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OpenStack, project of Rackspace and many others, has its second anniversary this week amidst some worry that it’s going in too many different directions.

The open source cloud hosting framework OpenStack is two years old this week. Often called the Linux of the cloud, OpenStack still faces a lot of questions and concerns in its development and now that it’s turning two, critics wonder if those questions won’t lead to the end of the OpenStack project.

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Rackspace was a big contributor to the beginning of the project in July 2010. The company liked to compare the project to Linux because of facts like it took Linux 828 weeks to wrangle in 180 active contributors whereas it only took OpenStack 84 weeks to get 166 active contributors to the project. Companies like Hewlett-Packard and Internap (and don’t forget Rackspace) have already begun using OpenStack in their own cloud implementations.

The biggest question mark remaining is whether or not OpenStack can prove itself a true competitor to Amazon Web Services or VMware vCloud products. One of the biggest criticisms is that OpenStack has too many contributors. With so many companies vying for a piece of the OpenStack pie, it’s a reasonable concern that the project will get stretched in too many directions.

Getting stretched in too many directions in the technology industry leads to more than just a stressful project. It leads to fracturing the product, just like what has happened to Android and Linux. Vendors include AT&T, Canonical, HP, IBM, Red Hat, and SUSE. The GM and VP of Rackspace Cloud Builder, Jim Curry, was one of the first instigators of the OpenStack project, but still remains enthusiastic, while realistic. “Any open-source project that is not controlled by one vendor but with lots of folks with their own agendas is at higher risk of fracturing – the advantage of single-vendor or close-to-single-vendor projects is that there is more control in the short term and a shorter time to market.”

Curry went on to say that “for continuing, rapid innovation[,] it’s up to the community to determine if standards, interoperability are important. It’s hard to make that judgment now because OpenStack is still really early.” Some backers have already been unconvinced and have left the project – big name backers like Citrix.

In April, Citrix jumped ship to set up its own OpenStack rival called CloudStack. This seems to be a common theme among some of the top investing companies mentioned earlier (i.e. backing OpenStack to an extent, while still pursuing their own competitive cloud products). Red Hat, for example, has set up CloudForms. The company claims it is not competitive but rather complementary to OpenStack. Other partners disagree and say that at the very least, it creates confusion for customers.

Another concern is the companies that buy into OpenStack just enough for their own purposes, without really contributing to the project. Curry says that some organizations have used OpenStack for its marketing value without giving anything back to the community.

At the end of the day, Curry and other OpenStack developers are just pleased to be giving the public another option, an alternative to products they may not like. Curry sums up by saying, “Cloud was not this big two years ago. At that time, customers had to choose one technology or another, the choices being Amazon or VMware. It’s not that they were bad technologies – they’re great technologies with a lot to offer but by choosing one of those you limit the opportunity to go to another.” Hopefully as more companies move into the cloud they’ll recognize and appreciate the diversity of choices that are coming down the pipeline.

To read more about OpenStack, check out our blog post announcing the OpenStack public beat release and what it means for those looking forward to implementing OpenStack in their data centers.