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Canonical founder calls out OpenStack suppliers for ‘lack of focus’ on datacentre cost savings

Mark Shuttleworth says the OpenStack community needs to open up about the economics of using the open source cloud platform to avoid turning users off

The OpenStack supplier community’s reluctance to prioritise the delivery of datacentre cost savings to their users could prove “fatal”, says Canonical co-founder Mark Shuttleworth.

Speaking to Computer Weekly at the OpenStack Summit in Vancouver, Shuttleworth – whose company produces the Ubuntu distribution of OpenStack – said too many contributors prioritise making money over helping users of the open source cloud platform to achieve cost savings.

 “At the end of the day, there is a noble mission here [with OpenStack], but it will sputter if it is not delivering crisp, clean economics in the datacentre,” he said.

“The simple fact is that some of the companies that talk in warm and loving terms about community here [at OpenStack] have no real interest in driving economic efficiency in the datacentre, and that is ultimately fatal for OpenStack if it goes on to become the prevailing mode of behaviour.”

Shuttleworth said there are many examples of companies that have turned their backs on OpenStack after their deployments failed to live up to expectations, particularly where cost is concerned, and the community must do more to prevent that becoming a trend.

“A lot of these vendors charge fortunes, millions of dollars, in consulting before you’ve even got a cloud – and that’s crazy,” he said.

“We have focused on driving down the cost of figuring out if OpenStack is going to work for you, and then driving down the cost of owning it for you.

“We want it to be as cheap as possible for people to figure out if it’s going to work. If it’s going to work, that’s great, and then they can get better and the bigger it gets, the cheaper it gets.”

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Shuttleworth’s comments come several days after he used Canonical’s slot during the opening keynote to take aim at the firm’s private cloud-enabling competitors VMware and Red Hat, claiming that Ubuntu is fast becoming the OpenStack distribution of choice for their respective customer bases.    

The community has given a mixed response to Shuttleworth’s keynote critique, with some reacting angrily, while others have applauded him for speaking so candidly about the alleged cost of building a private cloud based on the technologies of Canonical’s competitors.

“There have been some feathers ruffled and fangs bared, and while I’ve certainly taken some critique for bluntly talking about money, I’ve also had a lot of plaudits from people saying it is really important to make the OpenStack community mindful of the economics,” he said. 

“Lots of people have tried OpenStack and given up on it because they feel like it didn’t deliver [on cost], and calling that out and being committed to fixing it is not something I’m going to apologise for.”

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