The State of OpenStack

The Open Cloud

The State of OpenStack

By Randy Bias, CTO, Cloudscaling  |  September 04, 2013

Everyone knows about Linux. It’s arguably the most successful open source project ever.

In open source cloud software, OpenStack is following a similar trajectory. Since its launch three years ago, it has attracted a community of corporate, developer and user support so rapidly that it can be called the fastest growing project in the history of open source.

But let’s take a step back and look at the state of OpenStack including the factors that have driven its rapid ascent.

What is OpenStack?

In simplest terms, OpenStack is open source cloud software with which you can build an infrastructure-as-a-service cloud. It has components for compute, block storage, object storage, networking, dashboard, metering, authentication, VM image management and orchestration. Maturity and feature functionality of each component range from fully baked to fully green.

OpenStack follows a six-month release cycle, and the current release is codenamed Grizzly.

Who Built It?

No single person started OpenStack. In the summer of 2009, NASA contributed the code that became OpenStack Compute and Rackspace (News - Alert) contributed OpenStack Object Storage. Rackspace managed the project until the OpenStack Foundation was launched in September 2012.

Today, there are more than 9,000 individual Foundation members and 189 corporate supporters from 100 countries. More than 500 developers contributed to the current release, adding 230 new features.

Momentum (News - Alert) & Production-Readiness

According to ohloh, OpenStack’s primary open source competitors have topped out at 100 contributors, combined. That’s about one-fifth of OpenStack’s total contributors. This means that in the last six-month release cycle, OpenStack added more new contributors than its major competitors did combined in more than three years.

Users are lining up, too. They include next-generation web app companies like Living Social, Ubisoft, PayPal and WebEx, and HPC users like Argonne National Laboratory and CERN in Switzerland. These are in addition to service providers like Rackspace, Comcast (News - Alert) and AT&T.

OpenStack’s maturity of software development life-cycle has increased as well. The OpenStack community also created a sophisticated continuous integration (CI) and testing framework that auto-deploys and tests a complete deployment of OpenStack over 700 times a day. Every time a developer checks in new code they are “gated” by a full test of their code before that code is allowed to be contributed back to mainline.

These “gated tests” have increased code quality dramatically, reduced or eliminated regressions and increased velocity, maintaining OpenStack’s six-month release cycle while increasing the number of projects and developers. No other open source rival comes close to the scope of continuous integration and testing that OpenStack has achieved.

Momentum makes it clear that the open source cloud race is over and the maturity of the project is now without question. Simply put, OpenStack has won.

Challenges Ahead for OpenStack

Although the project has come a long way in three years, some big challenges must be addressed for OpenStack to continue its march toward Linux-dom.

Some say that the lack of a Linus Torvalds in the OpenStack community is a weakness. Let’s be honest: there’s only one Linus. OpenStack must succeed with a technical meritocracy driving the development roadmap.  I think of it like the early days of the Internet and IETF.  What will help shape the future is simple: Rough consensus and running code.

Customers will tell us what they need by what they adopt. OpenStack can leverage the fact that it’s the de-facto winner in open source cloud software. There’s immense velocity and corporate support, and the user base is growing rapidly. Increased public cloud compatibility is in the roadmap.

The state of OpenStack is strong, but there’s much work left to be done.


Randy Bias is co-founder and chief technology officer of Cloudscaling.



Edited by Alisen Downey
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