Interview: ‘Companies Migrate to Private cloud for Cost Reduction and Data Control’

Photo Gabriel Beims Bräscher
CloudStack VP Gabriel Beims Bräscher

Cloud hosting providers globally make use of the open-source based and community driven CloudStack Project software to power their cloud services. Since March 2021, Gabriel Beims Bräscher has been the new VP of Apache CloudStack. He began his involvement with CloudStack while still a university student, and rose through the ranks to become a contributor, PMC member, and now VP of the project. HostingJournalist sat down with him to have a chat.

What trends do you see around cloud management platforms and technologies being used by hosting and cloud providers?

“With the growth of cloud-native applications, there will be little to no architectural dependence on a specific cloud provider, which allows to easily migrate applications from one provider to another. In such a scenario, API will become a differential for cloud providers to compete. Those who provide a robust and flexible API will rise in the multi-cloud world.”

“Aligned with that, containerization’s agility and scalability are also getting the attention of the industry; with that, providers are looking towards not just deploying and managing VMs but also containers.”

“The hosting industry also will be impacted by data governance changes. This means that it is important to invest in the security of identity and data. Data governance can also leverage local providers as they provide a sense of trust and security for local markets.”

“Additionally, cloud computing has a substantial effect on carbon emissions. Providers normally invest in efficient hardware to reduce energy wastage; however, there has been hardly any development in cloud management platforms in such matters. There are many pieces of research pointing to substantial energy savings reached via management models that migrate VMs and power on/off hosts in order to find an equilibrium between workload balance (QoS) and reduction of idle computing resources.”

CloudStack is often compared to OpenStack. Can you give us a comparison and share with us the implications of both hosting and cloud providers?

“First of all, it is important to raise that both projects are very competitive and share common goals but they do it with different approaches. Most of the functionalities are similar and an end-user will hardly be able to differentiate both platforms, therefore, the major divergence regards with the deployment, maintenance and extension.”

“CloudStack combines it all on a single box. OpenStack, on the other hand, has it all divided into multiple projects that need to be deployed and configured on their own. With that, CloudStack is easier to design and deploy. While OpenStack relies on multiple separated components that brings complexity in exchange of flexibility and workload distribution.”

“With CloudStack it is quite easy to deploy and manage a multi-hypervisors infrastructure; for instance, combining XenServer, VMware and KVM nodes on neighbour clusters. OpenStack is also perfectly capable of managing heterogeneous infrastructures, however, it does not come easily when compared to CloudStack. IPv6 is another big plus for CloudStack when compared with OpenStack.”

“On the OpenStack side, Docker has been widely supported for a long time; however, recently CloudStack added a plugin for Kubernetes. When regarding development, OpenStack’s approach is that development and debugging might be easier due to the multi-projects structure. Therefore, when implementing on a single project all the development and debugging is done on a compact project which is quickly deployed via Docker.”

“CloudStack, as a single big project, requires more time in order to package, deploy and test a new feature or a bugfix than with OpenStack. However, this also brings complexity and development costs when implementing a feature that requires merging changes on multiple OpenStack projects.”

“In a nutshell, Apache CloudStack can be deployed with much less time and human resources applied. However, in terms of development and extension, they both share their unique challenges. IPv6 is another big plus for CloudStack when compared with OpenStack, but OpenStack supports Docker for some time (CloudStack has a plugin for Kubernetes).”
“At the end, both have their advantages and disadvantages and we cannot clearly raise one as better than the other.”

In the past, OpenStack was aimed more at the larger companies. CloudStack seemed to be for the smaller and midsized companies. What’s the current situation?

“This is simply not correct: although Openstack was positioned by its sponsors as an enterprise solution, Cloudstack has in fact been running some of the world’s largest public and private clouds for many years. I think this is simply a question of market perception. We have seen many cases of large cloud infrastructures (e.g. Apple, KDDI, iKoula, British Telecom, Ticketmaster, Education Networks of America, et cetera.).

“I think that misconception arises for two reasons. Because CloudStack is also accessible to smaller organizations due to its ease of deployment and management. Next to that, the Cloudstack project has been traditionally poor in spreading the word and informing the market of our success.”

“One of the implementation efforts over the past years has been to support IPv6 addresses, which allows scaling the amount of public IP addresses to another level. This is a clear sign of commitment in ensuring that high scale environments can keep growing.”

How does setting up a large cloud platform differ from establishing a smaller cloud?

When setting up a large cloud environment it is important to take extra caution with quality of service. Such environments require multiple management nodes in order to maintain high availability as well as balancing workloads. Another option is to scale the amount of distributed managed data centers, instead of investing in a few big data centers. However, this also requires efforts in order to integrate all these distributed data centers.”

“Monitoring all the stacks of the cloud (storage, network, hosts) can also be a challenge. It is very important to track the infrastructure health and usage. As bigger the infrastructure, the harder it gets to be managed and automation becomes a key tool.”

