OpenStack is just three years old, and as GigaOm reported last week, it is experiencing some growing pains. That doesn't mean we should be throwing the baby-open source project out with the bathwater, only that there is much more work to do be done --and perhaps a business opportunity for a smart company.
As we wrote last week, Oracle is just the latest corporation to join the club and begin working on OpenStack. Coincidentally, also last week, Red Hat released their version of the OpenStack Linux platform.
Cisco, VMware and Intel among others have joined founders NASA and Rackspace to continue to build on the work of the OpenStack community. But judging from the GigaOm article, much work remains.
There is a particularly irksome problem involving upgrading between versions of OpenStack that is causing problems and the GigaOm article points out that this is why many folks are looking at the packages from Red Hat, HP and others precisely because they are working to solve some of these issues.
"Easing migrations and management are major selling points behind ”enterprise grade” releases of OpenStack like Red Hat’s new Enterprise Linux OpenStack Platform 4.0. Tools like HP’s TripleO and Mirantis Fuel are also geared to ease migrations and deployments," according to the GigaOm piece.
But this has always been the case with open source in general. You have what appears to be a decent package, but it's hard to use and implement. It lacks the backing of a corporate sponsor, and IT pros are always more comfortable when there is "a throat to throttle" when things go wrong.
When you're working off of pure open source code, that's not always easy. Sure, you're providing your company with cutting edge technology, but there is always that uneasy feeling about a lack of support, beyond the community of course.
And I don't want to minimize the community aspect of open source because it can help you work through a number of issues. If you're having an issue, chances are so is someone else, and perhaps they've found a work-around for you.
In fact, ovver the years open source projects have been mini economic engines for consultants, developers (who develop plug-ins) and yes, umbrella companies that help simplify the implementation of the project and provide paid support, giving that level of comfort that might have been missing with the the base project.
What OpenStack needs is something like what Acquia gives Drupal users or what LucidWorks gives Apache Solr users. Both of these companies provide a corporate framework that's missing from the core project.
Of course, you can use these open source products without using the services of these umbrella companies, but for many, having a company like that in place, makes using the open source product more attractive.
While companies like Oracle, HP and Red Hat probably want to be that company, there is also a business opportunity for an independent company to develop and fill this need too while the technology is still young and developing if someone were willing to step in and fill the void.