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Starting up in the new OpenStack

This article is more than 9 years old.

I had the pleasure to deliver a session at the recent OpenStack day in Budapest, one of the many events organized by different community members globally, followed by a panel with several OpenStack notables. There was one question I jumped into, and that triggered me writing this post: Are the recent acquisition of OpenStack startups discouraging the creation of new companies around the technology?

Well, to keep it really short: NO WAY!

In fact, I do think it is now easier to start up around OpenStack than it was 4 years ago, when some of those companies (some of them, check founding years here) were born. Without knowing the details of some of those acquisitions, as we usually tend to announce only when the exit is really outstanding, I do consider having the IBMs, Ciscos, EMCs and others acquiring OpenStack talent and IP can only be seen as a success for OpenStack entrepreneurs and for OpenStack itself. Some other services companies that embraced OpenStack early are also growing steadily capitalizing on their early investment or have sold their ventures too.

When we started, OpenStack was a clear canvas in which you could build and define business models you could only hope to be successful. There was no track record, and we all based our strategy in similarities with other technologies irrupting and disrupting the market in the past, and relate to other ways of consuming IT that could be a good fit, all surrounded by uncertainty on adoption and our own ability to execute. Selling OpenStack back then to any company was an art, selling an OpenStack strategy to a venture capital firm was a challenge.

And yet most of us managed to make it through this period of bringing OpenStack to the market, competing with big companies that had infinite, to our eyes, resources and a market credibility we needed to earn. Regardless of the exit figure for each of us, pioneers of the OpenStack startup ecosystem, founders of Native OpenStack companies, making it to 2015 has been a success.

And now what? Well, let’s put it this way. If you are planning on creating another distribution of OpenStack, think again, because you’ll need to differentiate your distribution or installer to an already large existing number of them … and it has to be a significant and sustainable differentiation based on your technical insight (and a bunch of great engineers doing puppet scripts does not fall into that category), not something an existing multibillion dollar company already working in OpenStack can do in 3 months. I suggest you focus on some other parts of the stack that are now available to explore thanks to the achievement of adoption

The momentum the new generation of OpenStack startups can gain just by the virtue of coming from the OpenStack world and having a growing number of customers and users to sell their solutions to is huge. There are still gaps around OpenStack (not that many on OpenStack itself) that could be filled in by creative, fast-paced companies and innovative products. There are VCs out there willing to invest in such a greenfield market, and there is a well established ecosystem of (507 as per today) potential partners to rely on. Walk around the OpenStack summit marketplace in Vancouver, where we had 6,500 attendees) and you’ll find new software defined storage or network companies, migration services, security centric products, containers, assorted above the cloud services and products that were not, and could not be, there 4 years ago, when we managed to get 300 people at the Santa Clara summit. It is definitely more, definitely better and definitely different in the OpenStack start-up world.

Speed is the name of the game. At Canonical, the company behind Ubuntu, we understand that and we enable startups to jump into OpenStack in the minimum time possible. Not only we have our eyes in more clouds than any other vendor (55% of all production OpenStack deployments running on Ubuntu OpenStack), but we have the means to leverage that position through our tools and programmes, and we encourage start-ups to take part in the process . Like our OpenStack Interoperability Lab is helping vendors (services, storage, SDN, NFV) realize their OpenStack strategies faster and we are helping them in their go to market plans in a market we know well. Or like our managed cloud service – BootStack – to help their prospects evaluate all these solutions in weeks rather than months by not having to invest time (or effort) in standing up the underlying OpenStack cloud.

We are just in a much better position to continue the innovation in OpenStack. Looking forward to see what the next generation brings to the table!

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