The State of Play

Opinion: OpenStack celebrates third birthday – now it’s time to grow up

Chris Mayer

No one can deny the strides OpenStack has made in 36 months, but are the real challenges just around the corner?

This past Friday, the sprawling collaborative cloud platform
project OpenStack
marked its third birthday
, with 35 celebratory meetups across
the globe.

For a project so young, the amount of press
coverage this event got (this article included) was astounding. Yet
it’s not hard to see why when you consider the number of
heavyweight vendors and contributors now involved in each biannual

Since the project’s formative years, where
Rackspace and NASA paved the way, the number of committers has
grown rapidly and the individual OpenStack components themselves
have blossomed.

According to the stats
published by the OpenStack Foundation
Friday, OpenStack’s first release Austin in October 2010 saw just
20 people play a part in the launch. In April’s Grizzly release,
this figure was 50 times as big, standing at an impressive 1,000
contributors. Similarly the lines of code in OpenStack has
skyrocketed, from just 30,000 at inception to 1.3 million this

Adapting to keep this growth going must seem
like a logistical nightmare, but the creation of the OpenStack
Foundation in 2012, as a centralised body to deal with the entire
project infrastructure, has ensured that OpenStack has fulfilled
its early promise, the rewards of which are just beginning to

Equally important for the project is the number
of enterprise clients stepping forward to show how they use the
project in production. Back at Grizzly Summit, Best Buy and
Bloomberg and Comcast all took to the stage to explain

reveal from CERN
earlier this month that the
Large Hadron Collider research process was underpinned by OpenStack
certainly demonstrates the growing maturity of the
HP’s Elizabeth Krumbach Joseph debunks the
‘OpenStack isn’t used in production anywhere myth’ too.

“It’s a great opportunity for me to rattle off
my list of Fortune 500 companies who use it, but it seems like the
press for that hasn’t quite penetrated as far in the industry as we
may like,” she said on the

OpenStack blog

To suggest OpenStack is mature however is way
wide of the mark. The balance of power in the project still lies
with those who have the deepest pockets. As

The Register’s Tim Phillips
duly points out,
in the past six months, “Red Hat, Rackspace, IBM, Mirantis and HP
dominate the commits” accounting for 63 per cent of the total
commits made in that timel. Is OpenStack really as diverse as the
Foundation claim?

Red Hat have consistently been one of
OpenStack’s biggest backers, with the

largest number of individuals contributing
IBM and HP have both made it known their future cloud projects will
be powered by OpenStack.

Dell got cold feet in May
, deciding to go it

Although unlikely, is there not a danger that
one of the big boys could theoretically break off on their own with
a fork when they feel the time is right? Or could they hold
something back from being pushed upstream?

OpenStack Director Jonathan Bryce didn’t seem
phased by this prospect when he spoke to JAX Magazine back in

“People say how do you keep them [OpenStack
Foundation members] all aligned – how can that work? Every one of
them has been committed to putting that work back into the
codebase, so they’re all working off the same bits,” he

“I think at this point, they realise that the
community as a whole is moving a lot faster than any of them could
by splitting off.”

Keeping all the vendors on the same page has
also been a concern for the OpenStack Foundation, ensuring all
OpenStack distributions and services meet the standard and are
interoperable. To combat this, the Foundation say they are looking
to create an external validation test suite to ensure that products
run and behave as expected.

Plenty of commentators in recent days have
picked up on another sore point for OpenStack – the complete lack
of Amazon-compatibility. Some, like

Simon Wardley
, believe that the early
decision to differentiate from the competition could ultimately be
its undoing.

Today we find that OpenStack has a significant
developer and vendor ecosystem but is categorised by a collective
prisoner dilemma. Forget fidelity with Amazon there isn’t even
fidelity between OpenStack distributions and no well established
mechanism of doing this (though first steps have been made)…

OpenStack IMHO failed to follow the path of pragmatism
and give users what they’ve been screaming for – a market of public
AWS clones.

Rackspace’s Jim Curry
adroitly puts it
“OpenStack is no longer a toddler. Today, it’s three years old. And
like all preschoolers, it’s making amazing strides and having an
occasional fall.”

The strides the project has made in three short
years is impressive but has OpenStack gotten over “the terrible
twos” just yet. Is the real teething phase just around the

The ecosystem is in rude health, in terms of
size and innovative projects, but how the OpenStack Foundation deal
with these array of challenges will ultimately decide who wins this
open cloud war. A winner hasn’t been crowned yet.

In any case, Happy 3rd Birthday OpenStack –
here’s to the next three!

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