What’s most important in a distribution, said Ionel, is the stability of its components. “OpenStack—that is, the upstream community—doesn’t test OpenStack very hard,” he said. “It’s not their mission. They are not to blame. They do some basic testing that is not relevant to production use.

“We at Mirantis have been aware of this for some time. We know these challenges, which is why Mirantis OpenStack works extremely well out of the box [and] is easy to set up and configure. It’s like configuring your car on the Web: You have a beautiful orchestrator, you push a button, and 30 minutes later your cloud that’s production-worthy will be up and running.”

Tim Yeaton, senior vice president of infrastructure at Red Hat, said that open-source “communities, in general, are organized around driving innovation. For mission-critical deployments, there needs to be someone like Red Hat to take that and make it stable and give it a life cycle. Gartner was complaining about robustness of upstream [OpenStack] technologies from a supportability standpoint. It’s going to get better, but it’ll always be innovation first.”

Umbrella of projects
Indeed, OpenStack has become the place for innovative cloud services to start and grow. Outside of OpenStack, many in-cloud service companies, such as Eucalyptus and Nimbula, long ago gave up on their efforts to spread Amazon Web Services-like APIs into private clouds. Instead of replicating Amazon, OpenStack has become the place where innovative new services are being tested—services like Red Hat’s storage services, Gluster, Ceph, and Project Neutron (formerly known as Project Quantum). Gluster is a multi-petabyte distributed file system that can be used to host numerous types of workloads. Ceph is a combination object, block and file storage system that has been in the works for almost 10 years now. And Neutron was originally the work of a software-defined networking company, Nicira. Neutron allows OpenStack clouds to define their own networking topology.

Underneath all of these sub-projects, however, is still a somewhat nebulous core that makes up OpenStack. Sousou said that he has been pushing for a more defined core of the platform from his post in the OpenStack Foundation.

“What we are working on at the board level in the Foundation is to define the core,” he said. “What does it mean when you say OpenStack? It’s quite a large number of projects, and not all of them you’d consider core.”

Sousou added that the goal is to define the core so that distributions can be evaluated and “you can put an OpenStack sticker on it.” That’s important if multiple distributions are going to coexist in the marketplace. If different versions of OpenStack are not compatible with one another, the whole allure of OpenStack is lost.

“Having consistent APIs and stable APIs for the core is actually really important,” said Sousou. “There are quite a few open-source projects that overlap with OpenStack. That’s great, but it needs to be defined what constitutes core OpenStack so everybody understands how they can add capabilities in a way that’s similar to Linux.”

Ionel said that Mirantis is heavily focused on evolving and stabilizing the core of OpenStack. “We have such a deep footprint all over the core projects. We do have a huge emphasis on networking because we see networking as the fundamental glue that keeps the entire cloud together and is the biggest influence on reliability performance and scalability,” he said.