It started with a Tweet last week from Joshua McKenty: “OpenStack has lost its heart. Last summit I will attend.”
That’s somewhat shocking to read if you consider that McKenty helped found the open source cloud computing project, built a startup company that sold OpenStack cloud software and formerly sat on the board of directors of the Foundation that governs OpenStack.
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How exactly has OpenStack “lost its heart?” McKenty explained: “When we started this project it was about trying to create a new open source community,” he says.
As OpenStack has grown he says its turned into a corporate open source project, not a community-driven one. He spent a day walking around the show-floor at the recent OpenStack Summit in Vancouver and said he didn’t find anyone talking about the original mission of the project. “Everyone’s talking about who’s making money, who’s career is advancing, how much people get paid, how many workloads are in production,” McKenty says. “The mission was to do things differently.”
McKenty admits that it’s hard to keep a small-community feel to a project that has grown to be as large as OpenStack. It started with just Rackspace and NASA committing code, now it has now grown to more than 500 contributing companies, from IBM, Red Hat, Cisco, HP and even VMware.
McKenty says the commercial success of OpenStack is good for customers and those companies. But he believes OpenStack has lost its mission of changing the world through open source. Now, he says it’s mostly about big companies looking to make money off of it. McKenty has left the startup he founded, Piston Cloud Computing Co. to join another small but fast-growing open source project: Cloud Foundry; he works as the Field CTO for Pivotal, one of the main backers of that PaaS (platform as a service) project.
Others in the OpenStack community say McKenty has a jaded perspective. “OpenStack exists because of the company that make it up, and companies need to make money,” says Randy Bias, an OpenStack Foundation board member and another one of the earliest contributors to OpenStack. Bias says without the support of companies like Rackspace, Dell, HP and many others the project never would have existed and grown into what it is today. “OpenStack was never a movement to change the world,” Bias says, whose startup company Cloudscaling was bought by EMC last year. The project is not made up of purely philanthropic companies with only altruistic motives. The reality is, companies joined OpenStack to make money.
As for the fact that OpenStack is no longer a small organization with a grassroots-type feel to it, Bias says that it’s almost impossible to have that and be a successful to a large community with so many members.
OpenStack has a mission; it’s listed on the project’s wiki page:
“To produce he ubiquitous Open Source Cloud Computing platform that will meet the needs of public and private clouds regardless of size, by being simple to implement and massively scalable.”
It doesn’t say anything about changing the world in there, but even OpenStack backers admit that what the project could work on is being more simple to implement.