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Who Uses OpenStack? Cloud Adoption Strategies

People often ask me, “Who uses OpenStack?” and “What are they using it for?” Perhaps that’s best answered by OpenStack’s own regular user survey. From there we can find the below chart, showing the breakdown of who uses OpenStack across sectors.

Figure 1 Breakdown of users by sector (Source:

The breakdown of who uses OpenStack across sectors is not at all surprising, with IT and telecoms companies leading the way, as illustrated in Figure 2.

Size of Companies Who Use OpenStack

Figure 2 Size of OpenStack user organisations (Source:

Given the complexity of deploying an OpenStack cloud, it makes sense that larger organisations with over 1000 employees or more dominate the list of companies who use OpenStack. They can absorb the loss of risky projects and have sufficient research budget to explore its benefits. What is more interesting is that there are significant numbers of smaller organisations represented (there were 1111 responses), although their motivations are not clear. For example, they may have been contracted by larger organisations to explore and provide consultancy on the technology and not have an interest of their own.

Who Uses OpenStack: Business Drivers

The top business drivers for adopting OpenStack are illustrated in Figure 3. While vendor lock-in is a subject of debatable importance (at least from a cloud security perspective), many of the drivers here are likewise not surprising.

Figure 3 Top business drivers for adopting OpenStack (Source:

What is perhaps missing from this picture is the view of organisations not adopting OpenStack. For some organisations, producing a private cloud might be seen as a substantial investment, so opt for third-party offerings, based on either OpenStack or an alternative platform such as Amazon Web Services (AWS). Figure 4 shows which cloud services application developers are also using. The report notes that ‘App developers who noted other clouds beyond the five given choices also mentioned DigitalOcean, Joyent, VMware vCloud/Sphere, CloudStack, CloudSigma, IBM Softlayer, and Oracle Cloud.’ So despite the dominance of AWS, Azure and Google’s cloud offerings, there are still many popular second tier choices.

The report does not include hybrid cloud (except as listed under ‘emerging technologies’ that organisations are considering), but there is data on the use of private and public cloud approaches (Figure 4). Not surprisingly, OpenStack is mainly deployed in a single tenant capacity, however the below graph suggests that few organisations are yet willing to deploy all their data onto a public cloud environment. Clearly factors such as security are still important in the journey to cloud adoption.

Figure 4 Approach to cloud provision by OpenStack users; the shading represents use for production, development, and proof of concept (Source:

It’s also worth noting that cloud adopters are still heavily invested in public cloud offerings, suggesting these OpenStack is currently seen as a piece of the cloud adoption strategy, rather than the strategic solution. (Figure 5). AWS is still the most popular to organisations.

Figure 5 Use of secondary cloud services by OpenStack app users

Who Uses OpenStack: Use Cases

For me, the most interesting data from the report is the use of OpenStack in terms of applications (Figure 6). While the graph below indicates a wide range of applications, with Dev, Test and QA are leading the way. This reflects the real world usage we commonly encounter at SCS. Many companies are repurposing their data centres to maximise utilisation, increase visibility and importantly, aid their journey to the cloud while winding down long-term leases.

Openstack Use Cases
Figure 6 Common application breakdown of who uses OpenStack; the shading represents use for production, development, and proof of concept.

This last point underlines one of the most promising use cases for the technology. While many companies are adopting ‘cloud first’ strategies, OpenStack can be used to deliver maximum value from legacy infrastructure while enabling companies to gradually wind down their technology footprint.

This purpose alone may be the niche OpenStack was looking for and will ensure it remains an important strategic platform for some years to come.

If you want to know more about the user community you can review the OpenStack user survey report.