Four things to watch for at next week’s OpenStack Summit

As the OpenStack faithful gather in Atlanta next week for the OpenStack Summit, here are four things I’d like to see from the event:

More OpenStack users who aren’t also OpenStack vendors/backers

One problem for this open-source cloud framework is that many of the “users” we hear about are also vendors backing OpenStack. What we need is more adoption of OpenStack by normals.

And here’s a good sign on that front: OpenStack Foundation executive director Jonathan Bryce’s kick-off keynote will feature a segment on Wells Fargo’s(s wfc) OpenStack effort led by the bank’s head of private cloud enablement Glenn Ferguson. (Bryce is pictured above at right with Foundation COO Mark Collier.)

OpenStack needs more real-world use cases from non-aligned customers to show that its technology is ready for primetime. Bryce said the focus this year will be on users, not developers, and that’s a step in the right direction.

You’ll hear more on the open-source cloud landscape next month at Structure, where Nebula co-founder and CTO Chris Kemp will rep the OpenStack contingent while Eucalyptus CEO Marten Mickos and Citrix Group VP Sameer Dholakia will talk Eucalyptus and CloudStack, respectively.

Can the community really enforce interoperability?

We hear a lot about innovation above the code level — vendors will push their services and support as differentiators — but seriously, most people think vendors will rework code for competitive advantage and achieve better integration with its own existing hardware/software. Now that we’re approaching (or surpassing) a dozen different distributions of OpenStack, the fear is that tweaking by hyper-competitive vendors will introduce incompatibilities that will counter OpenStack’s promise to nuke vendor lock-in.

As Collier told Gigaom a few weeks back, the foundation will enforce interoperability requirements by withholding the OpenStack label from companies that go too far afield. We need to hear more about that going forward.

Is OpenStack ready for the enterprise or vice versa?

Even companies with big IT staffs don’t necessarily want to knit together four, five, six different OpenStack components into a coherent whole.

One Summit session is called “Are enterprises ready for the OpenStack transformation?” At first glance, that seems like the wrong question. Shouldn’t OpenStack be ready for the enterprise, not the other way around? But on second thought, anyone who’s talked to a CIO or a sysadmin lately knows that things have changed for big companies which must deliver quality software and services faster to both internal and external customers.

Even the biggest enterprises face upstarts coming onto their turf. One example: SpaceX — a startup, albeit an extremely well-funded one — is now competing with the U.S. Air Force.  The lesson here is companies have to be fast, not just big, going forward. The foundation would like to paint OpenStack as a key tool to help even large companies be more agile.

Who’s driving this bus?

There’s still a robust debate over whether OpenStack is a cat-herding effort that needs a dominant vendor driving things forward (Red Hat(s rhat)? HP(s hpq)?) An awful lot of attention gets paid to which vendor supplies the most code, etc. If the foundation (aka the cat herder) can wield its clout effectively — withholding OpenStack branding is one key way to do so — maybe this herd of cats can forge ahead and disrupt proprietary cloud technologies. If not — who knows?

For more from OpenStack Foundation leaders Bryce and Collier on interoperability issues and other topics, check out this Structure Show podcast:

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