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Migrating to an open-source private cloud platform: key considerations

Kris Sharma

on 30 September 2022

Private clouds combine the many benefits of cloud computing, like elasticity, scalability and agility, with the security, access control and resource customisation of on-prem infrastructure. Private clouds allow financial institutions to have greater control over hardware and software choices. They make it easier to enforce compliance with regulatory standards. Private clouds also enable financial institutions to move from a traditional IT engagement model to a DevOps model and transform their IT groups from an infrastructure provider to a service provider (via a SaaS model). But they can also entail high costs.

One strategy that financial institutions can adopt to reduce infrastructure costs for private clouds is to move away from expensive proprietary technologies, like VMWare, to open-source platforms like OpenStack.

OpenStack

OpenStack provides a complete ecosystem for building private clouds. Built from multiple sub-projects as a modular system, OpenStack allows financial institutions to build out a scalable private (or hybrid) cloud architecture that is based on open standards.

OpenStack is one of the most featureful and versatile open-source cloud platforms that enables application portability among private and public clouds, allowing financial institutions to choose the best cloud for their applications and workflows without vendor lock-in. 

Charmed OpenStack is Canonical’s enterprise-grade OpenStack distribution. 

Charmed OpenStack ensures private cloud price-performance, providing full automation around OpenStack deployments and operations. Together with Ubuntu, the Linux operating system preferred by developers,  it meets the highest security, stability and quality standards in the industry.

Migrating to OpenStack

Organisations need to consider several trade-offs when they choose to migrate to open-source private cloud platforms like OpenStack:

  • Economics – Choose the right OpenStack distribution that enables CapEx and OpEx reduction.
  • Technology support – Ensure that various components of the technology stack are supported.
  • Velocity of development and innovation – how quickly upstream features and projects are adopted.
  • Day-N operations – how to efficiently operate OpenStack post-deployment.
  • Upgrades – how predictable the release cadence and upgrade path are.

In the following sections, we discuss these considerations further and explore how Charmed OpenStack helps enterprises build and operate cost effective private clouds.

Consideration 1: Economics – reducing CapEx and OpEx

The success of private cloud infrastructure hinges primarily on economics. Well architected private clouds can be a cost-effective extension to public cloud infrastructure, ensuring maximum multi-cloud cost optimisation. 

Canonical’s enterprise distribution, Charmed OpenStack, is more economical than VMware vRealize and other OpenStack distributions for the following key reasons:

  • While VMware uses a CPU based support and subscription model, Charmed OpenStack uses a per-node support and subscription model, bringing the operational costs down and adding pricing predictability.
  • Charmed OpenStack uses OpenStack Charms for its deployment and operations. A charmed operator (charm) is a software component that contains all of the instructions necessary for deploying and configuring an application. Charms make it easy to reliably and repeatedly deploy applications across many clouds, allowing the user to scale the application with minimal effort. The use of OpenStack charms reduces the entire adoption process to just a few weeks. Also, the operational overhead over the product lifetime is reduced, which in turn reduces OpEx and accelerates return on investment.

Charmed OpenStack can run compute, network and storage services on the same shared hardware. Using a hyper-converged architecture, organisations can use the same hardware across the entire data centre and benefit from a unified, distributed approach to infrastructure provisioning and service orchestration.

Consideration 2: Technology support

No two businesses are the same. Technological choice enables financial institutions to choose the solutions that best suit their needs. OpenStack enjoys the support of major IT vendors, virtualisation hypervisors, and public and hosted private cloud providers, and plug-ins from all major networking and storage vendors.  

With so many companies devoting resources to OpenStack, together with Canonical’s own development efforts, Charmed OpenStack benefits from a wider set of technology options than VMware and other OpenStack distributions.

Consideration 3: Velocity of development and innovation

Proprietary virtualisation platforms like VMware can keep organisations from having the resources to invest in hybrid multi-cloud strategy, containers and automation. By removing vendor lock-in, enterprises can gain freedom, flexibility and resources to build a platform for innovation based on open-source technologies. 

OpenStack accelerates time-to-market by providing business units a self -service portal to access necessary resources on-demand, and an API-driven platform for developing cloud-aware applications. Enterprises dramatically reduce provisioning times from weeks or months to minutes with OpenStack, giving them a significant competitive advantage.

As OpenStack continues to evolve rapidly, one challenge that organisations face is upgrading OpenStack, year after year. Canonical solves this problem with total automation that decouples architectural choices from the operations codebase.Charmed OpenStack uses  MAAS for infrastructure provisioning and Juju for application modelling. MAAS is an open source bare-metal server provisioning tool that turns bare metal into an elastic, cloud-like resource. With Juju and OpenStack charms, daily operations, such as cluster scale out or database backups, are fully automated.

Consideration 4: Enhancing Day N operations (operational efficiencies post-deployment)

From bare metal to the cloud control plane, Canonical’s Charmed OpenStack uses automation everywhere, leveraging model-driven operations. By using a model-driven approach, teams can simply define their deployment requirements and let Juju take care of the rest. 

OpenStack charms can significantly simplify application deployments and accelerate daily operational tasks, such as scaling out the OpenStack cluster, resulting in lower maintenance, less human resource requirements – and, therefore, reduced OpEx.

Consideration 5: Predictable release cadence and upgrade path

With a proprietary solution, financial institutions  are tied to a specific vendor’s release cadence and upgrade model, which can constrain business advancement and innovation. An unpredictable upgrade path also makes it impossible for financial institutions  to plan their IT roadmap. Compared to other OpenStack distributions, Charmed OpenStack users benefit from a highly predictable, transparent release cadence.

Each upstream OpenStack version comes with new features that may bring measurable benefits to your business. Canonical provides full support for every version of OpenStack within two weeks of the upstream release. Every two years, Canonical releases a Long Term Support (LTS) version of Charmed OpenStack that is  supported for five years.OpenStack upgrades are known to be painful due to the complexity of the process. By leveraging the model-driven architecture and using OpenStack Charms for automation purposes, Charmed OpenStack can be easily upgraded between its consecutive versions. This allows organisations to stay up to date with the upstream features, while not putting additional pressure on their operations team.

Conclusion

The diverse and rich OpenStack ecosystem allows for numerous ways to get started on building an open source based private cloud, depending on use case, desired control, and organisational capabilities. Migrating from VMware to OpenStack can have significant economic benefits for any financial institution and improve infrastructure flexibility.  It is often a wise choice to gain business agility and drive innovation while lowering costs.  But to move to an OpenStack distribution, organisations must ensure they select a distribution that is easily deployable, maintainable, upgradable and cost-effective. Charmed OpenStack, an enterprise grade OpenStack distribution from Canonical, reduces overall TCO compared to VMware.Canonical provides up to ten years of security updates for Charmed OpenStack under the Ubuntu Advantage for Infrastructure subscription for customers who value stability above all else. Moreover, the support package includes various EU and US regulatory compliance options. Additional hardening tools and benchmarks ensure the highest level of security.

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