Top 8 questions for the OpenStack Summit

Updated: To say there’s been a lot of build up to this year’s OpenStack Summit would be an understatement. The drama around VMware’s application to join the OpenStack Foundation and the delayed acceptance of that bid got tongues wagging. It’s only natural, as OpenStack transitioned from a Rackspace(s rax)-dominated project to a multi-vendor effort with participation from IBM(s ibm), SUSE, Cisco(s csco), HP(s hpq) and pretty much the rest of the known tech universe with the notable exception of Amazon(s amzn).

Sadly, a scheduling conflict with Structure: Europe (where cloud will also be on the menu) prevents me from hitting the show, but here are 8 questions for the OpenStack cognoscenti.

1: What’s IBM’s play? Big Blue is relatively late to the party, having joined OpenStack last spring, but folks want to know when it will offer its own OpenStack-based cloud. IBM’s model with Apache has been to ship the open-source code with its hardware and software, and in theory it could do something like that here. Still, if IBM is all-in on OpenStack it will have to make some statement about where the cloud platform fits into IBM’s SmartCloud universe or even its shiny new enterprise-class cloud launched with AT&T(s T) on Tuesday. Red Hat(s rhat), which joined the effort at the same time as IBM, posted a preview of its OpenStack cloud in August.

2: Who’s on Jonathan Bryce’s dream team? Bryce, founder of the Rackspace Cloud, who helped nurture the fledgling OpenStack project, officially moved over to become Executive Director of the OpenStack Foundation in September. He’s already brought Lauren Sell aboard. But who else from Rackspace is making the move? Smart money is that Mark Collier, VP of business development for Rackspace, will come along which might beg the question of whether OpenStack is perpetuating some Rackspace dominance — although the foundation chairman is SUSE’s Alan Clark and vice chairman is Cisco’s Lew Tucker. Update: Collier has been named COO of the OpenStack Foundation.

3: What’s Cloudscaling up to? OpenStack isn’t just for the big ol’ tech giants. It has attracted younger, leaner companies too, including Piston Cloud (see disclosure) and six-year-old Cloudscaling, which joined the effort two years ago. Cloudscaling Co-Founder and CTO Randy Bias has been a great spokesman for OpenStack and the company is expected to talk more about its implementation game plan at the show in San Diego. Stay tuned.

4: Openstack — the Linux or Unix of cloud?  OpenStack has an impressive amount of support from most of the leading IT vendors already mentioned and 5,600 individual members. Impressive, but also problematic given that many of the foundation members leading the charge also compete with each other. What if HP and IBM and Cisco come up with slightly different implementations of the standard? Proponents say enlightened self interest will keep that from happening, but stranger things have happened.

5: Is VMware a friend, foe or frenemy? There are still those in the OpenStack community who eye VMware’s entry as a trojan horse. Remember, when OpenStack launched nearly three years ago, it was seen as a way to keep VMware from parlaying its virtualization dominance from on-premises data centers into the cloud. To be fair, VMware now owns Nicira , which was a big OpenStack contributor in software-defined networking, so VMware may just be doing good citizenship here. But face it, it will be closely watched.

6: Will OpenStack prevail against Eucalyptus and CloudStack? OpenStack is not the only open source cloud in town. It faces off with Eucalyptus, an older open-source cloud platform that also touts integration with Amazon’s public cloud APIs as well as the Apache CloudStack project backed by (heartbreaker!) former OpenStack contributor Citrix(s ctrx). A recent survey of technical pros by Zenoss shows that early sentiment favors OpenStack. Of 600 respondents, 82.9 percent are not using open source cloud now but more than half of them (56.9 percent) said they’re considering such deployment in the next two years. And of those, 62.8 percent said they’re looking at OpenStack compared to 46.8 percent who named CloudStack and 23.8 percent who tapped Eucalyptus.

7: Will there be surprise new OpenStack players? Don’t be shocked if OpenStack garners some new backers, including companies like Terremark, Verizon’s (s vz) cloud computing arm, which has been a big VMware vCloud partner to date. After all, what’s the downside for a company like that to offer cloud options? There will doubtless be other new OpenStack offerings unveiled at the summit as well.

8: Where are the users? Again OpenStack is young, but even foundation members would like to see faster user adoption and perhaps even (gasp!) a user conference. Thus far, the OpenStack discussion has been dominated by the techies who are building OpenStack. One vendor rep with the effort said he’d love to see broader adoption — especially in Europe — and until that happens CloudStack and Eucalyptus can keep beating up on the platform as too green to deploy.

Disclosure: Piston Cloud is backed by True Ventures, a venture capital firm that is an investor in the parent company of this blog, Giga Omni Media. Om Malik, founder of Giga Omni Media, is also a venture partner at True.