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Does OpenStack need a Linus Torvalds?

Brandon Butler | Oct. 25, 2012
OpenStack has been dubbed by some enthusiasts as the Linux of the cloud - an open source operating system for public or private clouds. But there's one stark difference between the two projects: OpenStack doesn't have a Linus Torvalds, the eccentric, outspoken, never-afraid-to-say-what-he-thinks figurehead of the Linux world.

Chris Kemp

One of the co-founders of the OpenStack project, Kemp is in many ways seen as the brainchild behind the OpenStack movement. While CTO of NASA, he led the team that created Nova, the core compute engine that makes up OpenStack. At the recent OpenStack Summit Kemp had a prominent keynote role in which he articulated the promise of the OpenStack project. He has the vision for OpenStack and he's all in with the project too, having launched his own startup Nebula that has bet big on OpenStack.

Joshua McKenty

Another co-founder of the OpenStack project from his time at NASA, McKenty is seen by some as a face of the startup community that has developed around OpenStack. His company, Piston Cloud Computing is a pure-play OpenStack startup that takes the project's open source code and makes it "enterprise ready." He's certainly outspoken enough, always willing to share his two cents on anything related to the project, or the tech industry in general, is edgy and has no problem being in the spotlight. He's about as close to Torvalds as you'll get at OpenStack right now, at least in terms of personality and style.

Alan Clark or Lew Tucker (right)

The two men elected chair and vice chair of the newly formed OpenStack Foundation have clearly taken a leadership role within the project. Clark is SUSE's open source director and Tucker serves as Cisco's Cloud vice president and CTO, but he's also worked at Sun and Combined, Clark and Tucker seem to provide a steady, experienced hand to guide the project. Both are non-controversial, intellectual visionaries who clearly have the best interests of the project in mind, plus represent the linkage between the project and major corporate sponsors and partners.

The OpenStack Foundation

OK, so the entire 24-member foundation isn't one person, but in many ways the creation of the Foundation is meant to be the unifying voice of the project. But can a Torvalds of OpenStack really be a group of 24 people? Already we've seen some divisions within the group, such as around the decision to let VMware in. That hardly makes the Foundation a singular voice for the project. Rather, it's more of a conglomeration of whatever a majority of the group can agree on.

Does OpenStack, the open source cloud computing project, need a Linus Torvalds?


Perhaps the reason there is no Torvalds of OpenStack is because the forces that be within OpenStack don't want it that way. OpenStack is meant to be an open source project that anyone and everyone is welcome to, if they contribute back to the community. If there was an outspoken Torvalds-equivalent at OpenStack, perhaps it could undermine what the project is all about. OpenStack is not about one person, it's about a project, and having Linus-lookalikes could undermine that.



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