OpenStack vs CloudStack? It’s about open innovation.

Yesterday, I got a short drive in a “Kick-Ass” Fisker Karma.  As someone who converted a car to electric, it was a great treat to see the amazing quality, polish and sophistication of the Karma.  Especially since, six years ago, I had to build my own EV.  Today there is a diversity of choices ranging from the Nissan, GM, Tesla, Aptera, Fisker and others.  Yet even with all these choices, EVs are far from the main stream.

How does that relate to Cloud *aaS?  It’s all about innovation cycles and adoption.

Cloud platforms (really, IaaS software) have transformed from DIY to vibrant projects in the last few years; however, we still don’t know what the finished products will look like – we are only at the beginning of the innovation cycle.

With yesterday’s Citrix’s “CloudStack joins Apache” announcement painted as a shot against OpenStack, it is tempting to get pulled into a polarized view of the right or wrong way to implement cloud software (NetworkWorld,  JavaWorld, CloudPundit).  I think that feature by feature comparisons miss the real dynamics of the cloud market.

The question is not about features today, it is about forward velocity tomorrow.  There are important areas needing technology development (network, storage, etc) in the cloud infrastructure space.  

So the real story, expressed eloquently by Thierry Carrez, is about open collaboration and the resulting pace of innovation.  That means that I consider all the cloud platforms in the market to be immature because we are still learning the scope of the “cloud” opportunity.

The critical question is how the various cloud projects will maintain growth and adopt innovation.  Like the current generation of EVs, we must both prove value in production and demonstrate our ability to learn and improve.

The Citrix decision to submit CloudStack to the Apache Foundation underscores this point: success of projects is about attracting collaboration and innovation.

From the perspective of building innovation and attracting developers, the tension between OpenStack and CloudStack is very real.

Don’t fork it up. OpenStack needs community collaboration

Cant we just be friends?

We’re standing on the eve of the OpenStack 4th Design summit (aka Essex) and I’m watching a frenzy of IT Goliaths (Dell, Citrix, Cisco, HP, Rackspace) and some Cloud Davids (Nebula, Stackops) try to tangle revenue streams from an open source cloud project.

I was pleased to read GigaOM‘s Derrick Harris validation of Dell’s strategy which featured my team’s contributions (Crowbar, OpenStack & Hadoop).  We are working hard to bring these technologies to our customers in an open and collaborative way.

Dell has substantial IT assets to bring to bear on cloud solutions.  All of them are ultimately tied to products that generate revenue for Dell; however, that does not prevent our being able to collaborate and share.  On the contrary, we benefiting from input from our partners, customers and community to determine which features are needed to accelerate adoption.  Our recent decision to accelerate Crowbar modularization is a clear example of that process.

It is essential to understand that this is not just about cloud technologies!  It is about the collaborative way we are promoting them and the processes we are using to deliver them.

With Dell’s cloud moving at hurricane speed, it has been interesting to watch how other companies are setting their own OpenStack initiatives.  It seems to me that many of these efforts involve forks from OpenStack that cannot/will not be contributed back the community.  One (but not the only) example is from HP’s Emil Sayegh who says that “HP developers … ideas will be shared…”  He does not commit to sharing HP’s code in his post.  I hope that is an oversight and not their plan.

In time, forking may be needed.  Right now, we need to focus on building a strong foundation.  Open contributions of code are the engine of that success.

The OpenStack Rocket: How Citrix, Dell & Rackspace collaboration propels OpenStack

OpenStack has grown amazingly and picked up serious corporate support in its first year.  Understanding how helps to explain why the initiative has legs and where adopters should invest.  While OpenStack has picked up a lot of industry partners, early participation by Dell and Citrix have been important to a meteoric trajectory.

So why are we (Dell) working so hard to light a fire under OpenStack?

To explain OpenStack support and momentum, we have to start with a self-reflective fact: Dell (my employer), Citrix and Rackspace are seeking to gain the dominate positions in their respective areas of “cloud.”  Individually, we have competitors in more entrenched positions for cloud silos in solutions, ecosystem, and hypervisor; however, our competitors are not acting in concertto maintain their position.   

OpenStack offers an opportunity for companies trying to gain market share to leverage the strengths of partners against their competitors.

The surprising aspect of OpenStack is how much better this collaboration is working in practice than in theory.  This, dare I say it, synergistic benefit comes to OpenStack from all the partners (Dell, Citrix, Rackspace and others) working together because:

  1. Real scale clouds are big and complex with a lot of moving pieces (too big for a single vendor)
  2. A vibrant ecosystem needs to see commercial commitment from large players (and avoids lock-in)
  3. Having alternatives drives innovation and manages costs (because differentiation is still needed)
  4. Interlocking expertise is required (because no vendor has all the pieces)
  5. Customer needs are diverse and changing (since cloud is accelerating the rate of innovation)

Today, three major cloud players are standing together to demonstrate commitment to the community.  This announcement is a foundation for the OpenStack ecosystem.  In the next few months, I expect to see more and more collaborative announcements as the community proves the value of working together.

