10 pounds of OpenStack cloud in a 5 pound bag? Do we need a bigger bag?

Yesterday, I posted about cloud distruptors that are pushing the boundaries of cloud. The same forces pull at OpenStack where we are working to balance between including all aspects of running workloads and focusing on a stable foundation.

Note: I am seeking re-election to the 2015 OpenStack Board.  Voting starts 1/12.

For weeks, I’ve been reading and listening to people inside and outside the community.  There is considerable angst about the direction of OpenStack.  We need to be honest and positive about challenges without simply throwing stones in our hall of mirrors.

Closing 2014, OpenStack has gotten very big, very fast.  We’ve exploded scope, contributions and commercial participants.  Unfortunately, our process infrastructure (especially the governance by-laws) simply have not kept pace.  It’s not a matter of scaling processes we’ve got; many of the challenges created by growth require new approaches and thinking (Thierry’s post).

OpenStack BagIn 2015, we’re trying to put 10 pounds of OpenStack in a 5 pound bag.  That means we have to either a) shed 5 pounds or b) get a bigger bag.  In classic OpenStack style, we’re sort of doing both: identifying a foundational base while expanding to allow more subprojects.

To my ear, most users, operators and business people would like to see the focus being on the getting the integrated release scope solid.  So, in spirit of finding 5 pounds to shave, I’ve got five “shovel ready” items that should help:

  1. Prioritizing stability as our #1 feature.  Accomplishing this will require across the broad alignment of the vendor’s product managers to hold back on their individual priorities in favor of community.  We’ve started this effort but it’s going to take time to create the collaboration needed.
  2. Sending a clear signal about the required baseline for OpenStack.  That’s the purpose of DefCore and should be felt as we work on the Icehouse and Juno definitions.
  3. Alignment of the Board DefCore project with Technical Committee’s Levels/Big Tent initiative.  By design, these efforts interconnect.  We need to make sure the work is coordinated so that we send a clearly aligned message to the technical, operator, vendor and user communities.
  4. Accelerate changes from single node gate to something that’s either a) more services focused or b) multi-node.  OpenStack’s scale of community development  requires automation to validate the new contributions do not harm the existing code base (the gate).  The current single-node gate does not reflect the multi-node environments that users target with the code.  While it’s technically challenging to address this mismatch, it’s also essential so we ensure that we’re able to validate multi-node features.
  5. Continue to reduce drama in the open source processes.   OpenStack is infrastructure software that should enable an exciting and dynamic next generation of IT.  I hear people talk about CloudStack as “it’s not as exciting or active a community but their stuff just works.”  That’s what enterprises and operators want.  Drama is great for grabbing headings but not so great for building solid infrastructure.

What is the downside to OpenStack if we cannot accomplish these changes?  Forks.

I already see a clear pattern where vendors are creating their own distros (which are basically shallow forks) to preserve their own delivery cycle.  OpenStack’s success is tied to its utility for the customers of vendors who fund the contributors.  When the cost of being part of the community outweighs the value, those shallow forks may become true independent products.

In the case of potential forks, they allow vendors to create their own bag and pick how many pounds of cloud they want to carry.  It’s our job as a community in 2015 to make sure that we’ve reduced that temptation.

1/9/15 Note: Here’s the original analogy image used for this post

Seven Cloud Success Criteria to consider before you pick a platform

From my desk at Dell, I have a unique perspective.   In addition to a constant stream of deep customer interactions about our many cloud solutions (even going back pre-OpenStack to Joyent & Eucalyptus), I have been an active advocate for OpenStack, involved in many discussions with and about CloudStack and regularly talk shop with Dell’s VIS Creator (our enterprise focused virtualization products) teams.  And, if you go back ten years to 2002, patented the concept of hybrid clouds with Dave McCrory.

Rather than offering opinions in the Cloud v. Cloud fray, I’m suggesting that cloud success means taking a system view.

Platform choice is only part of the decision: operational readiness, application types and organization culture are critical foundations before platform.

Over the last two years at Dell, I found seven points outweigh customers’ choice of platform.

  1. Running clouds requires building operational expertise both at the application and infrastructure layers.  CloudOps is real.
  2. Application architectures matter for cloud deployment because they can redefine the SLA requirements and API expectations
  3. Development community and collaboration is a significant value because sharing around open operations offers significant returns.
  4. We need to build an accelerating pace of innovation into our core operating principles
  5. There are still significant technology gaps to fill (networking & storage) and we will discover new gaps as we go
  6. We can no longer discuss public and private clouds as distinct concepts.   True hybrid clouds are not here yet, but everyone can already see their massive shadow.
  7. There is always more than one right technological answer.  Avoid analysis paralysis by making incrementally correct decisions (committing, moving forward, learning and then re-evaluating).

OpenStack Meetup 4/12: Austin at Summit, DevStack Essex

Austin Stackers!  This Thursday is our April meetup at the Austin TechRanch.

Please RSVP so that we know how much food to get!  SUSE is this Month’s sponsor for food and my team at Dell continues to pickup the room rental.  We have 35 RSVPs as of Monday noon – this will be another popular meeting (last meeting minutes).

Topics for the meetup are:

With the Summit next week, I think it is very important that we pre-discuss Summit topics and priorities as a community.  It will help us be more productive individually and for our collective interests when we engage the larger community next week.

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.