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).