OpenStack gets real

After a sometimes contentious incubation period,  the OpenStack Foundation is now official, with a new 24-member board chaired by SUSE exec and Linux Foundation director Alan Clark; 5,600 members; and $10 million in backer’s funding.  Rackspace’s Jonathan Bryce, who did a lot of the heavy lifting moving OpenStack along, is executive director. The news comes after a few weeks of dramatic back-and-forth discussion (surfacing on Twitter) about who should be voted in and how public that process should be.

Alan Clark, chairman of the OpenStack Foundation

There’s a lot riding on OpenStack,  the open-source cloud project launched by Rackspace(s rax) and NASA more than two years ago. The community is watching to see how the foundation will handle the sometimes competing interests of its members. The big question is whether this effort goes the way of  the Eclipse Foundation, widely seen as a successful transition of technology from one company to a multi-party consortium. The other option would be for it to echo the OpenOffice effort backed by Sun Microsystems, then Oracle(s orcl), which foundered.

VMware: friend, foe or frenemy?

Clark likes OpenStack’s chances even after a public fracas last month when VMware(s vmw) — long seen as an OpenStack competitor — sought membership, which was granted after a delay and a lot of discussion. Some OpenStack board members, including Mirantis co-founder Boris Renski feel that VMware only joined to keep an eye on its competition. EnStratus CTO and co-founder George Reese is not crazy about the idea either. Clark conceded that there’s a lot of history with VMware,  but he thinks that all of the members are motivated by self-interest to make sure that OpenStack does not fracture into multiple semi-compatible implementations.

Asked if VMware really has OpenStack’s best interests at heart, Clark said: “I honestly think so. Will they compete? Yes. A lot of us are in some sense competitors but we’re also contributors. I think we’re better off having them contribute to interoperability than shooing them away,” he said.

He cited the rocky Microsoft(s msft)-Linux relationship as precedent. “I lived through [Microsoft CEO] Steve Ballmer’s comments about killing Linux, but if you go back to last year and see who contributed to the Linux kernel. Microsoft was in the top ten.”

Next up for OpenStack? The “Folsom” release is due out within weeks and the OpenStack Summit is on for next month in San Diego.

And now with VMware in the fold — whatever its motivations are — the OpenStack gang may focus more strongly on public cloud giant Amazon(s amzn), which many see as OpenStack’s true rival.