OpenStack will not kill open core

Open core will remain a popular business model for cloud software vendors, even those who adopt OpenStack

Rackspace Hosting and NASA made headlines by announcing an open source cloud software project earlier this week. Some observed that OpenStack could be the beginning of the end for open-core business models for cloud infrastructure providers. IT decision makers are cautioned to ignore the predicted decline of open core and instead focus on selecting cloud technology that addresses business requirements.

Fully open source cloud software

Launched by Rackspace Hosting and NASA, with the support of vendors such as Citrix, NTT Data, and RightScale, the goal of OpenStack is to "allow any organization to create and offer cloud computing capabilities using open source software running on standard hardware."

[ Is open source evolving to open core? InfoWorld's Savio Rodrigues makes the case. | Keep up with the latest open source trends and news in InfoWorld's Technology: Open Source newsletter. ]

Open source cloud software foundations are not new -- Eucalyptus and Cloud.com are two vendors that offer open source products in the cloud arena. However, unlike Eucalyptus or Cloud.com, which utilize an open-core product strategy, OpenStack is billed as a completely open source project, without any advanced, enterprise, or service provider relevant features available only in a paid commercial offering.

Rejecting open core

In fact, when asked by RedMonk's Michael Cote whether Rackspace would utilize an open-core model for OpenStack, Rackspace's Jonathan Bryce responded:

No, we want a system that is truly open. And one of the reasons is cloud is all about scale and a lot of the open core software ... they follow this open core model where you can run a basic version of the system and then when you want to do something that's really heavy duty then you pay for the extra features that let you do that. ... So an open core model for a cloud system doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me to have a product that is trimmed down and works on a small set of servers or on a small number of clients, whatever it may be, and then you pay to get to the full scale, it just doesn't seem to apply to cloud. So that's not the model that we're going after.

A rejection of the open-core model was also highlighted as a key driver for NASA contributing to OpenStack. NASA currently uses Eucalyptus to power its internal cloud. However, according to an article by Cade Metz, Eucalyptus' open-core model was getting in the way of NASA's usage pattern. Metz writes:

NASA chief technology officer Chris Kemp tells The Reg that as his engineers attempted to contribute additional Eucalyptus code to improve its ability to scale, they were unable to do so because some of the platform's code is open and some isn't. Their attempted contributions conflicted with code that was only available in a partially closed version of platform maintained by Eucalyptus Systems Inc., the commercial outfit run by the project's founders.
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