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Fighting over data center’s operating system

 By Tim Clark

Aug. 31, 2015

MOUNTAIN VIEW—The outspoken Boris Renski, chief marketing officer of “pure-play OpenStack” vendor Mirantis, last week managed to toe the politically correct line and yet speak truth to the OpenStack Silicon Valley conference in Mountain View. OpenStack is an open source solution for private clouds in data centers. (For Focus on Docker commentary on this big battle, see "Who wants to be the next Bill Gates").

“When Openstack started four years ago,…. OpenStack was the cool kid. It was about VM orchestration but the idea went way beyond that. It wanted to become the ubiquitous cloud computing platform.” Today the cool kids, he noted, are Mesos (Mesosphere), Kubernetes (Google) and Docker (Docker).

“It sounds like they’re all are directly competing,” Renski said. “but they’ll tell you ‘We are all complimentary and work with each other?’ How can that be? You’re all operating systems for the data center, but you work together?

“Behind the scenes, though, everybody wants to rule the world,” he added. Mirantis last week accepted another $100 million in venture capital, much of it from Intel Capital, pushing its total above $200 million.

“Nobody wants to be something that integrates with someone else. But everybody can’t rule the world—will it be one or a couple? At Mirantis, we want to be the winners, and OpenStack will win. What is future world that we want to win?”

It’s not, as Renski’s projected PowerPoint slides said as he spoke, for Amazon Web Services to dominate.

Building a data center operating system requires solving a lot of hard problems: workload portability, application performance monitoring, SDN (software-defined networking), resource scheduling heterogeneous infrastructure control.

“We all say that we have solved all those problems, but we’ve really solved only one”:

  • Docker “built a container standard (a really, really good one) that covers 90% of use cases. Then Docker Swarm is a lot like Kubernetes. “
  • Mesosphere solved “hyperscale resource scheduling framework (a really, really good one) for hyper-scale distributed environments. Mesosphere also built Marathon as cluster manager, kind of like Kubernetes and Apache Aurora.”
  • Foundations: “Everybody is building foundations: the Cloud Native Computing Foundation, Open Container Initiative, Cloud Foundry.”

Meanwhile, Renski added, “The world seems more and more like this (slide again shows a dominant Amazon Web Services.)”

The problem, he contended, is the Not Invented Here syndrome (NIH). “Linux succeeded because it had benevolent dictator, Linus Torvalds, who said the NIH syndrome is a disease,” Renski said. Competitors’ approach to the data center operating system amounts to “solving the hard problems, building a me-too version of everything the OpenStack community has [already] built, and gluing them together.”

He described OpenStack's solution to the data center operating system: “Give them to the professionals and get out of the way.”

In Renski’s vision, OpenStack 2.0, will bring together the best-of-breed everything. “I believe this is likely to happen. The OpenStack community is vast, and OpenStack has succeeded in its mission of assassinating NIH.”