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OpenNebula introduce “Fund a Feature” program

Chris Mayer
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The company behind open source cloud IaaS manager project will let backers set the speed at which features arrive. Is it the right decision?

Standing out in the cloud infrastructure race isn’t easy. OpenStack and CloudStack seem to be  at the forefront of the enterprise mind, when there are other viable alternatives lurking on the sidelines, such as Eucalyptus, that deserve equal attention.

One infrastructure toolkit that’s comparatively a veteran to the rest is OpenNebula, having released its first version in March 2008. The open source orchestrator that initially began life as a research project before expanding with C12G Labs for an enterprise assault in 2010. The Spanish company has attained modest success in Europe but is in danger of being lost in the noise because of the multi-vendor projects.

To retain community interest, those behind the project have announced the “Fund a Feature” program, letting corporate users with the available cash help speed up the development of certain aspects of OpenNebula. Enterprises using the project can effectively now request to  ‘fast-track’ code or driver enhancements if they can stump up the cash for it.

An OpenNebula blogpost explains how it all will work:

The development of new features occur in the public repository of OpenNebula, and the new code undergoes the testing, continuous integration, and QA processes of OpenNebula before its incorporation into the main OpenNebula distribution. The new code and documentation will publicly acknowledge your funding support, and the OpenNebula web site will include your name on the list of featured contributors.

It’s a bold move by the Spanish firm to let enterprises so openly dictate the roadmap of their project. Theoretically, this option will allow the larger vendors to get greater value out of the project which they’ve backed already. However prioritising their needs above those without deep pockets is dangerous, as the community as a whole won’t be as equally represented. Those with less money might not get their voice heard as strongly when it comes to the roadmap.

Speaking to GigaOM, OpenNebula director Ignacio Llorente however believes that the program doesn’t conflict with the open values of the project and that the community at large would “completely benefit”.

“I think it is in the spirit of open source. We are not changing our way to prioritize the roadmap. We have resources that we use to enhance OpenNebula according to the needs of our users, this will not change either,” he explains.

Vendor roadmap control isn’t a new concept really – the direction of rival OpenStack is driven by the companies in the OpenStack Foundation. Should they wish, they can choose to hold back components for their own proprietary OpenStack product.

OpenNebula’s choice to let funding dictate the speed at which future features arrive makes sense, but they need to make sure that the cheques of one company don’t throw the project off its true course.

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