It has been 2+ years since OpenStack was launched and the project is slowly maturing as organizations are exploring the use of OpenStack for their private cloud needs. As money gets into the ecosystem, it is natural for bickering to start among the ecosystem players. In fact, naysayers of the project has been saying this from the very inception of the project. During the honeymoon phase, the OpenStack ecosystem players came together and dismissed the arguments as biased. But as money starts coming in through the market and business pressures overwhelm any altruistic intentions, the tensions are going to rise in the ecosystem. More importantly, it is a natural evolution of any community open source project with commercial interests.
In fact, the bickering has already started. I have been hearing from every single company in the OpenStack ecosystem and they are all critical of every other company in the ecosystem. The honeymoon phase is over and now it is just the dynamics involving pure business interests. Every company will try to convince pundits, journalists and customers that theirs is the best edition of OpenStack and everyone else’s offering is substandard. To be fair to them, this is the only way they can differentiate when their business model is based on open source where the forces of commoditzation are in full speed.
While the OpenStack naysayers might be feeling happy about this, I am going to argue that it doesn’t matter. The reason is simple. Whether by design or by accident, every single player in the ecosystem has major stake in the success of the project. For many companies, their very competitive existence is based on the success and longevity of this project. Their business posturing will not (should not) affect the development. Yes, as companies go further with their business based on OpenStack, the realities are going to force them to push the project in a direction suitable for them. This will definitely create ruckus in the mailing list and conferences. But if you have spent anytime in open source, you will understand that it is just a normal behavior in the community. You will understand that it is not unique to OpenStack. Also, every single OpenStack ecosystem player understand that they cannot fork the community and survive on their own. The so called invisible hand (remember, open source communities are perfect examples of free market behavior) will keep the participants honest to the project and ensure the longevity.
However, there are few things which I think is important for the community to consider at this stage than at a later stage where the discussions could get even more complicated than US fiscal cliff discussions. I will highlight them here for the sake of kick starting discussions and it is up to the OpenStack community to ignore at their peril.
- As I told many times in the past and, most recently, during the IBM #cloudchat, transparency is key. If Steve Ballmer was leading OpenStack and was hell bent on its success, he will be jumping up and down the stage of OpenStack conference shouting “transparency, transparency, transparency, transparency, ……..”
- It is important to bring enterprise end-users and service providers into the community and encourage them to contribute code. It is important to highlight that their participation is key to the success of OpenStack and, in turn, to their own success if they are betting on OpenStack.
- It is important that all these end-users vote in the OpenStack individual board elections so that people from vendors who are not part of the platinum and gold sponsorship get elected along with actual end-users. A quick look at the list of people participating in the election reveals the same vendors and it is not going to help the project in any way.
Well, these are some thoughts that came to my mind after a discussion with an industry colleague on the state of OpenStack. I am open to hearing from you on this issue as I feel that any discussion is good for that open source community and cloud market (in general).