I’ve been involved with OpenStack for a few years now and I’ve seen some pretty incredible changes. OpenStack is now something that I think almost any medium to large sized company with a Data Center has some level of interest in. The growth, adoption and increased participation in the project has been nothing short of amazing.
With that growth there’s an increasing number of IT Vendors and Software Companies that are contributing code. I’ve given multiple talks at Conferences and other events stating that I feel this is a win for Open Source and more specifically a win for OpenStack. Having multiple competing vendors sharing ideas and contributing to make the overall project better is extremely powerful and in my opinion good. I don’t want to go into one my rants about balance of contributions (i.e. contribution to the overall OpenStack project versus the piece that just allows you to market and sell product), so I won’t… I’ll save that for another day. I’ve been around a while, and I’m a realist, I’ll be the first to say that if the opportunity to market and prophet from OpenStack wasn’t there it wouldn’t have grown nearly as much as it has over the years.
I do want to try and remind people though that OpenStack and Open Source aren’t just about marketing and driving sales of some product. There are various segments out there like Research Institutions, Universities and nonprofits that don’t have massive budgets and they rely on Open Source in order to solve real problems. Cloud computing is no exception, there are tons of organizations out there that are trying to solve problems ranging from finding cures for disease, to understanding and predicting weather phenomena. Whether it’s genetic sequencing, climate analysis or modeling viruses in order to help find a cure; there are numerous applications where platforms like OpenStack can and do make a difference. I like to think that while I contribute to OpenStack as a career and to benefit my employer, that I’m also at the same time able to contribute something that makes a difference. Who knows, maybe some day some group will be using OpenStack that they pulled down from Github on their cheap commodity hardware and find a way to predict earthquakes, or unlock the genetic mysteries of some fatal disease and find a way to cure it, or even better prevent it.
The point is that all of this is about more than selling an OpenStack distribution, or enabling the sale of more of “Vendor-A’s” kit. We have an opportunity to contribute to and build something that actually matters and makes a difference. We can innovate and provide something truly advanced that doesn’t include a giant price tag to go along with it. I’d ask that everybody involved in OpenStack just take a step back every once in a while… think about some of those segments of the community that aren’t necessarily associated with dollars. How can we help them? How can we provide something that enables them to make a difference, and in turn make a difference ourselves?
That’s really what Open Source is all about to me, that’s why I love it. A while back at the Folsom Summit when we first started talking about doing Cinder, Vish made a statement that I think was really important. I don’t remember the exact words, but it was something like “Let’s make sure we don’t forget our friends and users in the research community”. I think that’s a great point and we’d all do well to remind ourselves of that once in a while. It’s not just about selling product and making money, it’s about enabling others to do things they couldn’t do before by Open Sourcing the software and tools.