Dear OpenStack,

Two years ago, when Formation was at its’ inception, you were all the rage. Everyone in tech was buzzing about you. And nearly every venture capitalist I spoke with wanted to know two things:

 -       Would Formation support/ work with you?

 -       Why would VCs fund Formation since you (and open source in general) have next-gen storage “covered?”

I was blown away by the presumed “fait accompli.” I couldn’t fathom how you moved the storage paradigm from the likes of EMC to “free downloads” so quickly. But even still, we at Formation forged ahead, found investors and built our product (including OpenStack support and integration.)

Given what I had heard from the venture and analyst communities I was shocked when I experienced the reality of the solution(s) firsthand. Prior to the launch of our Alpha program earlier this year, we had yet to work with your software but we were all aware of the surveys showing strong planned adoption. So when we integrated with OpenStack at two alpha customers we were shocked to discover that you were even less ready for prime time then we were!

This seemed insane as the media told us you were on the verge of mass adoption. Could it be true that hype eclipsed reality? In a word; yup.

I received further validation when I attended an IT conference. CIO’s were asked about their strategies. Turns out, interest in you actually declined year over year.  That is not a good sign for “the next big thing.”

So, what happened here? Here are my thoughts (and some coaching).

You have too many cooks in the proverbial kitchen:  Most leaders today believe that small teams drive innovation. Small teams with great leaders can have incredible outcomes. I believe that teams of 8 -10 (Jeff Bezos calls this the “two pizza rule”) are ideal. Therefore, I found it incredibly disappointing when I researched the site and found that your BOD alone comprises 24 people. The “technical committee” is 13 people!  Sounds more like Congress than a cool new software product.

You have too many variants: Successful open source projects usually start as a single distribution. Over time some fragmenting occurs based on natural evolutions. Simply put…you’ve fragmented…too early…and too often.

Who is your leader?: Every project needs a leader. I am still looking for the “Linus Torvalds” of OpenStack.  Even the US Government, with a congress that is hardly effective, still has a President.

You should focus on engineering – not marketing: The evolution of successful open source projects is grounded on the “pull factor” vs. the “push factor.” Individuals, teams, and companies create cool things and other developers jump in. I believe that companies (fearful of AWS on one side and VMware on the other) used marketing to enhance your promise as a ready-to-go alternative for clouds.  In my opinion, you ought to try under promising and over delivering.

You’re trying to be everything: You have SW modules that, in theory, could eliminate every commercial technology vendor in the market. Are you sure you’re being honest with yourself? Wouldn’t it be better to focus on being a great framework, or orchestration, etc. and not try to be all things cloud?

Where exactly is your focus? Legacy or emerging apps?: Again, it is hard to determine if you’re trying to embrace legacy or present a new alternative? I think you will find that trying to do both is impossible.

The interest that you have generated demonstrates that you’ve uncovered a real need in cloud based computing. But you may want to rethink your approach in order to achieve success and adoption. Don’t get me wrong. I’m a huge fan of your overall objectives but I also believe you should consider strategic changes in order to actually attain the mass-market adoption you seem to be already famous for.

Respectfully submitted…

Mark Lewis






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