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February 19, 2014

Open Source Vendor Certifications for OpenStack are Awesome

Yesterday Mirantis announced their efforts towards Open Source vendor certifications for OpenStack that seek to build and accelerate some of the great work that has been going on in the Cinder community. This is huge, and in more ways than immediately obvious. Unfortunately, in recent history “The Cloud” has been such an overused buzzword, and encompasses so many things, that it has become almost meaningless to a wide swath of consumers.

SAY_CLOUD_AGAIN

So many people look at OpenStack and just see “software” to make “one of those cloud things” for a very specific use. They miss the point entirely that OpenStack (and others like it) are simply part of the commoditization of, and a paradigm shift in the way we think about, infrastructure.

With an open certification program we’ll be able to see advantages like:

  1. Creating a common lexicon
  2. Accelerating adoption
  3. Embracing the Open Source model
  4. Leveling the playing field for innovation
  5. A strongly supported ecosystem

1. Creating a common lexicon

One of the biggest advantages of an Open Source vendor certification program is that everyone is using the same tools, terms, and procedures in their testing regimen. This means that it is an immediate apples-to-apples comparison that makes it easy for newcomers and experts alike to evaluate the relative merit of a solution for their use case. More than anything else this should lay the groundwork for a transparent, and easily adoptable, ramp into the OpenStack community.

2. Accelerating adoption

Adoption is never like flipping a switch. Usually new technology starts with early adopters who are both technically savvy and have a vested interest in a specific part of a technology. With an open certification program we will see the gravitational pull of these early adopters (who also tend to be large and/or influential) lessened so that all aspects of OpenStack are free to flourish.

The broader the vendor ecosystem can be (without having to wait for a bottleneck of a small number of people to do the certification) the broader the adoption profile can be in a very short amount of time. As Blue Box CEO Jesse Proudman points out, this is especially important for users looking to capitalize on existing infrastructure investments. A wholesale adoption by a broad ecosystem would mean that, in many cases, OpenStack could be deployed immediately without the need for additional investment.

3. Embracing the Open Source model

Of course the Open Source model itself shouldn’t be discounted, as it inherently brings a more transparent view of the world with the ability for a community to weigh in and improve it at a prodigious rate. A unified certification process that is built by the community will allow for discussions of execution and comparative analysis that would be imporssible with a single (or several different) certifying bodies. Reports of integration or compatibility now will be less slanted (as any report of compatibility or performance usually is) which means easy comparison and a plug-and-play take on this infrastructure approach becomes immediately more viable.

In fact, with an Open Source model it actually makes it easier for new integrators to build their solutions. Now you can write a plugin and simply run the existing test and fix the errors, rather than having an “it works for me” answer with lots of bug reports and shaky 0.x releases to struggle through. The one thing that I will say about this program is that it is still pretty early days. The testing frameworks and tools have a long way to go before they are really as robust as they need to be. However, with a community as large and active as OpenStack I’m sure this will rapidly evolve.

4. Leveling the playing field for innovation

While I already mentioned that larger, or more influential, entities would have less of a gravitational pull it is worth expanding on. So often in technology, especially infrastructure, it’s a game of “who do you know” or “who can you connect with.” So the most technically meritous achievement may not always be the one that wins. With an open certification it allows for anyone to immediately become part of the functional ecosystem, with the same tests and certifications as anyone else. This means that small shops that are wildly innovative can’t be squeezed out (at least not as easily) by the bigger players.

The hope here is that it will force all members of the ecosystem to work harder to demonstrate how their expertise, support, added features, ease of use, or similar differentiators make them superior. This, in turn, makes the ecosystem stronger and more long-term viable.

5. A strongly supported ecosystem

The fact that Mirantis is offering free support to any organization setting up this internal testing environment is something that should certainly not be overlooked. Allowing new adopters to get their hands on a human for a better understanding of how the technology works is vastly superior to hoping tech savvy users are willing to scour docs and exercise their Google-fu. Accelerating the knowledge curve like this will also make the community-at-large better at being self-supported in a short amount of time.

Conclusion

All of this put together means that the future of OpenStack continues to look very bright and vibrant. I am really excited to watch this Open Source certification program evolve and look forward to helping it grow through the Ceph project’s participation and evangelism. If you are an infrastructure player of some kind and haven’t plugged in to OpenStack you should definitely rectify that before you are left too far behind!

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