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OpenStack Foundation urges enterprises to embrace open, collaborative tech development

OpenStack Foundation executive director warns enterprises off using closed, non-collaborative product development processes to get ahead of the competition

Enterprises should let go of the idea that technology produced in closed, non-collaborative development environments will secure them a long-term competitive edge over their rivals, claims OpenStack Foundation chief executive Jonathan Bryce.

Speaking at the inaugural Open Infrastructure Summit in Denver, Colorado, Bryce said any competitive advantage that organisations may gain from working in such a way is likely to be short-lived and unsustainable.

“Technology is not a sustainable long-term advantage… [because] there is always somebody who is going to copy you, catch you and surpass you, and if you are trying to build technology that creates that long-term, sustainable advantage, it’s really an impossible task and you have to constantly be on this hamster wheel,” he said.

Instead, organisations should be looking to embrace a culture of open and shared innovation, he said, and – in doing so – free themselves from the “burden” of trying to build everything they need themselves in house.

This is particularly as the technology problem they are trying to solve in-house may not necessarily be unique to that organisation or even the industry they operate in, and – through collaboration and embracing open source development techniques – they can cut down on duplication of effort.   

“If you accept that is where your long-term [competitive] advantage is going to come from, then you realise you shouldn’t take on the burden of trying to build all the technology you need yourself – then you get to open source,” added Bryce.

“The way we work in this community it that open source is not about marketing… it’s not a business model; it’s really an innovation philosophy and it’s a philosophy of innovation that is about shared innovation.”

It is through embracing this concept that enterprises stand a better chance of carving out a niche for themselves, and – in turn – a sustainable, long-term competitive advantage.

“This goes back to ‘don’t rely on technology alone as a differentiator’. [Instead] you combine the technology with services, with other tools, you make vertical [implementations] and these are things we’ve seen become successful business models in the open source world,” said Bryce.

What’s in a name?

The Open Infrastructure Summit is the new name for the foundation’s bi-annual developer and user conference.

The change of name is part of a wider push by the OpenStack Foundation to reinforce its commitment to championing the use of open technologies throughout the entire enterprise infrastructure stack, including those produced by adjacent open source communities.

The latter is a concept the organisation has championed for several years now, with Bryce talking up the societal benefits that technologies created in open, collaborative ways tend to bring about.

“Technology is a really powerful force for changing lives. One of the things we’ve seen in the past few years is that this can be in a good way and sometimes in a not so good way, but technology really does change our lives [in terms of] how we work and interact,” he said.

“Collaboration among individuals is another really powerful force for change. And if you put these together and you want to have an impact on the world today, involving yourself in open collaboration to build technologies is one of the best places to do it.

“Openly collaborating leads to more good outcomes and more good changes from technology than other ways of building technologies and other motivations that can come into play,” he added.

The OpenStack Foundation’s Open Infrastructure strategy has also seen the number of pilot projects it supports expand in recent times, which are all primarily concerned with creating products and technologies designed to offer complimentary functionality to its flagship OpenStack cloud operating system.

These include Airship, a cloud provisioning and lifecycle management tool designed to help enterprises deploy and manage containers, virtual machines and bare metal infrastructure environments across multiple sites, including edge computing environments.

The conference has seen the OpenStack Foundation announce the 1.0 release of Airship less than a year after it made its debut in May 2018, and US telco giant AT&T share further details of how it is aiding the delivery of its 5G network, which has already gone live in 19 cities across the US. 

Furthermore, it also used the first day of the conference to announce that Kata Containers, its open source container runtime, and its Zuul continuous integration and delivery platform have progressed beyond being designated pilot projects to become ones that have secured the foundation’s long-term support. 

Despite the progress being made on these projects, the foundation has found itself at the centre of some criticism that championing side projects such as these could be interpreted as a sign that its commitment to the OpenStack platform is wavering.

During a Q&A elsewhere at the show, OpenStack Foundation chief operating officer Mark Collier dismissed this notion, and restated that these other projects are designed to plug some functionality gaps that have emerged in OpenStack as the use cases for the technology have grown.

“[OpenStack] is one of the three most active open source projects in the world right now, right up there with the Linux kernel and Chromium,” he said.

“If you walk around and talk to everybody here, they’re talking about what they’re doing with OpenStack – [and] they just need other pieces to fill in the gaps, to secure their containers or to run it in edge environments, [and there are] use cases that demand more… than what [fits] in OpenStack.”

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