Why Contributing to OpenStack Makes Sense for Vendors

An OpenStack Summit panel in Tokyo tackles questions of community and competition with Amazon.


TOKYO—At the OpenStack Summit here, there have been a number of common themes and questions that keep surfacing. Time and again panels are discussing why contributions matter and how Amazon is or isn't the competition.

One such panel session was titled "The OpenStack Orchestra: The Next Wave of OpenStack Specialist Startups," and included executives from Mirantis, Tesora, SwiftStack and PLUMgrid.

"Not all members of the OpenStack community are active code contributors, and that's OK," Amrith Kumar, founder, chief technology officer (CTO) and board member of Tesora, said.

Meanwhile, it's a good thing when a vendor is a huge contributor to an OpenStack project in which others also contribute, noted Joe Arnold, founder of SwiftStack.

"With Swift we contribute lots, but others contribute lots, and that's great," Arnold said. "That means you get diversity, and it's not just a single company."

Arnold argued that if an organization only has one company to go to for a product, then it really doesn't benefit fully from the open-source model. "The open-source model enables a broad community that creates competition, but we all benefit from each of the contributions," he said.

Pere Monclus, CTO of PLUMgrid, noted that his company contributes up into the Linux kernel to get the networking capabilities that he needs inside of OpenStack.

Tesora is a huge contributor to the Trove upstream open-source project, Kumar noted. "To us, it's important that we contribute upstream," he said.

By contributing upstream, Tesora is advancing its own interests, which includes a commercially supported enterprise edition of Trove, as well as the interests of the Trove community. Kumar noted that at one point Tesora was having trouble getting code reviews in the project. As such, Tesora decided to make code reviews smaller, but contributing a higher volume of smaller chunks.

Tesora and Hewlett-Packard jointly represent nearly 80 percent of code contributions to Trove, which doesn't reflect well in how the project gets ranked. One of the metrics used by the OpenStack Foundation is the number of contributing organizations.

"We want to contribute because we won't be successful unless open source is successful, but in order to play, we're getting penalized because of the way we're measured for maturity," Kumar said.

If Tesora stopped contributing to OpenStack, "it would be bad," Kumar added. "Today if we took our foot off the gas, take our ball and go home, the project would probably collapse," he said.

SwiftStack's Arnold said open-source is core to his company's model, although he's optimistic that if SwiftStack stopped contributing code, others would fill the void as there is a lot of momentum behind Swift.

If PLUMgrid stopped contributing, Monclus said, some other group would likely pick up the slack; however, his company's product would no longer be in alignment with the direction of the open-source community.

On the question of how OpenStack compares against Amazon, Arnold said OpenStack doesn't need to catch up to Amazon, since Amazon doesn't do private cloud. It's a sentiment that Kumar echoed.

"With OpenStack, I have my data in my data center, and Amazon can't beat that," Kumar said.

Fundamentally, according to Mirantis co-founder Boris Renski, organizations care about the whole user experience.

"They care that their application runs fairly easily in the cloud and not have a big headache," Renski said.

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at eWEEK and InternetNews.com. Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist.

Sean Michael Kerner

Sean Michael Kerner

Sean Michael Kerner is an Internet consultant, strategist, and contributor to several leading IT business web sites.