Note: I’ve served on the OpenStack Foundation board since its formation. There I’ve led the “define the core” DefCore efforts. I’m on the 2016 ballot for another term.
I love using end-of-year posts to reflect (2015, I got 6 of 7!) and try to set direction (OpenStack needed to prioritize). This year, I wanted to use a simple “Continue, Stop, Change” format that I’ve used for employee reviews in the past. These three items reflect how I think OpenStack needs to respond to the industry in 206.
Continue: Focus on Core
OpenStack adoption continues around the legacy projects that traditionally define it for most users. A lot of work and focus is needed around those projects including better representation of user, operator and product interests.
Towards that end, we’ve made amazing progress on DefCore implementation and I’m excited about the discussions that it’s been generating. It’s driving pragmatic decisions about what is required (running a vm?) and how to verify compliance. It’s also driving conceptual thinking around OpenStack principles and ecosystem priorities.
DefCore’s focus on using community tests to define OpenStack creates a very concrete and defensible standard. Ultimately, it comes back to users and operators demanding compliance for the work to remain meaningful.
Overall, To focus on core function, OpenStack needs to empower new groups within the community. Expanding the role of the Product Group, Operators, and User Committee are key to giving a voice to these constituents.
OpenStack core must transition into a consistent platform or it risks becoming irrelevant.
Stop: Confusing The Ecosystem
I’m concerned about the “big tent” governance change puts OpenStack into conflict with both community vendors and the larger cloud market. I believe we’re creating an echo chamber of OpenStack on OpenStack focus that forces adjacent efforts (like software defined network, storage and container orchestration) to be either inside or outside the community circle. While that artificially grows the apparent contributor base, it creates artificial walls between OpenStack and the dominate cloud platforms.
Let me illustrate using my own company, RackN. We create cross-platform devops orchestration based on an open source project, Digital Rebar. We consider ourselves to be part of the OpenStack community and have supported deploying the core. We also provision bare metal and deploy Kubernetes, Docker Swarm and Cloud Foundry. That has apparent conflicts with big tent Ironic and Magnum projects. Does that make RackN competitive with OpenStack or not?
It hurts OpenStack when competitive alignment is unclear because vendors, users and operators are uncertain about where to make investments. In the end, users will choose simpler alternatives.
I believe the Board needs to define the OpenStack ecosystem strategy in a clear and actionable way. If re-elected, that will be my Board priority for 2016.
Change: Hybrid Approach
My top 2016 prediction (post coming) is that we accept “hybrid IT as the new normal.” That means that we stop driving towards an IT mono-culture and start working towards tools that embrace heterogeneity. Along those lines, OpenStack needs to evaluate our relative position and strengths in a hybrid cloud landscape.
Interoperability between OpenStack implementations is important because it reduces friction; however, we need to expand our thinking to ensure interoperability with other platforms. That does not mean simply cloning the AWS APIs! It means that we need to consider users and operator needs against a spectrum of private and public infrastructures.
A broader hybrid approach also suggests that duplicating cloud-locked adjacent services (e.g. Cloud Formation vs. Heat) does not address user needs.
I am advocating that OpenStack encourage a cloud-neutral ecosystem, outside of the OpenStack tent, that work across a wide range of platforms. That leads to user choice and creates a truly open platform.
And, of course, more Community Discussion!
I want to thank the many people who participated in a heated twitter discussion in advance of this post. There are many great ideas and counter-points covered in that lengthy dialog.
Do you have an opinion about what to OpenStack should stop, accelerate or change? I’d love to hear it!