Thursday, April 12, 2012

The New Open Source Superpower

Today is yet another important day in the history of OpenStack. The initial list of founding organizations for the independent OpenStack foundation has been announced and we, at Mirantis, are proud to be on that list.

While there is a lot to talk about on what this means for the infrastructure cloud market, I’d like to focus on what this means as far as illustrating the sheer momentum of the OpenStack beast. The non-profit legal entity that will house OpenStack has not yet been formed, but 18 organizations have already pledged significant financial (and not only financial) support to the foundation. The current financing model calls for $500K/year commitment from a Platinum sponsor and $50-$200K/year – from a Gold sponsor. Judging by the current composition of the supporting organizations, it is clear that the new foundation will launch with the initial budget north of $5M.

So how does this measure up to the rest of the FLOSS ecosystem? Well, there is a reason why OpenStack has been repetitively tagged as the Linux of the cloud. With the $5M annual budget, the newly formed OpenStack foundation takes the second spot in the entire FLOSS world. And it is second only to… you guessed it… the Linux foundation itself. According to form 990 filed by the Linux foundation in 2010 its operating revenues were $9.6M. Yes, the Linux foundation budget is still double that the OpenStack…but…come on…Linux is close to 20% of the server market. It also happens to power the majority of all mobile devices. OpenStack = Linux was a vision… judging by these numbers, this vision may soon be realized.

Another interesting thing that these numbers portray is why OpenStack (unlike CloudStack) has opted to create its own foundation, rather than surrendering everything to the governance of the Apache Foundation. With the Apache Foundation budget under $1M, OpenStack eats it for breakfast.

Now many of you will argue that none of this matters. Apache foundation houses many great projects that are far more mature and popular than OpenStack… true. But can you tell me, how many of these are truly vendor agnostic? And I am not talking about developer tools like Ant, Maven, Beehive etc. All Apache projects fall into two categories – they are either developer tools or vendor centric enterprise products: Tomcat – VMWare, Hadoop – Cloudera, – will now be Citrix =).

In my opinion, there is a reason for it and it is somewhat tied to foundation budgets. Open source is heavily driven by marketing. The number one open source company – RedHat - spends 2-3x more on marketing relative to its revenue than any of its closed source competitors. Ultimately, it is the marketing spend on an open source project that heavily affects its vendor independence status. If the entire spend comes from a single pocket, there is a single vendor that dominates that product.

Unlike most Apache open source projects, OpenStack (while still under RackSpace) was backed by a significant marketing and PR budget. Consequently, when foundation plans were being discussed, it was the desire to continue this centralized marketing effort that precluded OpenStack from considering the Apache foundation as its home. A significant chunk of the $5M raised will be spent by the foundation to promote and protect the OpenStack brand and the projects that the foundation will house. In a sense, this implies that for anyone to derail the vendor independent status of OpenStack, one will need the marketing budget, comparable to the $5M the foundation has raised… I say this is a decent barrier to start with.