OpenStack execs: Red Hat, Yahoo, Comcast are our adopters -- and contributors

In an interview at OSCON, OpenStack officials said upcoming releases will focus on high-level services

OpenStack, the open source cloud computing platform for both public and private clouds, has been generating a lot of buzz in the IT world, garnering supporters ranging from AT&T, Rackspace, and the Linux Foundation to IBM, Red Hat, Oracle, and Yahoo. But it has been viewed as lacking critical capabilities in networking and usability.

InfoWorld Editor-at-Large Paul Krill met up with Jonathan Bryce, executive director of the foundation, and Mark Collier, the foundation's COO, at the recent O'Reilly Open Source Convention in Portland, Ore., to talk about where OpenStack stands and its future.

InfoWorld: What's the progress of OpenStack? Where is it headed?

Collier: We're hitting this point where there's a critical mass of users. Although of course we had a lot of active developers and that continues to grow, we're seeing the users getting very engaged. Companies like Disney, Bloomberg, Comcast, eBay, and PayPal, they're all getting very engaged in defining the software that they're running, so they're all utilizing it to move their businesses faster, and it's an overall trend in every company [that] software is really becoming more strategic, and they're turning to OpenStack as the tool. At the same time that they're deploying it, they're helping influence the future. We have a new version every six months, and users are helping us define what features they need, and in some cases they're even writing some of the code.

InfoWorld: Are you pleased with the support you've gotten so far from companies like Red Hat?

Collier: Absolutely. We've not only seen the biggest, the most innovative companies backing OpenStack, they're really putting their money where their mouth is. You asked about Red Hat. They employ dozens and dozens of developers whose full-time job it is to contribute to OpenStack. The way we're organized as a foundation, we help coordinate the management of the project, but we don't employ the majority of the developers. Most of them work for companies like Red Hat, IBM, HP, and Rackspace.

Bryce: Every six months, we do a release, and we see who contributed to the release. In the last release, a number of the top 20 contributors were users like Yahoo and Comcast. They're not selling OpenStack services, they're not a vendor that's trying to make money selling something about OpenStack. They are [users who are] benefitting from the software and then turning around and investing back into it. That's the ultimate power of an open source model.

InfoWorld: One of our writers wrote: "The core issue of OpenStack is the lack of some fundamental features that an IaaS cloud requires, including better networking, which was the buzz at OpenStack Summit this year. However, that's not all that's needed. Although less-discussed, OpenStack needs some core cloud infrastructure features around stability and usability." How would you respond to that?

Bryce: There are different ways to consume OpenStack. There's the upstream, and there's the downstream. The upstream is what the community works on and releases every six months. Then a variety of companies take that code and package it up into different products and services. Some companies that are large and have a lot of technical staff, they will go straight to the upstream code and build their cloud using that, and then they do some extra work to tie it into whatever systems they have. For things like manageability, installers, different monitoring capabilities, those kinds of things, the hooks are all in the upstream code, but the downstream vendors like Red Hat or Mirantis, they will build products that go after a specific feature set or a specific vertical to fill in those gaps. It's pretty similar to other open source models.

[The comments] mentioned networking specifically. The networking in OpenStack is actually extremely strong. [What] he's probably referring to is that there was an initial networking model that OpenStack had in the beginning, and there's a next-generation model that's been worked on for a couple of years. Those are both capabilities of OpenStack, and users get to choose which one they want. The Neutron project [provides] the latest and greatest of software-defined networking and network function virtualization, and those are two very advanced trends. Not everybody is ready for that yet. If you need a more traditional networking model, that's built into the system as well. But I think that's confusing sometimes to people because they go, "Well, why are there two ways of doing it?" It's because there's a massive shift going on in networking right now.

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