OpenStack's (long) march toward an open foundation

Rackspace needs to beef up OpenStack's competitiveness and support before thinking about a foundation

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It's interesting to note that Phipps admits his advice isn't always easy for vendors to follow. Even Sun, during Phipps's time as chief open source officer, frequently opted for control over influence. This was especially true in the early stages of an open source project led by Sun.

Transferring control to a foundation, when the time is right

Like many, I'm a supporter of open source foundations. However, you have to consider where the project is in its lifecycle before arguing that its prospects would be brighter within a foundation than elsewhere.

In some cases, the success of an open source project is unrelated to whether a single vendor or a multitude of vendors control the project. Projects such as MySQL and Spring fall into this category.

In other cases, a foundation is the right place for an open source project, but when the project control is handed over to a foundation is an important question. For example, control of Drupal was not passed to the Drupal Foundation until five years after its founding. As another example, control of WordPress didn't move to a foundation for nearly seven years after the project began.

The pressure for Rackspace to cede control over OpenStack to a foundation appears to be premature, as noted by Dell's Rob Hirschfeld, an OpenStack community member:

Although companies like Dell (my employer), NTT, Citrix, Cisco (Rick's employer), and Microsoft are clearly investing in OpenStack, none have yet achieved NASA's or Rackspace's level of technical commitment.

The challenge for Rackspace is to expand the OpenStack market and ecosystem so that partners are motivated to jump in more and more quickly. If my experiences inside Dell are indicative of the broader community, Rackspace's leadership makes it much easier for partners to increase their own commitment. Like teaching my daughter to ride her bike, she needed to know that I was running next to her before she would pedal hard enough to balance by herself.

Few open source projects succeed in attracting third-party vendor contributions unless they appear to be evolving at a decent clip. Vendors want to know they're contributing to a project that will eventually -- if it hasn't already -- become the leading project in the particular product category. Who controls the community is an important second-order question for vendors considering contributions. The first-order question: Will my investments in this project pay off?

Rackspace should be afforded the time to increase the feature/function competitiveness of OpenStack and the quantity of third-party contributions before being prematurely forced down the path toward a foundation.

Follow me on Twitter at SavioRodrigues. I should state: "The postings on this site are my own and don't necessarily represent IBM's positions, strategies, or opinions."

This article, "OpenStack's (long) march toward an open foundation," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Read more of Savio Rodrigues' Open Sources blog and follow the latest developments in open source at InfoWorld.com. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.

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