On the OpenStack open source strategy and the impact on Eucalyptus Systems

In mid July Rackspace and NASA jointly launched a new Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) cloud computing platform that customers can install on-premises.
The private cloud platform, called OpenStack, has been released for free under the Apache 2.0 open source license.

Supported by 25 top cloud computing players, including AMD, Citrix and Dell, OpenStack provoked the public reactions of some vendors, including VMware and C12G Labs, the company that develops and maintain OpenNebula. 
But apparently there’s much more that happened behind the scenes.

Dr. Mike Norman, former CEO of Scapa Technologies, provided a very interesting insight about the RackSpace open source strategy and how it impacted the relationship with Eucalyptus Systems.

In his first post on this subject, Norman wrote:

…Eucalyptus is following the MySQL-style Dual License approach, generating a revenue stream from the proprietary licensing of the Enterprise Version, and using a non-permissive open Source License (i.e. GPL) for the core thereby effectively disadvantaging third-party monetization. In addition, Eucalyptus alone controls the destiny of its product.  There is no independent governance model, like there is with Apache, Mozilla or Eclipse.  If you want to contribute to Eucalyptus, you must assign IPR (Intellectual Property Rights) to Eucalyptus, and then are granted a license back. At the end of the day, if Eucalyptus goes bust, there’s a problem.  You have the source code, but it is essentially like getting it out of escrow. The practicalities of continuing development are daunting.

NASA had been using Eucalyptus as the basis for its own IaaS infrastructure known as Nebula.  It claims that it wasn’t able to get it to scale to the required level (you may or may not choose to believe the macho talk of 60 Million VMs) and more pertinently it couldn’t effectively commit and control the destiny of enhancements it was contributing to the open source.  As a result it dumped Eucalyptus and built its own IaaS provisioning layer called Nova, and this along with Rackspace’s CloudFS scalable persistence layer (analogous to Amazon S3) forms OpenStack…

On his second piece he added:

…From the NASA side, the problem was that the NASA team couldn’t contribute to Eucalyptus under GPL because Eucalyptus couldn’t take it on that basis without breaking their dual license, so either NASA assigned IPR to Eucalyptus (which they weren’t really allowed to do, given it was US Government funded for the benefit of mankind), or they forked the Eucalyptus codebase and continued to maintain the fork, effectively cross-porting changes from the Eucalyptus codebase into its own version of that code in its repository.

It is a big blow for Eucalyptus. They have turned their biggest potential customer into a massive and credible competitor, built in their own image (only – at least from a PR perspective – much more scalable). The reason why this is rumbling around the Open Source community so much is that the purists all hate the dual-license Open Core models, and the OpenStack split with Eucalyptus is seen as a clear rejection of those models. As early adopters these people matter, and it is likely Eucalyptus will never recover its street credibility…