Do you see private CloudStack-based clouds as a replacement for, or a compliment to, third party offerings like AWS, GCP and Azure?

“Although CloudStack-based clouds – as well as OpenStack – have been proven a perfect alternative for third-party offerings, it is still too early to consider them as a replacement. For now, they are a great compliment.”

“However, there are some situations where third parties are mostly being replaced by private clouds:

  • Cloud providers – their core business is Infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS), thus they rely on platforms such as CloudStack.
  • Telecom companies – have been transiting to large cloud infrastructures.
  • Universities and research groups – are a perfect cases where large scale systems are needed to running experiments and also maintaining multiple services for students, professors, and researchers.
  • Big companies / Governmental Organizations – due to the need for processing and storing loads of sensitive data in-house elastic computer resources are needed to comply with such demands.

Generally speaking, companies that are migrating to private cloud have at least one of these two key points in common: The costs with public clouds are higher than deploying and managing their own Private Cloud; Secondly, data control is a must and these companies will not process data on third party infrastructure.”

What about the costs of both CloudStack and OpenStack for setting it up, also measured against the use of public cloud infrastructure?

“Costs can vary according to the infrastructure size, hardware requirements, enterprise licenses, expectations, and technical background that the company already has. CloudStack tends to be simpler, less costly, and faster to deploy. OpenStack, due to its multi-projects approach, requires to integrate multiple projects, as if tuning an orchestra to sing along. But, to be fair, it has improved recently and Kolla Ansible helps operators on deploying and managing OpenStack.”

“When comparing against the use of public cloud infrastructures, while public cloud can be a money saver for many companies, as well as ensuring flexibility and scalability, costs can escalate quickly depending on the growth. Acquiring hardware as well as managing a team of experts to deploy and maintain a private cloud infrastructure requires great investment. However, the costs are fully under the control of the company and hardware costs are amortized according to the hardware lifetime – 5 years on average.”

What unique technical benefits does CloudStack bring to IaaS services?

“Installing CloudStack management service can be done in a matter of minutes; deploying a new Zone (network, storages, and hypervisors) can take just a couple of hours. Thus, it is a unique tool in terms of providing IaaS quickly and with low investment.”

“Simple, but yet flexible; CloudStack supports a wide set of technologies varying from multiple hypervisors (KVM, VMware, XenServer, LXC) storage systems (Ceph, NFS, iSCSI, local storage), and network services (VPN, VPC, IPv6 networks, et cetera).

What are the USPs for using CloudStack from a cloud provider’s business perspective?

“Providers can use CloudStack knowing that it is a stable and open-source project, which gives security to take such investment; additionally, CloudStack has a reduced cost for deploying, and at the same time it allows to easily configure heterogeneous cloud infrastructures where multiple hypervisors (e.g. KVM, VMware and XenServer) co-exist easily.”

“The API and AWS integration makes it a good business case as clients can benefit from an API to deploy their workloads as well as integrate it with the AWS.”

Open-source based technology may thrive from a vibrant open source community. As the recently appointed VP of Apache CloudStack, can you share with us what is being done to support and boost the interaction around Apache CloudStack technology?

“The CloudStack community is an extremely active, friendly and collaborative environment. We are always welcome to new users and companies, which just start with the technology. Multiple options for communication are supported and everybody can ask for help from community members when needed. We also develop detailed documentation and how-tos, which can facilitate the success with CloudStack.”

“On the interaction side, we just organized our first completely virtual event – CSEUG Virtual (CloudStack European User Group Virtual). And we plan for more events, which can enable networking both for the technical community members, but also for business-people within the companies using CloudStack.”

What can we expect from CloudStack as a technology in the near future?

“Cloud orchestration tools are quite complex to deploy and use; one of the main goals of CloudStack is to keep it simple and easy, breaking barriers and helping newcomers. Recently there has been a great improvement with the new User Interface and we are still going to see a lot of improvements on the UI on the next releases. User-friendly improvements such as UI not only helps on productivity from the operation team perspective as well as allows providers to use the CloudStack UI as a control panel for their clients.”

To conclude, what can the CloudStack community expect from your appointment recently as the VP of Apache CloudStack?

“I think that CloudStack needs to urgently improve its marketability. We need to showcase the fact that CloudStack is a top option and can serve companies of any size. I would be glad if I could help both on the technical and marketing side of the project. We have astonishing technology, which its benefits need to reach a wider community!”

About Apache CloudStack

Since 2013, Apache CloudStack has been an Apache Software Foundation Top-Level Project, powering countless mission-critical elastic cloud computing services and solutions for Fortune 5 multinational corporations, Gartner Magic Quadrant leaders. It also “sits beneath hundreds of service provider clouds,” according to Forrester.

To learn more about Apache CloudStack, visit their website here.