At the recent OpenStack Summit, the executive director of the OpenStack Foundation, Jonathan Bryce, told of a new, more focused foundation. Readers will remember that several years ago, OpenStack announced the “Big Tent” a kind of kumbaya place for every orphaned open source project to come and find a caring, sharing home. At the time, many people suggested that the Big Tent was a terrible idea and would lead to increased complexity and a lack of focus on behalf of the foundation. So the announcement that the Big Tent was dead and buried was well received.

At the same time, however, Bryce indicated a desire to look beyond the OpenStack cloud computing platform and to more generally deliver the “open stack.” rather than simply being a virtualization platform, OpenStack could become the place for a far broader list of open infrastructure projects.

That is a slightly jarring ambition. Not because it is the wrong thing to do, but more because it would suggest something of a return to the approach of the Big Tent. Perhaps the difference this time is that, rather than having orphaned and homeless open source initiatives come to the OpenStack family to find refuge, the OpenStack Foundation will proactively seek out the right partner initiatives that can be additive to what it is already doing.

I’ve written a post looking at a pragmatic but unlikely amalgamation of the OpenStack, Cloud Native and Cloud Foundry Foundations, but while that outcome is unlikely to happen, could OpenStack be indicating an intention to achieve essentially the same, albeit by stealth?

In a post discussing the potential of this, Frederic Lardinois suggested that this move could essentially create an uber foundation that, like the Linux and Apache Foundations, would be an umbrella for a host of adjacent (or not so much) initiative. As he pointed out:

This move could send ripple through the open source ecosystem because if it’s successful, it’ll create another organization that will sit next to the Linux Foundation, the Apache Foundation and others, yet with the community support and experience that the OpenStack team has built. It may also set up the OpenStack Foundation to compete for hosting projects that would otherwise have looked at moving to the Linux Foundation, which will could set up an interesting rivalry between the two.

One person who has been around OpenStack since the start, and is a participant in other open source communities as well, is Boris Renski, CMO of Mirantis. Now Mirantis is, of course, the former pure-play OpenStack vendor that has now moved into supporting a range of different open source cloud products. If anyone was positioned to opine on what could, or should, happen within OpenStack, it is him. It was interesting, therefore, to hear Renski’s emphatic view that if anyone can achieve this goal of being the cloud foundation to rule them all, it is the OpenStack Foundation. As he said:

The OpenStack foundation team has an unmatched track record of building open source communities. It’s important not to discount how that team obliterated CloudStack, Eucalyptus, Nimbula, OpenNebula and others in competition for mindshare at the time. I would argue that Jonathan, Mark, Lauren and team were the catalyst for the 2015 open source VC gold rush – as well as the post-OpenStack foundation craze that ensued with the formation of CF, CNCF, OPNFV and other groups.

Well, if there’s one thing for certain, it’s that Mr. Renski is clearly on the Christmas card list of Jonathan Bryce, Mark Collier, and Lauren Sell. Anyway, positive reinforcement aside, and harking back to a style we’re more accustomed to, Renski went on to say that:

Today, that super talented team is effectively shackled by a requirement to promote VM centric private clouds, while the world is going public cloud first and container first architectures. The Foundation Board voted in Sydney to empower the foundation staff to invite non-OpenStack projects under the foundation umbrella. In my opinion, this vote presents an opportunity of a lifetime for anybody innovating with open source. User and developer mindshare is everything in the open source world. New projects that partner with the OpenStack foundation will get the most experienced community builders in the world on their side.

He doesn’t mince his words, does he?

Anyway, it’s all conjecture at this time, but Bryce indicated the new focus for the foundation would include pretty much everything that is of interest to forward-looking enterprises. The shortlist: data center cloud infrastructure, container infrastructure, edge computing, continuous integration/continuous delivery and machine learning and AI.

We don’t know how this will actually occur. Will the foundation go out and target individual initiatives or will it look to incubate its own projects? My perspective is that the latter approach would indicate a worrying return to the big tent methodology and would enable a new deluge of vendor-driven initiatives that have no reason for being other than because it provides vendor A a chance to compete with vendor B.

It’s certainly an interesting change of approach, and one which, at least in part, makes sense. How the new look foundation is managed, and ensuring that they assert sufficient control over vendors to avoid unintended consequences will be particularly interesting to watch. It seems there’s still a bit more popcorn for those watching from the OpenStack gallery to consume.

Ben Kepes

Ben Kepes is a technology evangelist, an investor, a commentator and a business adviser. Ben covers the convergence of technology, mobile, ubiquity and agility, all enabled by the Cloud. His areas of interest extend to enterprise software, software integration, financial/accounting software, platforms and infrastructure as well as articulating technology simply for everyday users.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.