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“I think the future’s been already written, and it’s going to be OpenStack.”

Elliot Bentley
openstack-brian

Red Hat CTO and OpenStack board member Brian Stevens talks to us about Folsom, creating a Foundation and not excluding VMWare.

It’s
been a busy month for OpenStack, and by extension board member (and
Red Hat CTO) Brian Stevens. Last week, the
OpenStack Foundation was
officially launched
with 850 companies and 5,600 individuals
pledging support; this week sees the final release of the latest
and greatest version of OpenStack yet, Folsom.

The release is perhaps the most important yet of OpenStack’s six
releases so far. After all, it’s the first to be considered by Red
Hat to be mature enough for commercial release.

Key is Quantum, the new component allowing “network connectivity as
a service” between interface devices managed by other Openstack
services such as Nova. Although included in the Essex release, it
was only as a “basic framework”.

“It’s now up and running and useful, and people are using it on a
single to thousands of systems,” says Stevens. “To us, that
factored greatly in our plans to wait to productise for our
customers a solution based on Folsom, rather than the Essex
codebase, because we thought this was a pretty needed
ingredient.”

While Red Hat may have not been involved in the project from the
start, by April this year had become the
third-largest
contributor of code to the Essex release. With
Red Hat now one of the eight ‘platinum’ sponsors of the Foundation,
Stevens sits on the its board of
directors
and has been working hard on the “not-glamorous part”
of setting up the Foundation.

One of the most important aspects of an independent Foundation is
that it makes the organisation and product “completely neutral”,
and therefore far more attractive to other companies.

“Prior to the Foundation, RackSpace owned all the assets, things
like the trademark ‘OpenStack’, says Stevens. “RackSpace, on their
own discretion, could decide whether you could even call your
product OpenStack, how you could use the word OpenStack, control
the licensing of their portion of the code on the switch
side.”

The change makes little difference to everyday contributors to the
project, yet is “subtle, but significant”. “The technical stuff
keeps on trucking and running, but I think it gave companies like
ours and probably IBM and HP and other larger companies a better
comfort level, that their investments today are going to be
protected long-term.”

A recent controversy clouded the otherwise sunny founding last
month when VMware, long considered a proprietary rival to
OpenStack, successfully applied as a ‘gold member’ of the
Foundation. Some critics
dubbed the move
as suspicious, but Stevens – who, as a member
of the board of the directors, was part of the vote – is
diplomatic.

“I think that clearly VMware – if we went back to pre-Nicira
acquisition, VMware clearly found OpenStack threatening. No matter
what they say, it’s extremely competitive with their legacy
products – with vSphere – and we’ve all seen disparaging remarks.
Which is fine, that’s just the world of competition.”

But VMware’s purchase of Nicira, which Stevens describes as a
“really strong, necessary ingredient for OpenStack”, left the
company in an odd situation of being “two companies rolled into
one” – one highly competitive with OpenStack, and one actively
contributing.

“So, yes it certainly was a unique conversation at the board level
on membership. I think the board certainly picked the right
outcome,” says Stevens, insisting that “there’s no upside in being
exclusionary on this, as I see it.”

Stevens also plays down any competition with CloudStack, the Apache
project aiming to produce similar cloud software in Java. “As much
as CloudStack is good technology and open sourced, there’s just no
thriving community or industry participation,” he says.

There’s no “ill will” within the Foundation towards CloudStack,
insists Stevens. “I would argue that it’s not that OpenStack is
being dismissive of CloudStack, it’s just not the canvas on which
the industry is going to solve the open cloud promise.

“I think the future’s been already written – that it’s going to be
OpenStack.”

That future includes Grizzly, the next major OpenStack release,
which is set to arrive in 2013. Once Folsom is out the door, the
OpenStack community will meet to hammer out the grisly details at a
design
summit
in San Diego next month.

Red Hat also hope to ship their first commercial edition of
OpenStack early next year, but will face stiff competition from
fellow Foundation members – such as Rackspace, who are
already using OpenStack
to power their cloud offerings.

It’s still too early yet to predict whether OpenStack will live up
to the mantle of the ‘Linux of the cloud’ – but with commercial
releases pending and a fully-operating Foundation, odds are looking
good.

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