A couple of weeks ago, OpenStack had a big party in Atlanta and celebrated with 4500 strong coming together to talk about all things OpenStack. There were vendors and developers and signs of a vibrant community, but underneath were also some signals that perhaps OpenStack is at a crossroads.

Even while they were have this grand celebration of the community, some were wondering why OpenStack co-founder, Rackspace was keeping such a low profile at the organization’s biggest event. The answer became clearer when reports surfaced after the event that Rackspace was seeking a buyer.

Rackspace helped launch OpenStack as a check against the growing cloud power of Amazon, Google and Microsoft. They wanted an open source, standards-based way of dealing with cloud computing, and while it’s not perfect and there are limitations, they have done a pretty good job of creating the system they envisioned several years ago.

The Register explained why Rackspace could be in trouble. At its core, Rackspace is still a hardware company and the cloud means even having 100,000 servers isn’t enough, not when you can spin up 1000 servers in 5 seconds. Rackspace might have come up with the idea of OpenStack as way to to compete with the big cloud vendors, but in the end they are still being undone by them, even while the open source cloud operating environment they helped create is thriving.

It’s a bit of a conundrum.

There have been rumors that Microsoft might buy them. Microsoft of course has its own platform, Azure, which it’s trying to push to the same enterprise customers as OpenStack. Would Microsoft buying Rackspace be like Oracle buying Sun? While there are parallels, OpenStack seems to be a healthy open source community in its own right.

Just the fact that the OpenStack summit went on, even as Rackspace kept a low profile at the event would seem to suggest that OpenStack has grown fairly independent of one of its founding members, which is really as it should be.

When Oracle bought Sun, it brought Java under its corporate umbrella and there have been repercussions of that ever since, but Sun really controlled Java (and several other open source pieces like MySQL). All of this has lead to complications with Oracle as the stewards of these projects. In the case MySQL, companies are increasingly looking away from MySQL to MariaDB.

Whoever buys Rackspace has to know they are intertwined tightly with OpenStack, but it appears that OpenStack is independent enough to survive whatever the outcome. Still, it would be nice if the buyer at least had a stake in OpenStack to keep that part of the relationship going.

Photo Credit: Matt Joyce on Flickr. Used under CC 2.0 license.