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By, Chuck Dubuque, Director Product Marketing, Red Hat
December 18, 2013

Returning from OpenStack Summit in Hong Kong, I had some time on the fourteen-hour flight to think about Red Hat’s accomplishments within the OpenStack community, and more importantly, why they should matter to customers in the enterprise software space.

While I am gratified that Red Hat was again the top corporate contributor to the OpenStack Havana release, for me it goes beyond just the marketing value of being able to make that statement. It goes to the heart of the value of a subscription to our Red Hat Enterprise Linux OpenStack Platform, and the unique characteristics of open source projects versus commercial products.

In proprietary software, the company contributes 100% of the code

If you think about a traditional proprietary software product, it has a development community of one: the software company itself. A VMware product is developed 100% by VMware engineers (plus or minus any licensed code), and the company’s ability to support that product, to influence the features that come in future versions, and to integrate that product with other products in its ecosystem flows directly from its direct control over the source code and its development.

In open source, it is rare that any one company controls anything close to 100% of the source code; in fact, it is often a sign of a weak open source community if one company dominates a project. The power and the value of the open source development model come from many individual and corporate contributors coming together.

Corporate OpenStack contributions: 4 Key questions

One very basic way to look at the corporate contributions to OpenStack is analyze the aggregate contributions to all of the core projects that make up OpenStack:

Contributions by companies Source: Stackalytics.com

But, as some have pointed out, this can quickly become an exercise in “vanity statistics." What is the real value to enterprise customers of contributions to the community?

Red Hat is participating in OpenStack at a high level of contribution, but we are also contributing broadly across all the core projects, and deep enough so that we can truly represent our OpenStack customers, both by providing enterprise support and by bringing in the features that enterprise customers want into the commercial product.

Let’s consider contributions to all of the projects that were considered “core” in OpenStack Havana:
•    Ceilometer (OpenStack Telemetry)
•    Cinder (OpenStack Block Storage)
•    Glance (OpenStack Image Service)
•    Heat (OpenStack Orchestration)
•    Horizon (OpenStack Dashboard)
•    Keystone (OpenStack Identity)
•    Nova (OpenStack Compute)
•    Neutron (OpenStack Networking)
•    Oslo (OpenStack Common Libraries)
•    Swift (OpenStack Object Storage)

What’s a better way to visualize a company’s participation in OpenStack beyond the aggregate rankings? If we take each company’s contribution to Havana (in this case, by number of commits) and express it as a percentage of the total contribution, and then look at it across these projects, the plot for Red Hat’s participation looks like this:

Red Hat core project contributions

The black line represents the average contribution across these projects on a weighted basis while each bar represents the percentage contribution within a particular project. On average, Red Hat contributed 19.5% of the commits to the projects in the OpenStack core.

You can see both Red Hat’s high level of participation in Heat (OpenStack Orchestration) and Oslo (OpenStack Common Libraries), as well as strong participation across all of the projects (8%-60%).

This means that enterprise customers who pay Red Hat for support will be receiving support from an organization that is contributing strongly to all the core projects. We can provide break/fix support because we are involved in writing code for every OpenStack core project. We also participate in “incubating” projects in OpenStack. One of those, OpenStack Orchestration (TripleO), has been accepted into the core for the OpenStack Icehouse release in April 2014. Four others (Ironic, Marconi, Savanna, and Trove) are incubating in Icehouse. Red Hat was a strong contributor to all of those projects during the Havana development cycle. Because of our participation in these non-core projects, we can help develop additional functionality that our enterprise customers need outside of the core as well.

Red Hat incubating

Looking beyond the ranking to this kind of a heat map of participation gives a more nuanced way of considering:
1.    What core projects are particular companies focusing on?
2.    Which companies are participating broadly across the projects?
3.    What are the gaps in OpenStack knowledge and participation of a particular company?
4.    Does a company’s investment in the OpenStack community match the products or services they are selling?

Let’s look at the remainder of the top 10 contributors*:

IBM core project contributions

Rackspace core project contributions

HP core project contributions

Mirantis core project contributions

Enovance core project contributions

Vmware core project contributions

Intel core project contributions

Suse core project contributions

Unitedstack core project contributions

Participation matters in Open Source

Perhaps it does not matter if you are using the free OpenStack code on a free Linux distribution. But if you are paying for an OpenStack product, or you are looking to move from a proof-of-concept to a production OpenStack environment, then I believe that community participation really does matter.

It’s not just about who is the top contributor. Does any OpenStack vendor really have the expertise to support your production OpenStack environment? Can an OpenStack vendor be a strategic partner for the long term in driving your requirements into future versions of their OpenStack product? These are questions similar to those that enterprise customers were asking ten years ago when they moved from Linux proof of concepts to running real workloads on Red Hat Enterprise Linux. And they are questions worth considering again as OpenStack begins to appear in the datacenter.

*Source: Stackalytics.com (http://www.stackalytics.com/?release=havana&metric=commits&project_type=core)
Stats as of 12/15/13

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