Mirantis looks to open up OpenStack vendor certifications

But its new open-source certification compatibility initiative challenges a certification process put forward by Red Hat

Mirantis, a services and systems integration company that has evolved into an OpenStack distribution provider, may be small in size but the company has proven time and again that it isn't afraid to mix things up with the big boys in the cloud playground in which it plays. And now it's going up against Red Hat in an effort to push an open-source certification initiative for products within OpenStack cloud environments.

In recent years, the company has had its fair share of controversy.  At one time, the company came out against VMware's participation in the OpenStack community and publicly expressed concern and skepticism about VMware's joining the foundation.  Later down the road, the company again went after VMware, this time throwing out the claim (which it later walked back) that PayPal was ditching the virtualization giant in favor of migrating to OpenStack.  Even more recently, Mirantis ignited a Twitter storm after blogging that the addition of higher-level services to OpenStack would kill off third-party PaaS implementations.

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Fast forward, and the company is once again making bold statements -- and putting its words into action.  According to David Fishman, vice president of marketing at Mirantis, large companies have historically used certifications to build artificial competitive barriers against smaller, disruptive vendors.  As a result, he claims these smaller companies, who may have superior technologies, could find that they're not "certified" to run on the products of larger vendors.  

Instead of relying on vendor-specific certifications, Mirantis is leading the charge for an open-source certification initiative for third-party hardware and software integrations within OpenStack cloud environments.  On the surface, this sounds completely logical and necessary -- and perhaps it is. But it's still not without controversy.

Fishman went on to describe this new initiative:

We're already seeing these kind of "closed-door open source" plays happen in OpenStack; the goal of this initiative is to level the playing field.  The objective is to provide the OpenStack community with a standard and open set of tools that vendors can use to self-certify the compatibility of their solutions with the upstream OpenStack codebase.  Any vendors can set up their own internal testing labs, link those labs to the community-driven OpenStack continuous integration system, and dynamically expose the results of their certification tests in a publicly available dashboard.

With the initiative there will be a free, open source of information available to customers detailing how the products of OpenStack vendors -- Mirantis included -- integrate with the wider OpenStack codebase.  Customers win because they get the facts to judge the performance of all OpenStack offerings against a common yardstick, without the obstruction of product certifications.

Fishman went on to say that products should be judged solely on their own merits and should be totally interoperable with one another.  He added that, "if a customer wants to use one vendor's OS and another's hypervisor and a third's storage back end, they should be able to do so.  In that way, the open certification initiative represents a step towards that goal by allowing customers complete visibility over how every vendor's product integrates with the upstream OpenStack codebase."

As an example, if an IT organization has an existing storage device from EMC, Hitachi, or NetApp and wants it managed via OpenStack, it will now have a place to go to see if that particular storage product will work with a specific version of OpenStack.

Mirantis isn't going at this initiative alone.  The company said more than a dozen major infrastructure vendors, including HP, NetApp, and VMware, as well as large OpenStack users such as AT&T and Yahoo, are supporting the initiative.  Mirantis also stated that it will be asking all of its partners that integrate with Mirantis OpenStack to formally join this effort as well.  It hopes other providers will do the same. 

While the list of companies signing up for this multi-vendor open source certification initiative is respectable, there is at least one name noticeably missing from the list: Red Hat.  Red Hat is OpenStack's top contributor, according to Stackalytics, representing 20 percent of all code commits on the Havana release, compared to Mirantis which comes in fifth place with 9 percent of commits.

So where is the Linux giant in all of this?  Well, much like its Linux certifications, Red Hat appears to be championing its own vendor certification process, which is part of the company's value add to its users.  In fact, as you might expect, around the same time as the Mirantis announcement, Red Hat put out its own announcement on the topic, stating:

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