OpenStack’s Troublesome Inflection Point

There is no doubt that OpenStack continues to be a hot topic within the open source community.  However, with VMware’s acquisition of Nicira and their new Gold Member Sponsorship of OpenStack, have we reached a troubling inflection point?

OpenStack bills itself as producing a ‘ubiquitous open source cloud computing platform for public and private clouds’.  For many within the community, OpenStack was the antithesis of VMware, and there was an urgency to stop VMware from becoming the next Microsoft within cloud computing.  What transpired was a breathtaking display of the power of open source development as OpenStack grew from it’s founding by NASA and Rackspace into its own brand with over 5500 people and 192 companies participating in the project.

The key word is ‘project’ as OpenStack is not a completed solution or software product.  Instead it is a collection of projects in various states of maturity.  For example, who can deny that Swift (OpenStack Storage) isn’t a marvelous solution.  However, for Nova (OpenStack Compute) there is debate as one of OpenStack’s own founders and commercializers, PistonCloud chooses to build their solution on Diablo (one release back) rather than Essex.

Furthermore, isn’t it hypocritical for OpenStack to virtually cheer the removal of Microsoft Hyper-V support from Essex yet embrace VMware’s joining the movement?  To dare to allow the inference that it is the ‘Linux for the cloud’ without proper governance and transparency?  To promote OpenStack vs. Amazon and others when the reality is OpenStack is simply an enabling technology and not the completed solution?  And, to become dangerously close to allowing large corporations with competing interests to control the project as a whole?

The fact remains, OpenStack is a fantastic project that has been over-hyped and has not yet produced a commercial success.  Meanwhile, Amazon continues to innovate and disrupt the public cloud, Citrix and Eucalyptus continue to innovate and disrupt with new deployments, and PaaS is rapidly becoming a force. Simply having an OpenStack cloud isn’t enough to win this market and new offerings from HP and Rackspace offer many more features than OpenStack itself.  Rackspace is a contributor and founder of OpenStack, but their future rests not only on the open source project but also on how well they differentiate themselves from its member's offerings.

Finally, what happens to OpenStack if VMware creates vOpenStack Suite?  Does Microsoft counter with Hyper-OpenStack?  With Red Hat already offering a preview of Enterprise-Ready OpenStack, how far away are these competing offerings?  What would this do to the community?  After-all, developers don’t want to see their contributions supporting large corporations giant profits.  Also, do competing corporations really want to see their contributed code being used by competitors?

As OpenStack enters this troublesome inflection point, the success and failure of this project lies within the developers and individuals who created this great project.


Image via Treacy Marketing Group



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