OpenStack proponents also say that sharing the OpenStack bits will prevent cloud lock-in, but that benefit may be limited. Those who have been around this tree before (think J2EE application servers) understand the inherent contradiction: Each OpenStack cloud software or service provider will differentiate with special features that, if you use them, will inhibit portability.
Such fragmentation could become a severe problem if "innovation by committee" slows down the development of shared bits to the point that frustrated vendors jump way ahead and lose the common denominator of OpenStack. But Jonathan Bryce, executive director of OpenStack, sounded persuasive when he told me that so far death by committee is nowhere in evidence. In fact, pretty much everyone I've spoken to contends that OpenStack's lean, energetic development teams are plowing ahead at an impressive rate. In addition, says Bryce, a trademark program will ensure that vendors who use the OpenStack logo meet a specific set of requirements.
Nonetheless, any project with multiple vendor participants runs the risk that some big dog will gain disproportionate influence over technology development. But Bryce believes the structure of the Foundation will prevent certain parties from running roughshod over the rest.
"There's a technical committee and technical leaders for each project on the development side that are all elected by the contributors," notes Bryce. "So the development teams function as a meritocracy, where the contributions and the abilities of the participants determine who ends up in leadership roles. This should help ensure that it doesn't become something that's just dominated by corporate interests."
Alan Clark echoed Bryce's comment in a conversation the day before the Foundation launched, saying, "The technical committee and the meritocracy associated with that -- we're very much sensitive for the need for that to continue as it has been, because that's what's produced the tremendous growth in such a short period of time."
Sustaining this level of energy -- and keeping OpenStack open, when many of the solutions based on it will likely be closed -- is a big challenge. But whether you call it "the cloud" or not, the need for a standardized way to manage vast swaths of virtualized data center resources in undeniable. At this point it's hard to ignore the genuine excitement among OpenStack developers as they work toward that goal.
This article, "The great OpenStack balancing act," originally appeared at InfoWorld.com. Read more of Eric Knorr's Modernizing IT blog. And for the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld on Twitter.