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OpenStack wish list: More documentation, better feedback loop

IT pros evaluating OpenStack technology for cloud deployments said the open-source project needs to set up processes and ground rules before they can commit — or convince their bosses to commit.

Leaders of the OpenStack effort need to make more information available beyond project insiders–mostly engineers and developers at member organizations Rackspace (s RAX), NASA, Dell (s DELL), Hewlett-Packard (s HPQ), Citrix (s CTSX) and others. This is a good problem to have, because it means OpenStack is drawing attention from actual users, said  speakers at the OpenStack Conference in Boston.

“When the software is hard to use and not [all that] functional, developers are the only ones who care about it. But if it succeeds we’ll have many thousands of times more users than developers and we need user-friendly mechanisms for feedback, bug reports etc.,”  said Jonathan Bryce, co-founder of the Rackspace Cloud and chairman of the OpenStack Project Policy Board. Bryce spoke Thursday on a panel on priorities for OpenStack’s second year.

Audience members concurred, saying it’s hard to propose OpenStack versus Amazon Web Services (s AMZN) to their corporate overlords  when these niceties aren’t available.

“The velocity of commercial solutions is increasing. To the extent that the foundation can give enterprises visibility into [its] intent and direction, that gives me a tool to talk to my CIO,” said the principal cloud architect with a large entertainment company.

Companies evaluating a technology deployment need a roadmap going out at least a year whereas OpenStack currently projects out about six months. “Show me a roadmap, and we’ll make an investment. If I don’t have a roadmap, I can’t make an intelligent decision,” he said.

John Purrier,  VP of cloud services for HP, said that’s fair: “People do need a more strategic view, at least 12 months out.”

Others speaking at the show said much of the information prospective customers need may be available but needs to be better handled. “Part of this is communicating what we already know; we need to articulate it better,” said Ewan Mellor, OpenStack director of engineering for Citrix.

One attendee looking to OpenStack for his company, said the lack of processes and documentation about development and support is a hindrance. Companies need to know about these kinds of things before they will commit, he said. His company is also looking at Amazon Web Services.

OpenStack  is in the middle of a transition from a Rackspace-led effort to an independent foundation, a relief to some in the community who worried that Rackspace exerted too much influence. But as it makes that move, customers who would like to implement OpenStack warned that governance must be transparent and the platform remain open.

As the open-source cloud infrastructure stack moves into its second year, there is some trepidation. “The troublesome twos [can be]  a hard time for parents,” said Tim Bell, IT system manager at CERN.

Image courtesy of Flickr user akakumo

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