn more, watch the Platform Omni demo from the OpenStack Summit, download the Omni drivers from GitHub, and try them out.

VIDEO: Hear from Amirsh Kapoor, VP of Engineering, on “OpenStack Omni: Extending OpenStack to Hybrid Clouds”


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