Broader role essential for OpenStack Foundation, says Mirantis’ Renski

Mirantis co-founder Boris Renski backs broader remit for foundation

Boris Renski, co-founder and chief marketing officer of open source software company Mirantis, says the OpenStack Foundation’s plan to take a wider role in the open source movement is essential to the organisation’s survival.

The move was flagged at the OpenStack summit in Sydney earlier this month November.

According to Renski, who is a member of the foundation’s board, the OpenStack ecosystem — which has driven the foundation’s growth from its formation in 2010 to more than 60,000 members today — is shrinking.

“Definitely, from the standpoint of the ecosystem excitement around it, OpenStack has lost momentum,” he said.

Speaking to Computerworld on the sidelines of the Sydney Summit, Renski said: “I think it has got to the point were OpenStack dominated a certain use case: Open source software for on-premises VM [virtual machine] orchestration. In that use case OpenStack has won. There is VMware, which is proprietary, and OpenStack, and nobody else.

“But that specific use case, longer term in my view, is shrinking in favour of public cloud services and, on premises, in favour of containerisation. VM on premises will become a smaller and smaller use case…

“All big use cases will migrate to containers or public cloud. So the OpenStack use case is getting eaten on one end from public cloud services and on the other end from containerisation on-premises.”

OpenStack Foundation chairperson Alan Clark — director of industry initiatives, emerging standards and open source at SUSE — disagrees. He told Computerworld: “OpenStack is not dying, it is not going away. Adoption is dramatically increasing. The membership ranks are full. We added [Chinese Internet giant] Tencent as a gold member [at the summit]. We are now maxed out on the number of gold and platinum members set in our bylaws. So the foundation is healthy and its future is bright.”

However, Clark said the makeup of the organisation was changing. “There is a lifecycle to open source efforts. Vendors will come and go,” he said. “We see a lot more large users joining the community and becoming very active. For Tencent it makes sense they would join now and not three years ago when OpenStack was much less mature.”

Clark dismissed any perception of a threat from the rise of containerisation: “There is a lot of hype; it is getting a lot of exposure.”

At the summit, the OpenStack Foundation flagged a plan to widen the scope of its operations to focus on addressing the challenges of integrating different types of open source software. Renski praised this initiative and said that, in his opinion it was essential for the organisation’s survival.

“I think there is a problem with the OpenStack Foundation in that it is both a foundation and software defined for a particular use case… That precluded the foundation to some extent from effectively promoting other use cases,” the Mirantis executive said.

“For example, Designate DNS as a service, and Zuul for distributed continuous integration. These things are separate from OpenStack so why do they need to be written in Python [like OpenStack] and why do they need to interoperate with everything OpenStack as a first priority? There are other priorities they should be focussing on if they are to evolve.”

Renski said the foundation was well placed to expand its scope and had already been a model for other open source bodies.

“I am a great believer in the OpenStack foundation team,” he said. “In my view they are the fathers of the open source foundation movement. Before OpenStack you had the Linux Foundation and the Apache Foundation, but they did not do very much.

“The OpenStack Foundation raised a lot of corporate funding and did a lot of promotion around OpenStack and you saw a lot of other open source foundations popping up. But the people in the OpenStack Foundation were shackled by having to promote OpenStack.”

Renski acknowledged that not all OpenStack Foundation board members shared his views, but said there had been agreement to change.

“Some are concerned with any competitive situations that could arise with other foundations, but [at the summit] there was a board vote to authorise the foundation staff to work on other projects and invite others to work with them under a different governance model.”

He described the move as a “pivotal moment” for the organisation and said the exact form of co-operation would be determined once a specific project had been identified.

“There is some difference of opinion but there was consensus that it would be good for the open source ecosystem as a whole to employ the foundation team to collaborate and bring in other non-OpenStack products under its umbrella… The team is great; the ecosystem is great. They put on a lot of great events, a lot of people contribution so they should have the official right to do that with other things.”

In the keynote address to the summit OpenStack Foundation executive director Jonathan Bryce and board member Allison Randal outlined the foundation’s plans to tackle open source integration in four areas: Data centre cloud; containers; edge computing; and continuous integration continuous delivery (CI/CD).

Renski said it was important for the foundation to undertake some successful anchor projects within these categories to build momentum “reinvigorate the OpenStack Foundation and reinvigorate enthusiasm around the OpenStack project itself.”

He singled out CI/CD as an area in need of oversight. “There are multiple components to CI/CD tooling. There are tools like Jenkins and Travis that are focussed only on CI. There are tools focussed only on CD like Spinnaker from Netflix.

“The ecosystem is very diverse with many projects. It is still early days and there is not an ‘OpenStack of CICD’ per se, and few of these projects have a foundation behind them promoting them and creating a holistic community and creating mindshare. It is the same for other use cases.”