The Duality of OpenStack

Recently I’ve had a flurry of brief but interesting conversations with colleagues and other cloud people about OpenStack. Mostly surrounding the open-ended question:

  • What do you think about OpenStack?

Disclaimer: In my current job I have not had too much in the way of dealing/working with any aspect of OpenStack. We’re a 100% AWS shop. I have, however, kept up with its going-ons through many of the people who I follow on twitter and former colleagues that continue to be involved with both project and foundation. Further, in my previous job I got to work with OpenStack almost exclusively since that the vast majority of the underlying technology that Rackspace builds their services upon.

What Do You Think About OpenStack?

So, when I’m asked a question along the lines of “what do you think about OpenStack?” my answer starts pretty much the same way it has since I first learned about the duality in the OpenStack ecosystem, with a question. Namely, “OpenStack the software or OpenStack the foundation?”

You see, while far from perfect, and as far as I understand it, rather difficult to configure and operate and with many feature holes, OpenStack, the software, is pretty good. Truth be told, it does a lot of complex things and handles a lot of different resources, at scale. Sure, the API wasn’t my favorite or the cleanest I’ve seen, but again, considering all the things it does, it’s not a bad product at all.

Now, as far as the foundation goes, I feel there was, as of eight months ago (still is?), a bit of “the while elephant in the room”. It’s very politicized, very slow, lots of conflicting and corporate interests trying to veer the project in different directions and so forth. Simply put a well-meaning, benevolent organization with a bad case of politics. I felt this first hand, several times, while trying to partake in small sub-committees. Political weight won over technical reason – every time.

Can The Foundation Be Fixed?

This is an honest question I have. On one hand having experienced the politics at play, the seeming direction-less multi-vision (i.e. going nowhere because of many conflicting visions for the product), the bureaucracy within it, and seeing ranking or founding members denounce and give up on OpenStack one would think the only hope would be to dismantle and start fresh with a new charter and by-laws.

On the other hand, I have seen and heard of small, slow but important steps towards making the foundation more purposeful and efficient, so perhaps there is a way to root out most of the politics and instate more sane technical direction and provide the product with a long term vision and mission.

I presently do not have a dog in that fight, but I’d like to encourage the many users and contributors that remain in the sidelines to get involved and elicit change that will make dealing with the foundation a more pleasant and productive experience.