By aligning around an open platform, we collectively out flank previously dominant players who choose to go it alone.  The technology is promising; however, the power of OpenStack flows mainly from the ecosystem that we are building together.

Rackspace will balance control of OpenStack. It takes time & strong partners

Rick Clark’s post “Why I Left Rackspace and What About Openstack” (+ his softer post script) is part of a longer conversation that started when Rackspace acquired Anso Labs and was expanded with the resignation of Chris Kemp (NASA CTO & OpenStack #1 fanboy).

Building a community is a delicate balance: you need show leadership while you cultivate leadership.

Putting aside the context (resigning from Rackspace to join Cisco) of his post, I think that Rick’s comments do resonate with parts of the community.  OpenStack goverance became unbalanced when Anso became Rackspace.  The governance board formed at the Austin conference was dominated by a small number (2: NASA/Anso & Rackspace) of highly committed voices but there was no single master.

Considering OpenStack’s momentum, we are in a very good position to fix the single master problem.  However, it takes time.  While companies like Dell (my employer), NTT, Citrix, Cisco (Rick’s employer), and Microsoft are clearly investing in OpenStack, none have yet achieved NASA or Rackspace’s level of technical committment.

The challenge for Rackspace is to expand the OpenStack market and ecosystem so that partners are motivated to jump in more and more quickly.  If my experiences inside Dell are indicative of the broader community, Rackspace’s leadership makes it much easier for partners to increase their own commitment.  Like teaching my daughter to ride her bike, she needed to know that I was running next to her before she would pedal hard enough to balance by herself.

Like teaching bike riding – you can’t lead communities too hard or too lightly.

To build a community around OpenStack, we (the partners) need to stand up our own capability.  Until we have demonstrated more leadership, Rackspace must cultivate both a community and a market.  This is a challenging role to balance.  While the community wants distributed ownership, the market wants leadership.  Rick’s governance comments are evidence of this struggle and Rick’s move to Cisco is an indication of leadership diversification.

I believe that Rackspace is committed to distributed ownership – we, in the community, need to rise to the challenge!

OpenStack still needs strong leadership from Rackspace because the market needs someone to be accountable for releases and features.  That allows new partners to depend on someone to run beside them while the wobble their way along to independence.  As the community leaders stand up, we’ll see a balanced community emerge.  The challenge is on us to make that happen (and happen quickly).

OpenStack videos peek into cloud shakers

Barton George (Dell’s cloud evangalist and cloud shouter) has posted videos from the OpenStack conference last week:

OpenStack Bexar Design Summit Day 1

Yesterday, Dell sent me to be part of our OpenStack vanguard for the design summit.  The conference is fascinating and productive for the content of the sessions and even more interesting for the hallway meetings.

It’s obvious looking at the board composition that RackSpace and NASA Nova are driving  most of the development; however, the is palpable community interest and enthusiasm.  Participants and contributors showed up in force at this event.

RackSpace and NASA leadership provides critical momentum for the community.  Code is the smallest part of their contribution, their commitment to run the code at scale in production is the magic rocket fuel powering OpenStack. I’ve had many conversations with partners and prospects planning to follow RackSpace into production with a 3-6 month lag.

Beyond that primary conference arc, my impressions:

  • Core vendors like Citrix, Dell, Canonical are signing up to do primary work for the code base.  They are taking ownership for their own components in the stack.
  • Universally, people comment about the speed of progress and amount of code being generated.  Did I mention that there is a lot of code being written.
  • Networking is still a major challenge.  OpenStack (with Citrix’s Xen support) is driving Open vSwitchas a replacement for iptables management.
  • IPv6 gets lackadaisical treatment in the US, but is urgent in Japan/Asia where their core infrastructure is ALREADY IPv6.  Their frustration to get attention here should be a canary in the cloud mine (but is not).  They proposed a gateway model where VMs have dual addresses: IPv4 gets NATed while IPv6 is a pass-through. Seems to me that the going IPv6 internal is the real solution.
  • Cloud bursting is still too fuzzy a thing to talk about in a big group.  The session about it covered so many use-cases that we did not accomplish anything.  Some people wanted to talk about cloud API proxy while others (myself included) wanted to talk about managing apps between clouds.  My $0.02 is that vendors like RightScale solve the API proxy issue so it’s the networking issues that need focus.  We need to get back to the use-cases!

Executive Tweet: #openstack: Partners & Code = great progress.  Networking = needs more love

Other notes: