The Stack Archive

How OpenStack is driving data centre diversity

Thu 3 Nov 2016

nick-jones-datacentrdNick Jones, Head of Cloud at the UK’s leading OpenStack public cloud provider, DataCentred, explains why an open source approach has been key in developing the platform…

Right from its launch, DataCentred has been heavily involved in the open source community. We have become the largest UK owned and operated public OpenStack cloud provider, delivering services to a diverse range of customers.

Although all of our founders have long histories of working with open source, as far as the wider industry is concerned, this approach has not always been encouraged. This was frustrating, as the real power of the community comes to the fore when companies get fully involved and participate in upstream engagement. The only way that providers will see real tangible business value is when they commit back – this doesn’t have to be code; you can contribute in so many different ways.

15 to 20 years ago most companies were very wary of the open source movement.  However, nowadays everyone wants to be involved – as an example, after initial attacks against open source, Microsoft is now one of the biggest contributors on GitHub.

OpenStack is so diverse, I’d be surprised if there was something in IT that it wasn’t capable of taking care of

OpenStack has allowed us to open up our data centre and cloud services to customers we otherwise would not have been able to work with. We support a team from the University of Lancaster  – the Experimental Particle Physics Group. Working with CERN on datasets from the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), the team requires huge virtual machine capacity, 100% CPU and 100% memory. The workloads hammer our platform very hard, and this collaboration helped us get our cloud to a very mature and stable state early on.

CERN is one of the biggest OpenStack operators and is a massive contributor too. It has a sophisticated provisioning system for cloud workloads which the Lancaster team was already using. The fact that it was a cloud-native project meant that the adoption of our services was very straight-forward and painless.

OpenStack is an extraordinarily flexible asset in the data centre. There are community projects that cover pretty much every area of computing you could possibly imagine. You may come across a unique requirement from customers, but there will almost certainly be an OpenStack solution in a reasonable, production-ready state. OpenStack is so diverse; I’d be surprised if there was something in IT that it wasn’t capable of taking care of or providing an API for.

Scaling with OpenStack

We currently have a single facility in Manchester. Based in MediaCity, there is plenty of data centre requirement from local media firms, such as the BBC and ITV. Mike Kelly, DataCentred’s founder, who also founded the Telecity Group, has been involved right from the beginning of the UK’s data centre industry and has always encouraged greater diversity in where technology is physically located in the UK.

The tools we’ve built to manage and operate OpenStack have been developed to be as elastic and scalable as possible

Currently, the market is very much centred around a specific area of London, where most of the UK’s internet infrastructure converges. There is so much value in building at size outside of London and making the country’s technology as geographically diverse as possible. With the ever-escalating costs of doing any kind of business in London, let alone being based in the capital, companies are turning to cities like Manchester as a vibrant alternative.

Diversity within technology is hugely important; it drives innovation and widens customer choice. Using open source as a technology can be a vehicle for this. It means that smaller providers around the country can build a viable business to compete against larger corporations such as Google and Amazon. The OpenStack Foundation does a fantastic job of making businesses aware of OpenStack and I don’t see how DataCentred would have launched such a successful platform without this support.

We’d like to see a point where we have OpenStack data centres throughout Europe, across the different regions customers are looking to place their workloads. The tools we’ve built to manage and operate OpenStack have been developed to be as elastic and scalable as possible. Working closely with other European providers through the OpenStack ecosystem, we know that the systems will be up to scratch when it comes to deploying at multi-regional scale.


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