Dr. Seuss once said, “Fantasy is a necessary ingredient in living, it’s a way of looking at life through the wrong end of a telescope, and that enables you to laugh at life’s realities.”
As of late, the fantasy topic of “who’s dominating OpenStack” seems to be tops on the speculation list. Speculation, hype, and colorful personalities have always generated a large amount of individual attention within OpenStack, but a particularly hot topic lately seems to be who will take control of the project and become the dominant OpenStack-based solution. Despite the assertions and commentary, there is no “king of OpenStack” — and there never will be. Furthermore, it’s time we look through the telescope from the other end and think about what’s best for the overall community.
I say this because OpenStack isn’t structured that way; that is, OpenStack itself creates a barrier to dominance. OpenStack’s foundational structure precludes and promotes transparency, inclusion, and leadership through meritocracy rather than a dictatorship. The following four reasons show why OpenStack is a thriving community of innovation that does not require a dominant individual player.
Competition. Of course, each contributor is competitive and working to effectively use OpenStack in their respective individual offerings. But the competitive nature of the vendors involved precludes there being a single dominant voice. Remember, more than 300 different organizations, companies, members, and sponsors are involved in OpenStack, so the “where” and the “who” that appear to dominate are partially a function of which market you follow, the vendors involved, and their own trumpeting of their accomplishments. Ultimately, the opportunity that exists for OpenStack produces healthy competition, but it’s not a game of winners and losers. If all contribute effectively, there will be many winners as a result of OpenStack’s success.
Size matters. At this year’s OpenStack Summit in Atlanta, we had a record number of attendees examining everything from best practices to future innovations surrounding the next release (that’s Juno, for those keeping track, slated for October). Because OpenStack touches virtually every industry, from financial services to streaming media, it’s virtually impossible for one vendor to dominate. There are opportunities within all markets, of all sizes, using a wide variety of individual technologies that help organizations benefit from the cloud. The depth and breadth of the industries present throughout the community means there is a melting pot of innovation as opposed to a split.
Community. Communities in general are nurturing environments to thrive, and OpenStack is no exception. A healthy community will self-govern, flourish, and keep members in check — tenets the OpenStack community embraces wholeheartedly. The positive, inclusive nature of the participants is what steadies the community, especially as membership and vendor involvement grows.
Variety. Just as in life, in IT there is no “one size fits all” cloud solution. Data center managers know they have a number of choices when it comes to cloud solutions. Regardless of the size of your data center, the selection of a solution is a heavy undertaking not to be taken lightly. In other words, just as enterprises won’t standardize on proprietary solutions, they won’t settle for standardization in an open-source solution. That freedom of choice is what brings enterprises to open source solutions in the first place.
Sometimes looking through the wrong end of the telescope helps us remember that we are all working toward the same goals. As the community grows, matures and embraces new ideas, it will be imperative to keep these points in mind. OpenStack will continue its upward trajectory, so it’s important that we embrace the wide variety of opportunity that exists throughout the community.
Alan Clark is board chairman of the OpenStack Foundation. He also sits on the board of the Linux Foundation. He works as director of industry initiatives, emerging standards, and open source at Linux operating-system company SUSE.
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