What Open Means to OpenStack

By December 13, 2017Blog

The OpenStack Foundation team has been thinking about what “open” means for the project. Learn more.

In his keynote at OpenStack Summit in Australia, Jonathan Bryce (Executive Director of the OpenStack Foundation) stressed on the meaning of both “Open” and “Stack” in the name of the project and focused on the importance of collaboration within the OpenStack ecosystem.

OpenStack has enjoyed unprecedented success since its early days. It has excited the IT industry about applications at scale and created new ways to consume cloud. The adoption rate of OpenStack and the growth of its community exceeded even the biggest open source project on the planet, Linux. In its short life of 6 years, OpenStack has achieved more than Linux did in a similar time span.

So, why does OpenStack need to redefine the meaning of the project and stress collaboration? Why now?

“We have reached a point where the technology has proven itself,” said Mark Collier, the CTO of the OpenStack Foundation. “You have seen all the massive use case of OpenStack all around the globe.”

Collier said that the OpenStack community is all about solving problems. Although they continue to refine compute, storage, and networking, they also look beyond that.

With big adoption and big growth, come new challenges. The OpenStack community and the OpenStack Foundation responded to those challenges and the project transformed along with changing market dynamics — evolving from integrated release to big tent to composability.

OpenStack community

One of the things that the Foundation team has been doing this year is thinking about what “open” means for the project. In the past five years, OpenStack has built a great community around it. There are more than 82,000 people from around the globe who are part of this huge community. The big question for the Foundation was, what’s next for the coming five years? The first thing that they looked at was what got them to this position.

When you put this all into context, Bryce’s stress on openness and collaboration makes sense. In an interview with The Linux Foundation, Bryce said, “We haven’t really talked a lot about our attitude around openness. I think that it’s a little bit overdue because when you look into the technology industry right now you see the term ‘open’ thrown around constantly. The word open gets attached to different products, it gets attached to different vendor conferences because who doesn’t want something that’s open.”

“One of the key things has been those four opens that we use as the pillars of our community:  how we write our code, how we design our systems, how we manage our development process, and how we interact as a community,” said Bryce.

When you look at the stack part of OpenStack, there is no single component that builds the OpenStack cloud; there are many different components that come from different independent open source projects. These components are the part of the stack. “We’re building technology stack but it’s not a rigid stack and it’s not a single approach to doing things. It’s actually a flexible programmable infrastructure technology stack,” Bryce said.

What’s really interesting about these different open source projects is that in most cases they work in silos. Whether it’s KVM or Open vSwitch or Kubernetes, they are developed independently of each other.

“And that’s not a bad thing, actually,” Byce said, “because you want experts in a topic who are focused on that. This expertise gives you a really good container orchestration system, a really good distributed storage system, a software defined networking system. But users don’t run those things independently. There isn’t a single OpenStack cloud on the planet that only runs software that we wrote in the OpenStack community.”

Staying in sync

One big problem that the OpenStack community saw was big gaps between these projects.

“There are issues to keep in sync between these different open source projects that have different release cadence,” said Bryce. “So far, we’ve left it to users to solve those problems, but we realized we can do better than that. And that’s where the focus is in terms of collaboration.”

The OpenStack community has been working with other communities from day one. Collaboration has always been the core of the project. Bryce used the example of KVM project, one of the many projects that OpenStack users use.

“When we started the OpenStack project, KVM was not widely considered a production-ready hypervisor,” said Bryce. “There were a lot of features that were new, unstable and totally unreliable. But OpenStack became a big driver for KVM usage. OpenStack developers contributed upstream to KVM and that combination ended up helping both Nova and KVM mature because we were jointly delivering real use cases.”

It’s happening all across the board now. For example, Bryce mentioned a report from Research 451 that said that companies that already have OpenStack were adopting containers three times faster than those who don’t.

Yes, the collaboration has been happening, but there is huge potential in refining that collaboration. Collier said that the OpenStack community members who have been gluing these different projects together have gained expertise in doing so. The OpenStack Foundation plans to help members of the community share this expertise and experience with each other.

“The Open Source community loves to give back,” said Collier. “This collaboration is about sharing the playbook — both software and operational know how — that allows you to take this innovation and put it into production.”

“Those are the missing links, the last mile of open infrastructure the users have had to do on their own. We’re bringing that into the community and that’s where I think the collaboration becomes critical,” added Collier.

“How do you deliver that collaboration?” said Bryce. “Writing software is hard, but it becomes less hard when you get people together. That’s something people forget in the open source community as we work remotely, collaborating online, from different parts of the world.”

Face to Face Collaboration

Physical events like OpenStack Summit, Open Source Summit, KubeCon, and many others bring these people together, face to face.

“Meeting each other in person is extremely valuable. It builds trust and when we go back to our remote location and collaborate online, that trust makes us even more productive,” said Bryce.

Going forward, OpenStack Foundation plans to make its events inclusive of all those technologies that matter to OpenStack users. They have started events like OpenStack Days that include projects such as Ceph, Ansible, Kubernetes, Cloud Foundry, and more.

“When you meet people,  spend time with them and work together, you naturally start to understand each other better and figure out how to work together,” said Bryce. “And that to me is a really important part of how you actually make collaboration happen.”

Swapnil Bhartiya

Swapnil Bhartiya

Swapnil Bhartiya is a journalist and writer who has been covering Linux and Open Source for more than 10 years.
Swapnil Bhartiya

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