Google becomes an OpenStack sponsor. What is happening in this world?

Things used to be so simple. It was once easy to characterize companies as either open or closed. But the sands are changing and companies that formerly wouldn't have had a bar with Open Source are jumping on board with abandon.

Google is today announcing that it is signing up to be a corporate sponsor of the OpenStack Foundation. The OpenStack Foundation is, as the name implies, the governance body for the open-source OpenStack cloud operating system. OpenStack, founded a handful of years ago by Rackspace and NASA, has seen some pretty massive industry support - HP, IBM, and Cisco are three examples of high-profile backers. Add to this mix a massive amount of investment in OpenStack companies and you have a vibrant community.

Of course, in recent months some of that vibrancy has abated as significant consolidation has occurred in the OpenStack space - IBM acquired Blue Box, Cisco acquired Piston Cloud and Metacloud, EMC acquired CloudScaling. In the community that once boasted (whether wisely or not is another matter) of its plethora of participants, the number of independents has suddenly dwindled.

But the vibrancy of the ecosystem and the success of the project itself are two different things. While OpenStack has been criticized for its lack of public success stories, it is fair to say that slowly but surely, we're starting to see some impressive production workloads moving onto OpenStack. 

What is interesting is to watch the development of OpenStack and consider what it means when taken with the parallel open source initiatives Docker and Cloud Foundry. These new approaches towards infrastructure containerization and Platform as a Service (PaaS), respectively, have subtly changed the dynamic around cloud infrastructure.

Given all of this, it is particularly interesting to see Google jump on board. And for a couple of reasons. Firstly, because while Google makes significant use of open source technologies itself, it's not particularly known as a good citizen in the open source world. It doesn't have much of a history of joining in and being public about these sort of things, far preferring to focus on its own internal priorities. 

That is changing, however, and we have an example with this announcement. According to the company and the OpenStack foundation, Google is committing to providing engineering resources, in particular focused upon Linux Containers and integrating container management technologies like Kubernetes into OpenStack projects. This relationship extends upon a loose collaboration between Google and the OpenStack community that has existed since the beginning of the year.

Google has been working on Murano and Magnum, two OpenStack projects. This makes sense since Google has been strongly pushing Kubernetes, an open source initiative that is focused on container orchestration. It strikes me that Google's support for Kubernetes generally, and its integration into OpenStack in particular, isn't about altruism. Rather, Google realizes that the rapid ascension of Docker into general public awareness creates some challenges for its own position - by being an active part in the community Google is able to more closely watch and perhaps impact upon the direction of the initiative.

"We are excited about becoming active participants in the OpenStack community," said Craig McLuckie, Product manager at Google. "We look forward to sharing what we've learned and hearing how OpenStack users are thinking about containers and other technologies to support cloud-native apps." I bet you are Craig, not to mention having a chance to strong-arm both the OpenStack and the Docker ecosystems as well, added this somewhat cynical commentator!

In any case, the fact that Google is joining the OpenStack foundation is net positive for the initiative generally. While it does mean there is another corporate ego to stroke, Google brings massive recognition, deep pockets, and a large developer contingent - all things that help with OpenStack's credibility.


Copyright © 2015 IDG Communications, Inc.

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