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Open, Cloud Computing, And Startups: A Great Mix

Contributed by Pete Chadwick, senior cloud solutions manager, SUSE

If you think about cloud computing, then it’s inevitable that you’re going to think of the big enterprises that seem perfect for this sort of IT infrastructure. After all, they’re big, have loads of staff and resources, and are performing the big work that is ideal for cloud setups.

Cloud computing also has a great potential in a much different business sector, where money and resources are much less prolific, but the need is just as great.

The world of startups is one of frugality and agility, all wrapped up in a bundle of manic energy and dreams that hopefully won’t be crushed at any given time. Perfect, then, for cloud computing. Especially open source cloud computing.

The most obvious benefit for startups using the cloud is the reduction of capital expenditures (capex to all the cool business types). If you’re a startup, your life is going to be a lot easier and cheaper if you don’t have to outlay hundreds of thousands of dollars on the servers and networking you will need to operate your business. Not to mention the systems needed to develop your product or service.

A cloud system, particularly a public cloud, comes in handy at times like these. For an as-needed fee, you can have a lot of machines spun up and available at almost a moment’s notice.

This leads to the second benefit for startups that use the cloud: they’re going to be more innovative. Because they’re not managing the infrastructure, just the configuration of the cloud-based machines themselves, more time can be spent working on the things that matter. Like the product itself. Plus, since resources in the cloud are by their very nature elastic, then you can scale up (or down) as needed with very little pain.

This is a huge advantage when costs need to be managed and you don’t have to pay for server instances your startup is no longer using. Or when you get noticed by the masses and your service is on fire. (And better your service is on fire than your servers.)

The final benefit is specific to open cloud environments: portability. You can get the benefits mentioned here from any good cloud service provider, including Amazon Web Services or Google App Engine. But what happens if you no longer want to work with one of these providers and they’re not open?

That’s a real problem, because with their specific APIs, it’s very hard to just take your applications and move to another cloud environment. If you’ve started with an open cloud environment, like OpenStack, then you can very easily move to another OpenStack-based environment public cloud, and when your demands get large enough, you can stand up your own OpenStack private cloud.

The benefit of such portability cannot be understated – after all, besides cost savings, the big advantage a cloud computing model gives you is the agility to adapt your compute resources to changing business needs (and who needs agility more than a start-up. If you need better tools, reliability or pricing from another cloud service provider, then you need the ability to be able to take your business elsewhere. If you are using a cloud environment that already has an open API to begin with, then you are very much ahead of the game.

All of us in the OpenStack community are working to deliver cloud-based solutions to all sized businesses. Startups are risky by their very nature… so why make things more difficult from the start? Let’s give them an easy decision when it comes to their IT.

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