I woke up this a bit too early morning to yet another “OpenStack is dead, no it’s not” argument on the twitters. Generally, after hurling a couple of incendiaries in the conversation would have me back to sleep in no time. Today though, it took me back to a conversation over lunch with @manpageman a couple of weeks ago where he said “OpenStack is Betamax to AWS VHS, and that’s totally ok, right?”. It’s probably the most philosophical OpenStack thing I’ve ever heard, but not atypical from our resident philosopher and amateur cultural marxist.
We all know about the Betamax VHS war that played out from the late seventies, and how VHS won. We also know that Betamax still made a significant amount of money for its owners, and that it was adopted for niche use cases where, for whatever reason, it was better suited for use than VHS.
That’s why, back in the 80s and 90s when I fancied myself as a purveyor of fine audio and a composer of not so fine musical works, I used Betamax tapes to record PCM digital audio because that was one of the niche use cases that Betamax then filled. And it made my average works sound amazing. The other niche use case was of course in video and broadcast where Betamax was omnipresent.
I said last year that OpenStack use is 85% telco, 10% research, and 5% everything else. This view is based on the 6 plus years of my company working on it, a view gained independently of vendor, marketing, community, survey or any other influences, a view gained from what we have designed, deployed, operated, and failed at.
The 85% telco in my opinion mirrors the experience of Betamax in audio and broadcast-land. OpenStack is the best tool for what telcos are trying to achieve. For now. Like Betamax, there is significant business to be had with OpenStack. This comes by not looking at what it can’t do or might have done, but what it is doing. It will have a life that will likely be shorter than Betamax, but Betamax tapes were produced for 40 years till 2015, so I think there’s a few years left yet to be servicing those niche use cases yet.
Oh, and by niche, I mean if global tier one telcos are right now basing massive amounts of their business on OpenStack, that’s quite a “niche”.
So is OpenStack Betamax and Amazon Web Services VHS, and is that totally ok?