Comparing participation in the open source cloud communities

Eucalyptus has the largest community, OpenStack, CloudStack are gaining steam

With competition heating up in open source clouds, an analysis of community participation among four major projects shows that Eucalyptus - the oldest of those studied - has the largest standing community but OpenStack and CloudStack are gaining momentum in the developer community.

The dynamics of the open source cloud computing market are changing. Eucalyptus, which is a private cloud Infrastructure as a Service model, recently announced a partnership with Amazon Web Services to ensure interoperability between the two systems. Meanwhile, Citrix announced this week it would be migrating away from the OpenStack project and would give its CloudStack platform an Apache license, in effect creating a competing open source project to OpenStack.

Chinese blogger Qingye Jiang compares the open source communities of the three cloud deployment models plus OpenNebula, which is a data center virtualization project, and bases his findings on the mailing lists and public forum discussions of the projects.

READ: Citrix ditches OpenStack for Apache 

OPENSTACK'S RESPONSE: OpenStack supporters downplay Citrix defection 

Because Eucalyptus had an 18-month head start on OpenStack, the community has more users who have participated in the project. Eucalyptus began as a research project at the University of California, Santa Barbara in 2007 and became a commercial open-source project in January 2009. OpenStack began in July 2010 as a joint effort between Rackspace and NASA, and it has now grown to more than 150 companies.

In March, OpenStack had 30% more topic discussions, or threads than CloudStack, with about 250 topics being posted, compared to just over 200 for CloudStack, about 175 for OpenNebula and around 75 for Eucalyptus. OpenStack had, by a wide margin, the largest number of messages to those threads, with more than 1,200 responses from community members, which is 150% more than CloudStack's 600 messages, OpenNebula's 400 messages and Eucalyptus's 200 messages. One factor that could have contributed to the large number of messages and posting in March could be the release of OpenStack's software update, code named Essex, which is set for this week. In the past month, developers have been working to fix bugs in the code in preparation for the release.

That could also be the reason for the higher participation rate in the OpenStack community. As Qingye notes in his blog post, if there are more discussion topics than there are messages, that can be a sign of an inactive community. OpenStack, he notes, has a participation rate that is nearly double the other three. Meanwhile, the number of participants in the OpenStack and CloudStack communities are increasing month over month, while there are declining numbers of participants in Eucalyptus. Because of the growth, Qingye predicts that within six to nine months OpenStack and CloudStack could surpass the OpenNebula community and within 18 to 24 months, they could pass Eucalyptus.

But, Qingye qualifies the point to some extent. "If we remember that OpenStack's investment in advertising, public relationship, marketing, and partnership is 10 times bigger than its competitors, it would be reasonable to expect a better ROI," he writes. "From a long-term perspective, the OpenStack community has been around for 21 months, and its population is only 60% of the Eucalyptus community at 21 months. It is obvious that OpenStack is being propagated and accepted at a slower pace that Eucalyptus at its early stage."

But, those dynamics could change. With CloudStack now being an Apache project, it could benefit from a much larger community of developers already working on other Apache projects. Eucalyptus, meanwhile, may have gotten a shot in the arm in some sense with its recent AWS announcement. And OpenStack is holding its major developers conference in the coming weeks to plan the road map for the project's future development. So, it appears the open source cloud movement is just getting started.

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

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