Canonical Prepares To Train Channel Partners In The Art Of Working With OpenStack

To drive greater adoption of OpenStack in enterprise environments, Canonical said Friday it's launching a new program to train its channel partners in the art of working with the open-source cloud operating system, as well as offering a hosted version to simplify use.

Canonical, developer of the popular Ubuntu distributions of Linux and OpenStack, believes the dearth of solution providers skilled in administering the cloud platform developed by NASA and Rackspace is holding back enterprise adoption.

To remedy that problem, Canonical will be hosting four training events in the coming months in Baltimore, Austin, London and Vancouver, said John Zannos, VP of cloud channels and alliances for the UK-based open-source software developer, in an interview.

"That's us collaborating with our partners to train them, and ultimately train them as trainers to go train our mutual customers," Zannos told CRN.

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[Related: OpenStack Community Challenged By Dearth Of Talent, Complexity]

"We're committed to making sure our model is channel friendly and really enables the partners to be our driving force in the marketplace in conjunction with a small direct team to drive early adopters," Zannos said.

Canonical's channel has been growing rapidly in recent months, and Zannos said the vendor just reached the 50 partner milestone—a mix of global resellers, VARs and systems integrators.

Many in the OpenStack community believe the greatest obstacle to more widespread adoption is the lack of engineers with technical expertise, and the trepidation around using OpenStack felt by those uninitiated in its mysteries.

"The biggest thing we see as inhibiting the adoption of OpenStack is the fact that we need many more qualified people in the OpenStack community," Zannos told CRN. "We don't see the full potential of adoption occurring as fast as we think it should. We see the market wanting it to occur, but it won't until we fill the ranks of our partners and customers."

Imparting greater expertise to solution providers should help make it easier for potential customers to find and implement OpenStack solutions. "A different approach to solving the same problem" is by delivering OpenStack as a service, which Canonical is doing with an offering called BootStack, Zannos said.

BootStack is designed to help customers quickly deploy the OpenStack platform on- or off-premise, with Canonical handling all operations and management duties.

"What we're trying to do is help them get an environment very quickly up and running," Zannos told CRN.

The managed OpenStack product is also being brought to market through partners, including Alliance Technology Group, a systems integrator based in Hanover, Maryland which will be promoting that solution to businesses and adding value to it, said Chris Williams, VP of the company's OpenStack division.

"Our partnership with Canonical allows Alliance to deliver solutions that leverage this incredibly solid foundation, and extend those solutions across an entire ecosystem with a common user experience, in a flexible, scalable, and secure way," Williams told CRN via email.

"Providing managed services at the core of these solutions will allow many of our clients to focus on higher-value activities while consuming private on-premise cloud as a service," he added.

But Zannos and Williams both told CRN the managed cloud isn't intended as a permanent solution, at least not for all its users. They hope, at least for some, that BootStack will serve as a short-term proposition, bridging an interim period during which internal IT staff become comfortable with their roles as cloud operators and are ready to take control.

Another way Canonical is trying to advance OpenStack is through its technology partner program, called the OpenStack Interoperability Lab. The consortium has grown to include 30 vendor partners, from Microsoft to Lenovo to NEC.

Zannos told CRN that Canonical is fundamentally a cloud company and a device company, since Ubuntu is optimized to power both those environments. In that sense, Canonical sees the Internet of Things as "where those two efforts collide" and is working to power the next wave of interconnected devices with a lightweight offering called Snappy Ubuntu.

"Canonical has done an exceptional job of developing an operating ecosystem that is incredibly versatile, laying the foundation for hyper-scale public clouds as well as emerging IoT devices and mobile phones," Williams told CRN.