Too open stack

Openstack has been in the news recently. Despite critics and chitchat about API compatibility, lack of strong vendor, etc., there is one thing most people, if any, is not noticing. I’m going to talk from a vendor perspective rather than from community’s. The problem I see here is confusion.

To me, one of the main reasons that feeds the confusion is the lack of understanding of what Openstack really is. I’ve been involved in the free software / open source community for more than 12 years and I’ve seen many stories about how a community struggles internally and despite of that manages to release high quality software. But what I see here is a community that develops an end-user product with a governance model that involves companies as stakeholders, that are trying to figure out how to leverage this product in a way that preserves branding and their customer’s loyalty. Meaning how to sell it in a way that other companies cannot.

Most people are familiar with the Linux kernel model and it’s governance. It works very well having Linus as the benevolent dictator. Even more, most contributions to Linux’s code come from vendor-sponsored developers or employees. However, the difference of this model with Openstack’s is that vendor’s interest on Linux’s development is not related to their business model or end-user product / service differentiation. That’s why the Linux Foundation government model works pretty well for the community and for vendors.

The issues that Openstack is experiencing on the market, in my opinion, are related to the fact that the stakeholders are all trying to figure out a model that will allow a end-user product to be developed by a community but also have independence on their distribution and offering differentiation to compete on the market with the other stakeholders but also with established commercial and open-source offerings. Is quite hard to become a strong vendor for an ecosystem that is actually an end-user product.