Demise of OpenStack Innovation Center does not mean demise of OpenStack

Paul Miller
Senior Analyst
April 18, 2017

The ever-dependable Barb Darrow at Fortune reported late last week that the OpenStack Innovation Center (OSIC) is to shut down. Cue wailing, gnashing of teeth, and portents of doom. But this may not be quite so bad as it appears, because the OpenStack Innovation Center isn’t nearly so critical to the open source cloud computing project as its name might imply.

Before I joined Forrester I used to post a short thought (almost) every day, commenting on some piece of news that caught my interest. The last of these, on 24 July 2015, was concerned with the then-new OpenStack Innovation Center.

I was unimpressed.

You see, the OpenStack Innovation Center isn’t an initiative of the OpenStack Foundation. Despite the name, it was only a joint initiative of two contributors to the OpenStack project – Intel and (OpenStack co-founder) Rackspace. They set up some clusters, for developers to test code. And they did some work to make OpenStack more enterprise-ready. Both efforts were useful, for sure. But both of these things were already happening in plenty of other places.

To call this useful but far-from-unique contribution the OpenStack Innovation Center seemed – to me – unwise. It almost – to me – smacked of hubris. It was a bit silly. It was another example of marketing spin far exceeding any discernible reality on the ground.

Now? It seems an own-goal that the Foundation and its backers might so easily have side-stepped.

Intel and Rackspace continue to engage in OpenStack activities. Both organisations remain funders of the OpenStack Foundation. Indeed, both are currently Platinum Sponsors of the Foundation. Intel (and, possibly?) Rackspace are adjusting the way they spend money in and around OpenStack. The OSIC is no longer core to their interests here. There is no suggestion that either organisation is backing away from OpenStack, which remains part of a broad portfolio of cloud-related products and solutions. There is no suggestion that OpenStack is less relevant or useful or strong than it was before the news. If the OSIC hadn’t been called the OSIC, this wouldn’t even have been a story.

Now it is.

And maybe, the next time OpenStack contributors decide to turn “vendor X and vendor Y do some OpenStack-supporting stuff” into The OpenStack Innovation Center, the OpenStack Foundation will gently suggest that they reconsider.

Names matter.

Managing use of, association with, and reference to the 'brand' of an open source community matters too. Any sensible observer would – reasonably – assume that "The OpenStack Innovation Center" was an initiative of The OpenStack Foundation. Why wouldn't they? 

Forrester analysts remain positive about OpenStack and its role as part of a considered hybrid cloud strategy. Several of us will be at the upcoming Summit in Boston in May, and I'm sure we'll be sharing our thoughts after the event, as usual.

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