Today I had the opportunity to catch the Ops Panel: Infrastructure Reference Architectures panel at the April 2013 OpenStack summit. It was good and conversational, with questions about how and what the OpenStack Foundation should push for in reference architectures. Obviously all the panel members are sharp folks, and had a lot of experience building things to meet customer needs. However, about half way through the talk, it dawned on me:
Reference architectures are a Vendor tool.
Whether the vendor is selling software or hardware, the reference architecture is there to show their products in the best possible light. How could you not buy their shiny stuff??? Look how the boxes and lines connect together so synergistically!
This isn’t what the OpenStack project is (or should be) about. I’m even pretty confident that it the designs coming out of such an exercise may not even be very good since that’s a community driven effort that would require careful curation and a budget to make relevant. What OpenStack is good at, and the role the foundation needs to continue to embrace is that of setting the standards and frameworks the define what the OpenStack platform is. OpenStack is in a position to provide some strong guidelines and requirements to ensure the vendors vying for the dollars of customers implementing OpenStack are making products that are interoperable and vendors are transparent about how they function. OpenStack will only ever be as open as the least open core components. Making sure guidelines are in place and vendors are adhering to them in order to pass as an “OpenStack approved” component makes the ecosystem better for everyone.
Along those same lines, Monty Taylor and Rob Hirschfeld debuted “refstack” at the OpenStack Grizzly Architecture session earlier in the day. It aims to be a Vendor facing API for testing interoperability. This feels like it could be the first step in making this a reality.