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15Jun/14Off

HP Discover 2014: Helion (Openstack)

TechOps Guy: Nate

(Standard disclaimer HP covered my hotel and stuff while in Vegas etc etc...)

HP Helion

This is a new brand for HP's cloud platform based on OpenStack. There is a commercial version and a community edition. The community edition is pure OpenStack without some of the fancier HP management interfaces on top of it.

"The easiest thing about OpenStack is setting it up - organizations spend the majority of the time simply keeping it running after it is set up."

HP admits that OpenStack has a long way to go before it is considered a mature enterprise application stack. But they do have experience running a large OpenStack public cloud and have hundreds of developers working on the product. In fact HP says that most OpenStack community projects these days are basically run by HP, while other larger contributors (even Rack Space) have pulled back on resource allocation to the project HP has gone in full steam ahead.

HP has many large customers who specifically asked HP to get involved in the project and to provide a solution for them that can be supported end to end. I must admit the prospect does sound attractive, being that you can get HP Storage, Servers, Networking all battle tested and ready to run this new cloud platform, the Openstack platform is by far the biggest weak point today.

It is not there yet though, HP does offer a professional services for the customers entire life cycle of OpenStack deployment.

One key area that has been weak in OpenStack which recently made the news, is the networking component Neutron.

"[..] once you get beyond about 50 nodes, Neutron falls apart"

So to stabilize this component HP integrated support with their SDN controller into the lower levels of Neutron. This allowed it to scale much better and maintain complete compatibility with existing APIs.

That is something HP is doing in several cases, they emphasize very strongly they are NOT building a proprietary solution, and they are NOT changing any of the APIs (they are helping change them upstream) as to break compatibility. They are however adding/moving some things around beneath the API level to improve stability.

The initial cost for the commercial $1,400/server/year which is quite reasonable, I assume that includes basic support. The commercial version is expected to become generally available in the second half of 2014.

Major updates will be released every six months, and minor updates every three months.

Very limited support cycle

One thing that took almost everyone in the room by surprise is the support cycle for this product. Normally enterprise products have support for 3-5 years, Helion has support for a maximum of 18 months. HP says 12 of those months is general support and the last six of those are specifically geared towards migration to the next version, which they say is not a trivial task.

I checked Red Hat's policy as they are another big distribution of OpenStack, and their policy is similar - they had one year of support on version three of their production and have one and a half years on version four (current version). Despite the version numbers apparently version three was the first release to the public.

So given that it should just reinforce the fact that Openstack is not a mature platform at this point and it will take some time before it is, probably another 2-3 years at least. They only recently got the feature that allowed for upgrading the system.

HP does offer a fully integrated ConvergedSystem with Helion, though despite my best efforts I am unable to find a link that specifically mentions Helion or OpenStack.

HP is supporting ESXi and KVM as the initial hypervisors in their Helion. Openstack supports a much wider variety itself but HP is electing those two to begin with anyway. Support for Hyper-V will follow shortly.

HP also offers full indemnification from legal issues as well.

This site has a nice diagram of what HP is offering, not sure if it is an HP image or not so sending you there to see it.

Conclusion

My own suggestion is to steer clear of Openstack for a while yet, give it time to stabilize, don't deploy it just because you can. Don't deploy it because it's today's hype.

If you really, truly need this functionality internally then it seems like HP has by far the strongest offerings from a product and support standpoint(they are willing and able to do everything from design to deployment to operationally running it). Keep in mind depending on scale of deployment you may be constantly planning for the next upgrade (or having HP plan for you).

I would argue that the vast majority of organizations do not need OpenStack (in it's current state) and would do themselves a favor by sticking to whatever they are already using until it's more stable. Your organization may have pains running whatever your running now, but your likely to just trade those pains for other pains going the OpenStack route right now.

When will it be stable? I would say a good indicator will be the support cycle, when HP (or Redhat) starts having a full 3 year support cycle on the platform (with back ported fixes etc) that means it's probably hit a good milestone.

I believe OpenStack will do well in the future, it's just not there yet today.