“There is going to be some level of compatibility among all these different offerings … so when a state or local government is considering provisioning technology, they can ensure that they are not just getting a Microsoft-flavored or HP-flavored solution,” Curry said. “There will be obviously their own value on top of it, but the kernel will be OpenStack, which gives them capability and flexibility between vendors.”

In addition, Curry thinks that IT professionals across all levels of government will one day have the option of taking open source code and managing it themselves. Although there will always be companies that will work on building professional resources and services around maintaining the OpenStack environment, he said, people will ultimately be able to implement and run an open source-based cloud platform on their own if they choose.

“We’re hoping to level off the playing field here where there is a more common kernel, and yes, those vendors will provide additional value, but there will be much more leverage in the hands of the users to assure that they will not get locked into one solution or another,” Curry said.

O’Brien, however, said it was unlikely that large numbers of state and local governments would chose to development of their own open source-based cloud platforms. He said agencies will likely still choose a vendor, but as Curry said, if those vendors incorporate open source code in their cloud technology, government customers will have a richer set of options at their disposal.

“There is more choice for local and state governments, and that’s a good thing,” O’Brien said. “The right choice might be another product, but those other products know that they have to keep pace to be considered an option. So OpenStack is going to be like any other product, and people are going to use it if it meets their needs.”

While OpenStack started with a public-private partnership between NASA and Rackspace, its development future will be more community- and sponsorship-driven. On May 15, NASA announced a new cloud computing strategy that includes reducing its role with OpenStack development. Instead, the agency will focus on being more of a cloud service consumer.

O’Brien blogged on May 29 that as the OpenStack community grows, it’s overtaking much of NASA’s original internal development objectives, and the time is right for the agency to step down.

“This outcome has always been one of our highest goals for Nebula, and now permits us to transition from the role of developer to that of enthusiastic adopter of a broad range of cloud services, including those based on OpenStack,” O’Brien wrote.

The news came on the heels of an announcement by OpenStack earlier this year that its members were launching a foundation made up of various companies to help fund future OpenStack community-based projects. Curry said the sponsoring companies have been selected and a team is drafting documents to make the OpenStack Foundation a chartered organization.

He expected the process to take two or three months, with a goal of formally launching the foundation this fall. Curry estimates the foundation’s operating budget will be about $4 million to help further build the OpenStack community, maintain an OpenStack trademark and add further experts to OpenStack projects.

For example, Curry said the community will discuss if a team should be hired within the foundation to maintain a core testing environment for OpenStack — one that the entire community can use to test code and new developments — or whether funding should be spent on an as-needed basis to help out with key projects.

Although OpenStack is becoming a more formal organization, Curry was adamant that its core community of developers will remain an integral part of developing open source cloud technologies.

“Lots of people in the community contribute back to the knowledge base, [and] we want to continue to build that,” Curry said. “Community is extremely important to us, and it is an area where we will continue to invest in and grow in the coming years.”

Brian Heaton  |  Senior Writer

Brian Heaton is a senior writer for Government Technology. He primarily covers technology legislation and IT policy issues. Brian started his journalism career in 1999, covering sports and fitness for two trade publications based in Long Island, N.Y. He's also a member of the Professional Bowlers Association, and competes in regional tournaments throughout Northern California and Nevada.