This post comes after a failed attempt to help a Swiss small ISP in building their cloud offering. The market of selling Internet access is shrinking down to the big players, so the owner believed that the next 5-10 years would have focused his business in reselling Virtual Private Servers (VPS) and thought that OpenStack can help him on this new business.
I’ve probably seen more failures than happy ending projects, however most of the times failure is not due to OpenStack at all. And this was (unfortunately) the case as well.
You probably know how much I love OpenStack and that I’m a strong supporter since my former boss Mark Shuttleworth put me on the project when I was in Canonical (Ubuntu) in early 2011. But let’s face it: OpenStack is not for everybody. And it’s not a matter of size of the business, nor the money you put on the project, rather the mindset with which you embrace OpenStack.
Two years ago, in when I published my book “OpenStack Explained”, I wrote that “the reality is that OpenStack is just a technology and it enables you to do more if you embrace its philosophy. This requires a company to change deeply in the way IT is conceived”.
Even if I’m an experienced consultant, my biggest mistake was not to deeply analyze the company before starting the project, I believed their words of having “long experience with Linux”, “tried Ceph deeply” and claimed to be “masters of networking”. It turned out that wasn’t true.
So I will write a few suggestions based on what went wrong in this project:

Unfortunately, there’s no happy ending in this story. All possible things that could go wrong, went wrong. To summarize it, the cluster had multiple hardware failures, also due to an unplanned relocation of the equipment. It got worse when I discovered that nobody has sufficient Linux knowledge inside the company, even to do some basic troubleshooting.
The situation was against all OpenStack best practices, therefore I (sadly) I told the owner that I can’t be of any help any longer until they reshape the company and I suggested either go back to VMWare or investigate on other “point-and-click” solutions.
After six months, the OpenStack cluster has been decommissioned and the hardware being assigned to other customers.
OpenStack is a fantastic framework for building your own cloud services and is in use by a lot of customers in production. Now, if you’re thinking on having OpenStack on your premises, the question I have is: is OpenStack really for you?