OpenStack Foundation launches as stand-alone nonprofit organisation
OpenStack's guardians promise a transparent development process for the stack of open source cloud software
By Joab Jackson | Published: 15:36, 19 September 2012
After almost a year of preparation, The OpenStack Foundation has launched as a stand-alone nonprofit organisation, freeing its namesake stack of open source cloud hosting software from the management of hosting provider Rackspace.
Rackspace loosely oversaw the community development for the first two years of the project, though last year, the project leaders decided that the open source software would be better managed in a vendor neutral setting, much like the Linux Foundation oversees the Linux OS kernel. On Wednesday, the newly formed organisation announced that Rackspace transferred to it both the community management activities and the OpenStack trademark.
"Putting OpenStack in an independent and vendor neutral foundation is one way to make sure you don't get stuck with a single vendor," said Jonathan Bryce, executive director of the OpenStack Foundation, explaining why he believes the foundation will be beneficial to organisations that are considering the use of the technology.
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"OpenStack will be around for years to come. [Vendor] acquisitions get made, product lines get slashed, strategies get changed. The foundation provides an independent home that will be the long term way that OpenStack will continue to be developed and supported," Bryce said
The managers of the project took considerable effort to make sure the foundation would represent all the parties involved. Lingering concerns remain, however, about the transparency of the group.
Combining Nebula and Cloud Files
The OpenStack project was launched two years ago, and combined two separate cloud software projects, NASA's Nebula and Rackspace's Cloud Files. OpenStack provides a platform for running a private cloud infrastructure. Additionally, some cloud hosting providers, such as Rackspace and Hewlett-Packard use the software to host their own services.
Interest in the project has been strong since its launch. More than 573 developers have contributed to the code base, which now has more than 550,000 lines of code. The Foundation now boasts of more than 5,600 members, representing the interests of more than 850 organisations. The project garnered around $10 million in funding, mostly from corporate contributions.
The OpenStack Foundation will have three branches: a technical committee, a user committee and a board of directors.
The board provides strategic and financial oversight for the organisation. The board is comprised 24 members: 8 members from the Platinum sponsors, 8 from the Gold sponsors, and 8 from individual members.
The membership is distributed so no one entity can have too much influence over the board, Bryce said. OpenStack will only issue 8 Platinum sponsorships, so each Platinum sponsorship comes with its own board seat. The gold members each elect eight of their own to sit on the board, as do the individual members.
The current eight Platinum Members are AT&T, Canonical, HP, IBM, Nebula, Rackspace, Red Hat and SUSE. Current Gold members include Cisco, Dell, NetApp, Piston Cloud Computing and Yahoo, with Intel, NEC and VMware joining this month.
Alan Clark, SUSE's director of industry initiative was elected as the first chairman for the board in August. Lew Tucker, Cisco vice president and chief technology officer of cloud computing was elected vice chairman of the board.
No company can have more than two seats of the board, even if a company acquires a second organization with additional seats on the board. "As we are working though issues, everyone has one vote," said Eilleen Evansvice, Hewlett-Packard's associate general counsel for cloud computing, who was part of the drafting committee for the bylaws. "If we have more diversity, we will come up with better technology."
Additional provisions were added in to deal with deadlocks within a committee. The chairman of the board, for instance, can decide a split vote.
Running the technical direction of the project
The technical committee, whose leaders are chosen by their own ranks, is a continuation of the Project Policy Board that was already in place. They will still define and guide the software development of individual projects. Today, OpenStack is comprised of three separate projects, Nova, which handles compute; Swift, for storage; and Glance, for the managing of virtual images. Additional components are being added for identity management and to provide a user interface.
"Active technical contributors are the ones who can vote for the technical committee leads," Evansvice said. "So those are really contributing are running the technical direction of the project."
The new user committee has been created to represent the voice of the end users. Tim Bell, the operating systems and infrastructure services group leader at CERN European Organisation for Nuclear Research, will set up this group. Each quarter, both the board of directors and the technical committees have to allocate time to listen to a report from the user committee.
The organization has a code of conduct. Someone unhappy with how an issue is being handled can file a grievance with the board of directors, which has the power to respond in a number of ways, up to revoking an offending party's membership. With the technical groups, contributors can find additional reviewers for a body of work, should the first reviewers not adequately inspect the code to the contributor's satisfaction.
The process to create the bylaws was an "open and collaborative process," Evansvice said. The group posted drafts of the documents online and solicited input from the community. "It was a great exercise in an open collaborative process," Evansvice said.
Not everyone thought the process was as open as it could be, however.
Overall, the organisers did a good job at setting up the foundation, though the process to create the organization and its bylaws could have been more open, said Krishnan Subramanian, the principal analyst and founder of Rishidot Research who follows OpenStack.
"My main worry has been that there has been some lack of transparency in their dealings. This is an open source project. I expect them to be transparent," Subramanian said. While much of the discussion around the forming of the foundation took place on public mailing lists, other decisions were made behind closed doors, creating the impression of "back office dealings," Subramanian said. And during the most recent board room meeting, some of the members advocated keeping some of the discussions private, Subramanian said.
"As they move forward, they should keep things transparent. That is the only way an open source project can succeed," Subramanian said.
Now that the foundation has been created, the organisation will look for up to a dozen people to hire to handles tasks such as testing the software, building the community and managing activities around the OpenStack trademark, Bryce said.