In recent months, I have heard a lot of buzz in the media about what’s happening with Openstack. Published today, I found this article on the virtualisation practice website an interesting and thought provoking read. In it, they actively question the viability of Openstack and its long-term future:
The article questions with some focus, the economic viability of the continued development of Openstack. It identifies that there appears to be a lack of a driving force behind the project In other words, a lack of any major bankrolling entity that stands to benefit from the success of Openstack. This is very bold article that will definitely shake some of the proponents of Openstack up. I can hear the heckling streaming across the blog-vines as we speak. While there are many valid points in this article stating that open stack is a “dead cloud walking” is perhaps extreme.
I personally don’t believe Openstack is dead. It does however have a significant number of challenges to overcome in the short to medium term. Integration, lack of compatibility and the increasing number of diverging distros is clearly becoming a problem. The many interested and involved parties pulling in their own unique direction may also hinder progress.
So why do I believe there is life in Openstack?
I would say that there is a driving force behind the project. That driving force being the open source community. I would however question whether that driving force has the momentum, resources and capability to conquer the world of cloud in the short-term. I’ve heard a lot of chatter from various Openstack community members and conferences validating similarities between Openstack today and the early days of Linux.
There are two primary issues with this comparison that strike me as problematic. These issues make me believe that it will take a very long time for Openstack to gain any kind of significant traction. The first is that the Linux project has had a very authoritative and dictatorial leadership model (in the form of Linus Torvalds). I believe this approach and the lack of “leadership by committee” was somewhat instrumental to the success it has achieved.
I think we can all agree that Linux has been very successful and is definitely here to stay, but what is the definition of success and how long are we willing to wait for it ?
Linux was originally developed as an alternative desktop operating system and the project started in 1991. Today in 2014, 23 years later it still retains less than 2% of that market. It has made significantly better progress in the web server market (30%) and has pretty much killed the mobile device market in the form of android (80% of smartphone sales in 2013), but these later successes have only really come to pass in the last 2 to 3 years.
Ultimately, it’s taken Linux 20 years with that focussed single-minded leadership to generate that success. Openstack is, to date, 4 years in the making. This is not to say that Openstack must experience the same 20 year battle. I do however find it difficult to perceive that it will be ready to garner any significant traction in the private or public cloud space within the next 5 (perhaps even 10) years. It’s a complicated beast with many moving parts and even if it was fully ready to deploy and had feature parity with the commercial alternatives, it still requires monumental shifts of mindset in order for organisations to buy in to such a platform. I’ll watch developments with interest.
Disclaimer: I’m a VMware employee and it should be clear that although VMware is an active Openstack community member there is also an element of competition between the respective stacks. These opinions are my own.