Open source cloud battles: OpenStack leveling off as CloudStack interest gains

Healthy open source communities mean more developments are likely on the horizon

OpenStack is the largest and most active open source cloud computing project, but interest in the platform has leveled off in the last quarter as momentum for competing project CloudStack continues to build.

Those are the findings of the latest report by a Chinese blogger who monitors the activity of open source cloud computing projects each month. Qingye (John) Jiang tracks four open source cloud computing projects in his blog using a Java program he created that pulls in records for every new discussion feed in the project's ecosystem, as well as on mailing lists and responses to comments.

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Eucalyptus and OpenNebula were the two original open source cloud platforms, which began before 2009. In 2010, both OpenStack and CloudStack started and in early 2012 CloudStack became a project independent from OpenStack.

During the past 18 months, OpenStack has garnered a lot of support, including from big-name vendors including Rackspace, Dell, HP, Cisco, VMware and Red Hat, among others. CloudStack, meanwhile, is backed largely by Citrix and other smaller players, while Eucalyptus is a privately held company that supports its own open source platform. OpenNebula is a fourth, smaller project.

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Given marketing resources that have been devoted to OpenStack, including the launch of a new independent foundation to govern the project, the project has gained significant momentum, but Qingye says that does seem to be leveling off last quarter of 2012. "In the past the OpenStack project had a much higher participation ratio than the others. However, during the past 6 months, the participation ratio of CloudStack and Eucalyptus are growing steadily, while the participation ratio of OpenStack is decreasing gradually," he notes.

Still, OpenStack and Eucalyptus have the broadest communities. Qingye estimates there are 2,500 accumulated community members over the life of the OpenStack project, with just slightly fewer (around 2,250) for Eucalyptus. CloudStack has less than 1,500 total, while OpenNebula has just more than 1,000.

CloudStack recently has had more active discussions, though, Qingye notes. "The number of active participants of CloudStack is somewhat less than OpenStack, but the volume of discussion (in terms of monthly number of threads and messages) of the two projects is on the same level. This indicates that the active members in the CloudStack club are talking more than those in the OpenStack club (on average)," he says.

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These numbers seem to ebb and flow somewhat, though. Qingye points out that during major events or additions to the code there can be renewed interest in a project. Last fall, for example, OpenStack had its largest yet developer and user conference in San Diego. Project officials recently announced the next design summit to discuss the Grizzly release of OpenStack code will be in Portland, Ore., in April. CloudStack held its first conference last fall as well, though, which could reflect the more active discussions in the project late last year compared to OpenStack.

Eucalyptus officials, meanwhile, have committed to more frequently updating their code and continuing to support compatibility with Amazon Web Services, which the company has a non-exclusive agreement with the major public cloud provider to develop. CloudStack backers, including Citrix officials, have discussed AWS compatibility as a major focus of that platform as well.

Moving forward, OpenStack and CloudStack seem to be growing at about an equal pace now in terms of discussions and responses, Qingye finds, but OpenStack has a larger community base to grow from. CloudStack seems to be picking up new members faster than OpenStack, too.

What does this all mean for the end user? Continued momentum by each of these projects means they are becoming more stable, robust and user friendly. In Eucalyptus's most recent release, for example, heavy emphasis was put on usability. OpenStack, meanwhile, has been adding significant new feature sets, including virtual networking, in its project. The health of community participation in an open source project mean both these projects will likely continue to develop into the future.

Network World staff writer Brandon Butler covers cloud computing and social collaboration. He can be reached at BButler@nww.com and found on Twitter at @BButlerNWW.

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