OpenStack Sure to Maintain Rapid Pace of Upgrades, App Development

NEWS ANALYSIS: All of the questions facing OpenStack's leadership sound like the teasers to future episodes of the latest cable TV miniseries.

Should OpenStack slow down its frantic twice-a-year upgrade pace, or should the open-source coders pound harder to take on ever new modules and markets? Can OpenStack really be turned into a click-and-deploy set of services, or will it always require trained (and scarce) engineers to get the engine running?

With big, traditional tech vendors taking the OpenStack pledge and joining the federation, how do you maintain the rebels with a cause emotion amid the international community that has pushed the software stack through nine versions? How can you align the OpenStack goals amid many competing parties without installing a code dictator to settle arguments with a heavy gavel?

These are some of the questions being asked on-stage and over coffee and drinks at this week's OpenStack Summit. While there are no easy answers to any of those questions, there was a slight move to consensus among the attendees I spoke with.

The arguments and counter-arguments play out like one of those miniseries where you never quite get to a resolution until the final episode. Here is how the series is currently developing:

Slowing down the OpenStack pace is not going to happen. Developers like to work on gnarly new projects, and OpenStack offers those projects in spades. Whereas OpenStack started with the Nova (compute) and Swift (object storage) projects in 2010, the stack has continued to evolve into all aspects of enterprise computing and networking.

Lots of heavy lifting remains to be done, including additional networking capabilities, federation with cloud services outside the corporate premises and mobile capabilities for a smartphone-based world. The trick for the federation will be to add in operations and code review techies able to take part in software development from the start of a project. I expect to see OpenStack take an increasingly larger view of computing beyond the confines of the corporation.

Making it easier to deploy, maintain and upgrade OpenStack installations is an opportunity vendors are eager to seize. Red Hat, Dell, SolidFire and Ubuntu all offered varieties of reference architectures, prebuilt stacks and rapid deployment options for OpenStack. Deploying a new IT infrastructure has never been a simple task, but over the next year the deployment options will only increase. Businesses should be asking themselves what will be the new applications and business opportunities they can undertake if they embark on an OpenStack strategy, rather than worrying about if they can get over the deployment speed bump.

Big vendors (Hewlett-Packard, Dell, Cisco, IBM) endorsing OpenStack is a validation stamp that will encourage enterprise deployments. While the many developers writing OpenStack code for free generates enthusiasm, vendors bring money. For example, VMware is offering to help fund travel for coders unable to make it to the next summit in Paris. The tech vendors will encourage OpenStack deployments, which in turn will create job opportunities for stack specialists. Validation and financial stability are positive attributes that organizations such as OpenStack require.

Looking to bring in an OpenStack leader with dictatorial rather than coding skills is a big mistake. The raucous, democratic open nature of the OpenStack process has proved successful through nine versions, and developing a rule-bound bureaucracy would drive away developers and run counter to the developer's philosophy of rapid application production updated at a rapid pace. While much of the tech vendor community developed under strong leaders (Larry Ellison, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs), that model does not hold for community-driven projects requiring consensus and volunteer labor.

Tune in next week for the latest new players and plot twists, but OpenStack is one of those rare big software projects evolving right before our eyes, and so expect to see a new set of characters, projects and arguments by the fall summit in Paris.

Eric Lundquist is a technology analyst at Ziff Brothers Investments, a private investment firm. Lundquist, who was editor-in-chief at eWEEK (previously PC WEEK) from 1996-2008, authored this article for eWEEK to share his thoughts on technology, products and services. No investment advice is offered in this article. All duties are disclaimed. Lundquist works separately for a private investment firm, which may at any time invest in companies whose products are discussed in this article and no disclosure of securities transactions will be made.