The OpenStack Big Tent and Magnum

One of the most heavily-attended design summit events at last week’s OpenStack Summit in Paris was on Magnum, a proposed service for containers that would integrate into the Nova compute service. It seems that any session at any conference these days that involves Docker attracts a lot of interest, as Docker is an amazing new way of approaching how we think about virtualization and achieving efficiencies of scale.

Disclaimer: I know Adrian Otto, the leader of the Magnum project, from my days at Rackspace, and genuinely like him. I have no doubt that he would be able to put together a team that can accomplish all that he is setting out to do with this project. My thoughts and concerns about Magnum would be the same no matter who was leading the project.

The goal of the Magnum session was to present its concept and proposed architecture to the Nova ganttteam, with the hope of being designated as the official Docker project in OpenStack. However, there was a lot of push back from many members of the Nova team. Some of it had to do with procedural issues; I learned later that Magnum had been introduced at the Nova mid-cycle meetup, and the expectations set then had not been met. I wasn’t at that meetup, so I can’t personally attest to that. But the overall sentiment was that it was just too premature to settle on one specific approach to something as important and fast-moving as Docker. While I support the idea of Magnum and hope that it is a wild success, I also think that world of Docker/containers is moving so fast that what looks good today may look totally different 6 months from now. Moving such a project into OpenStack proper would only slow it down, and right now it needs to remain as nimble as possible.

I wrote a little while ago about my thoughts on the current discussions on the Big Tent vs. Layers vs. Small Core (Simplifying OpenStack), and I think that the Magnum effort is an excellent example of why we need to modify the approach to how we handle projects like this that add to OpenStack. The danger of the current Big Tent system of designating a single effort as the official OpenStack solution to a given problem is that by doing so we might be discouraging some group with a different and potentially better solution from pursuing development, and that would short-change the OpenStack ecosystem long-term. Besides, a little competition usually improves overall software quality, right?

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