Why Qstack? Our main focus since we started the company has been to lower the technical barriers of using cloud solutions.
When we set out to develop Qstack a few years ago we had ambitious goals. First of all we wanted to make the installation and usage of a cloud management platform as easy as installing and using a consumer grade appliance or application. Secondly we wanted to give our customers the ability to run the solution on top of commodity software and hardware components so that they would not be forced into a lock-in and could reuse their existing investments. Thirdly we wanted to give our customers the power and freedom to run any workload of their choice, irrespective of underlying infrastructure.
Let’s look into more details at what problems we are addressing.
What problems are we solving?
The cloud platform space is riddled with examples of failed deployments which have largely been caused by projects fallen on their own weight of complexity.
The reasons behind this are many but they stem mainly from the diversity and heterogeneity of systems in place within enterprises and the desire to “fix all problems for everybody at once” rather than trying to address the most pressing issues with a simple solution. Infrastructure management software is also quite a complicated software stack and assembling it from existing software and hardware components consisting of hypervisors, storage and networking systems and making them all integrate seamlessly with each other is not a trivial task.
IT in many enterprises today is still stuck in a state where its systems are locked into silos of fragmented systems, disconnected with each other and hard to manage. This leads to a situation where systems are painful and too costly to maintain and often highly manual, because these systems cannot interoperate.
The reasons for this are numerous, such as legacy systems still being used and antiquated IT policies in place derived from these systems which don’t take into account that there are more modern systems and new practices that follow them. Another reason is that there are different systems used to manage different parts of the infrastructure, such as one for storage, another one for managing network resources, another one for managing physical Bare-Metal infrastructure, another one for managing VMware virtual machines and another one for managing containers etc.
Lack of oversight and control
Fragmentation leads to a loss of overview over what resources are being used which can lead to misuse of resources. IT managers are as well frustrated with this lack of oversight which leads to that they feel they lack control over the IT usage within the enterprise.
Due to this there is also dissatisfaction among the users of IT, for example devops people, who do not have the control the need, the self-service and ease of use of resources they need and the agility they require for their work, which leads to frustration and waste of time.
How are we solving it ?
Even developers and operations teams, who are used to working with complex systems, love products that are simple to deploy and use.
The key to address the high complexity factor in cloud solutions is to simplify the software stack or more specifically its usability. This means to have high emphasis on the User Interface and deployment part of the system. What we have done with Qstack is to enable our customers to install the platform in very few simple steps and get up and running with a cloud solution in a matter of minutes or hours instead of weeks. We like to emphasize that there is a way to have a minimalistic UI and at the same time provide the power of an API level or CLI access for power users.
Integrate & Consolidate
To address the fragmentation problem discussed above there is a need to integrate with existing systems in places where that is appropriate. It is unrealistic to expect customers to have to reinvest in all new solutions when deploying a new solution. We have chosen to implement support for the most common infrastructure technologies with respect to hardware, software and services.
On the hardware side we have built in support for the industry standard IPMI protocol, allowing the ability to control Bare-Metal servers from virtually any vendor of x86 compatible server hardware. On the software side we have built in support for the most popular commercial hypervisor technologies on the market, VMware and Hyper-V, so customers can leverage their investments and know-how in these well proven solutions. We have as well built support for the open source KVM hypervisor, by that providing both open source and proprietary options. More recently we have built in support for the popular Kubernetes container orchestration solution, bringing ease of management to the robust solution originally built by Google. We have as well built in support for managing public cloud workloads in the most popular public IaaS services with AWS supported and Microsoft Azure and Google Compute Engine in technology preview.
A holistic solution
To address the lack of oversight issue there is the need to have a unified way to manage the heterogeneous infrastructure from one place. What we have built with Qstack is a solution that provides a User Interface that gives a unified view of a complex infrastructure, a single-pane-of-glass, both for consumption of resources (i.e. spinning up instances etc.) which is the domain of the devops teams, all the way to managing this infrastructure, which is the domain of the system administrators.
Where are we going?
Lately there has been a growing interest in containers as the technology of the future for deploying software applications. We believe wholeheartedly in this vision for the future and have made the bet that Kubernetes will be the most popular orchestration tool to manage containers. Once again we have stayed true to our vision of making good cloud technologies easily usable by packaging Kubernetes in a default configuration that can be deployed with one click. Kubernetes is a technology that has tremendous potential but, like dev/ops professionals who have tried using it know well, has quite a steep learning curve for new users. We want to enable our users to get started with new great technologies with the least amount of effort in time and knowledge of the intricacies of setup and configuration. That way our users can spend productive time on building great applications rather than spend time on infrastructure plumbing. With the newly released application orchestration feature built on top of Kubernetes users can start developing next generation resilient solutions
Even though we believe in the future for containers we still see the need for the lower layers, i.e. virtual machines and Bare-Metal hardware, and they will keep on playing a big part in the future, which is why we believe that all three technologies, Containers, VMs and Bare-Metal should be first class citizens in our infrastructure management solution. We are just getting started with our support for managing applications and containers and we have a lot on the roadmap because we believe there is a growing need for such a solution. However we also believe in the freedom of our customers to select their appropriate technology for their workload and containers are still not always the right solution, so we have tons of ideas of making it easier working with these traditional technologies as well in the future.