How Rackspace flew through turbulence in the private cloud

Bryan Thompson, General Manager, OpenStack Private Cloud at Rackspace, talked about the second generation of cloud and some turbulence that OpenStack recently experienced.

This year Rackspace won the Red Hat Innovation Award in two categories: the Cloud Infrastructure and the 2017 Red Hat Innovator of the Year. What sets Rackspace apart from its competitors is the fact that it co-founded OpenStack, along with NASA.

Being there from day one also means Rackspace has seen both sunny and rainy days.

Talking of the sunny days. During the OpenStack Summit (Boston) Jonathan Bryce, the executive director of the OpenStack Foundation, talked about the second generation of cloud, remotely managed private cloud, and Rackspace has already been doing for a while now.

“That's where we've seen growth in our business,” said Thompson, “You can see other vendors in this space trying to provide this as a managed service or as a service type of an offering. Because that's the way I think people are looking to consume complex open source technologies.”

While Rackspace is certainly riding the growth tide, it has also been in the thick of things.

Just a few weeks ahead of the OpenStack Summit, Intel withdrew from the OpenStack Innovation Center that they established in collaboration with Rackspace. Thompson said that while the end of Innovation Center does raise some concern, in reality it doesn’t much affect the OpenStack development work.

“That effort [Innovation Center] made great contributions to OpenStack but it certainly wasn't the majority. I think at peak we have 11% of the contribution that had gone in,” said Thompson. “There's still 89% of other ecosystem providers and individual contributors that are really driving that.”

Thompson said that the center was launched in the spirit of dealing with confusion and chaos in the community, something Lauren Sell, VP of Marketing & Community Services at OpenStack Foundation, touched upon in her keynote speech at the OpenStack Summit.

“We had an initiative that focused on pure upstream development that was all in the open and meant to serve a broad community effort,” said Thompson. “It wasn't done in the effort of creating a new for distribution or any proprietary technology for either Rackspace of Intel. The spirit of that was important, it established two very large clusters enabling contributors to test functions at a scale that's very difficult to do.”

The center helped the OpenStack community by bringing in many new developers and contributors to OpenStack.

“We developed and delivered a training program that literally trained hundreds of people on how to be effective contributors to the OpenStack community,” said Thompson.

In the lifespan of over 18 months, the center did a lot of work. It created a lot of vendor neutrality in certain ways. “We had a ton of heavy lifting and ground swell of effort that went into OpenStack that was not vendor specific,” said Thompson.

Closing of the innovation center is not the only blow to OpenStack. Along with the growth of OpenStack, we are also witnessing companies pulling out, there have been massive layoffs.

It’s actually not surprising. Every new technology attracts new and established players to explore the possibility of monetization.

Like any new technology, OpenStack also attracts many players that entered into the ecosystem early on, looking for a way to monetize. They explored ways to become relevant in the community and directly drive business and growth from that.

If there are companies pulling out of OpenStack, it doesn’t signal any fall off in momentum of the community or that it now going to decay. It only shows those companies failed to find a fit for themselves. “At the end of the day, we're all for profit companies, we're just trying to do that,” said Thompson.

In fact it’s good for the health and sustainability of Openstack. Thompson said that in the early days of OpenStack, every entity was trying to create new projects. They were trying to differentiate themselves from others or trying different aspects of uniquely monetizing from it. That lead to a bloat of projects around OpenStack. That was actually fatal for OpenStack.

Frustrated with this bloating, Mark Shuttleworth, the CEO of Canonical said that OpenStack vendors must stop creating BS as a service model.  

“It became almost counter to the OpenStack ethos where there were very vendor driven technologies, trying to do very specific functions that essentially deviated from the spirit of the platform,” said Thompson.

Those projects are now dying out which is good news for OpenStack. “Community is doing what you would expect the community to do over time,” said Thompson, “They got behind the things that are core to the platform, the project, the initiative and things that are expected to thrive. They're letting those vendor specific things just kind of die on the vine.”

The result is a more mature, healthy and sustainable OpenStack. The result is emergence of a new consumption model that will widen the ecosystem around OpenStack.

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