Yesterday the news about Rackspace buying Anso Labs, a cloud computing consulting firm who played a big role in developing the compute part of OpenStack project, came out and sent the cloud punditry scrambling for an opinion about its impact on OpenStack. Gavin Clarke wrote an article on The Register raising some concerns about Rackspace pushing its agenda through the OpenStack project. These concerns, even though valid to a certain degree, bordered around FUD putting a question mark over the future of OpenStack project.
The deal leaves Rackspace with all but one seat on the project oversight committee.
That will alarm those in the OpenStack community already worried Rackspace has far too much control of a project that’s supposed to be run by and for the community. OpenStack is under the Apache open-source license.
These concerns will received added impetus given the project’s now expanded to include Cisco and Ubuntu maintainer Canonical on the heals of giant Microsoft and others. Cisco and Microsoft will be unwilling to see a single company running a project they’ve now got a vested interest in.
It is unclear whether the governance process will change to compensate for the new order. OpenStack has just finished a project-management revision process that saw the current board and oversight committee formed at the end of 2010.
I left Anso Labs, and my position as Chief Cloud Architect, shortly before the acquisition by Rackspace. I have retained my seat on the Project Oversight Committee, as the founder and CEO of Piston Cloud Computing, Inc.
Additionally, Vishvananda Ishaya, while an Anso employee and therefore now a Rackspace employee, was elected to the POC by a large majority of OpenStack community members.
Although we continue to be vigilant to any possible problems with the community-driven governance model, so far the only complaints about it have been from outsiders. NTT, for instance, have had substantial influence on the architecture of the project, and have successfully contributed a large number of features (IPv6 support, etc) in the last release. As in any open source project of this size, working code trumps any perceived or proposed authority.
The Anso Labs acquisition is great news for OpenStack – it will allow some of the most core project contributors to continue to focus on what’s best for the platform, with less concern over (and vulnerability to) the vagaries and politics of government subcontracting.
I thought I will take this opportunity to add my own thoughts to the debate.
- The very first time I spoke to OpenStack folks, I was pushing them hard on the role of Rackspace and the lack (at that time) of a proper governance model. They assured me that Rackspace will not drive the direction of the project and a good governance model is waiting to be released. It was eventually released and accepted by all in the community. The fact that companies like Cisco and Canonical have joined the project speaks about the strength of their governance model. There are more than 50 non-Rackspace companies in the community with a sole agenda of making profit. They won’t be part of this community if they sense that the governance model is weak and Rackspace is there with a hidden agenda. In fact, even before I spoke with OpenStack folks for the first time, I had a chance to talk with some of the participating companies including Cloud.com and they were all pretty convinced about the direction of the project.
- I will be naive if I claim that Rackspace has no agenda with the OpenStack project. I see their move as a well calculated hail mary pass done with the expectation that it will completely commoditize at the infrastructure level and push the market competition to adding value on top of the infrastructure. However, I want to point out that the OpenStack community will keep Rackspace at an arm’s length and ensure that the project is not driven by one company’s agenda.
- Moreover, it is evident that FUD mongers have absolutely no clue on the power of a flexible open source license like Apache License. If Rackspace or any other company tries to derail the spirit of a project like OpenStack, this license allows the rest of the participants to fork the project and take it away from the bad boys. My suggestion to these people is that they should take a sabbatical and do some research on the history of open source.
Having been in Open Source evangelism for almost a decade, I have seen much bigger FUDs being unleashed on open source projects by companies disrupted by them and those who have no clue about them. All I can say now is that people should relax, tighten their seat belts and wait for OpenStack to disrupt the Infrastructure Services marketplace, playing a major role in ensuring an open federated cloud ecosystem.