A New Era of OpenStack

The chairman of the OpenStack Foundation outlines some of the steps the organization is taking to support a growing interest in OpenStack.

Change is inevitable in the technology industry, and the OpenStack community is no exception. Through the years, the OpenStack Foundation has tackled many of the technology and knowledge barriers that were part of initial adoption hurdles. But recently, more enterprises are adopting OpenStack software and viewing it as a mature infrastructure technology. To support this growing adoption, the leaders of the OpenStack community find themselves faced with the need to shift toward a more sophisticated and organized community.

The reality is that the OpenStack community is consolidating as the market is maturing. With more than 70,000 members and 3,500 contributing developers, OpenStack leaders need to identify ways for this community to continue to innovate and grow. The OpenStack community prides itself on being “open,” and this means listening to the voices of change. These include the following:     

1. Mapping out the ecosystem:  In a recent OpenStack survey, a user noted “OpenStack has the benefit of thousands of developers all over the world working in tandem to develop the strongest, most robust, and most secure product that they can. Anyone who chooses to can access the source code, make any changes or modifications they need and freely share these changes back out to the community at large.” While this is true, the foundation realized we need to paint a better picture of the different projects and technologies to find out how they relate to each other.

While the move to the “Big Tent” model opened the doors to a wide range of technology inclusion it confused many within the community and ecosystem. Under the Big Tent model, more projects are included under the definition of OpenStack, providing more opportunities for collaboration and a wide array of capabilities to users. In 2017, OpenStack recognized that refinement in the terminology and project categorization is needed to help map out the central technologies and optional technologies. Resulting much more clarity to users.

2. Creating a more collaborative community: We’re reaching a new era where projects must work together on all levels. It’s about collaborating around user stories, gap analysis, and prioritizing projects that will have the greatest impact on our community. Traditionally, open source projects have collaborated at a ‘grass roots’ level. Depending upon contributors to participate in multiple open source projects. This model tends to reduce up front technology feature alignment, integration and deliveryFor example, Cloud Foundry, a cloud application platform, and Open Daylight, a software-defined networking platform, are two adjacent projects that don’t cross-share information on their technologies. By taking a more active role in steering projects to communicate across all levels, OpenStack will be able to ensure better technology integration across adjacent technologies

3. Cohesive integration: There needs to be a high level of cohesiveness among the different components and projects within OpenStack. OpenStack is based on the concept of making our technology more consumable; complexities such as the number of configuration options and disparate log files are holding OpenStack back from reaching its full potential of collaboration. In this new era of open source, the projects and code are too large for vendors to not work together. Vendors are duplicating efforts versus working together to reduce costs and time spend. An emphasis on alignment and consolidation will enhance overall ROI and bring OpenStack to a new level of success. 

4. Ensuring every user voice is heard by filling in the industry gaps: The OpenStack user committee's role is to represent the needs of the diverse range of OpenStack users. The user committee is advised by working groups, each of whom represents different user audiences and interests. Enhancing the User Committee structure, user inclusiveness and communication channels with the community projects and leadership will help ensures all user stories are being heard, and industries that are not currently being represented, such as the financial industry, will have a voice in the user committee.

5. Developing community leaders: No matter the size, all organizations desire to grow their employees into leaders. As we enter the future, growing the next generation of leaders on cross-project developments within the community is essential to our success. OpenStack faced issues in the past with burnout: people are developing and leading at the same time, unable to be completely successful at either task. By creating dedicated mentoring programs and teaching initiatives, the community can balance their work with training initiatives. We have mentor-style programs in place right now to help grow the young minds of OpenStack. We’ve refined our focus to teach software developers how to contribute, review and code through all projects. It comes down to aligning several people who want to contribute and teaching them how to do so. The OpenStack user committee's role is to represent the needs of the diverse range of OpenStack users.

 As the need for flexible cloud infrastructure increases, OpenStack continues to solidify its place in enterprise architecture. A year or two ago, many thought containers would eclipse and replace OpenStack, but what we are seeing is data centers need and want a platform they can leverage for traditional and cloud native applications, in addition to other technical infrastructure requirements that may appear in the future. OpenStack is proving to be the platform for the next decade and beyond.

Alan Clark is Chairman of the OpenStack Foundation & Director of Industry Initiatives, Emerging Standards and Open Source at SUSE.

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