Why OpenStack Has its Work Cut Out

This week, a relatively large group of technology companies, along with NASA, launched OpenStack, an open source project designed to give businesses and service providers a top-to-bottom, and already proven, cloud computing platform. I’m all for openness, but as I discuss in my weekly column at GigaOM Pro, it’s do not too difficult to play devil’s advocate and make the case that OpenStack won’t create true rivals for leading cloud providers or cloud software vendors.

Assuming the provisioning engine comes to fruition, OpenStack will undoubtedly see adoption from service providers wanting to offer cloud computing, enterprises wanting to build their own internal clouds, and IT vendors looking to beef up their cloud software offerings. If all comes together as planned, it should be a very nice solution. Just like everywhere else in life, competition in the cloud is a great thing.

However, competition for dollars and developers is plentiful, including large cloud providers, software vendors and even other open source options. The idea of a network of interoperable OpenStack-based public and internal clouds is appealing, but it would require stealing business and developers from a wide variety of other proven, innovative and commercially supported offerings.

Even within the OpenStack membership, conflicts of interest exist. How supportive can Rackspace really be of other service providers without cannibalizing its own cloud revenue? Plus, it’s also considering offering Windows Azure as a service. Dell already sells Joyent’s cloud software, and it’s also an early Windows Azure Appliance partner. If Dell does offer OpenStack as an open source alternative, it will be just that — an alternative. Other partners will support the OpenStack platform, but that’s on top of existing support for AWS, VMware and other industry-leading offerings. Supporting OpenStack is one thing, but pushing it to the exclusion of other options is something else.

Is OpenStack important? Yes. Will OpenStack attract a broad community of users? Yes. Will OpenStack-based offerings and deployments gather enough market share to make current leaders lose sleep? That’s not such an obvious answer.

Read the entire column here.

Photo courtesy of Picasa user elinenberg.