The Open Core Model

It was Paul Dix, Founder and CTO of InfluxDB, that rocked the boat with his opening keynote at the last PerconaLive conference. His talk, titled “The Open Source Business Model is Under Siege”, discussed the existential struggle that open source software companies are facing. The talk is based on his experience building a viable business around open source over the last three and a half years with InfluxDB. You can see the full video here.

Infrastructure Software, a tough market …

Paul is right, building a viable open source company around infrastructure software is hard. Building a company around infrastructure tout court is hard these day. Need some examples? HPE buying storage unicorn Simplivty well below its recent valuation, Tintri doing an IPO as last option, Nutanix keeps piling up the losses quarter after quarter, RethinkDB and Basho shutting down and there are many more examples.

Open Core Model

I can offer only 1 advice for the above companies, It’s never too late to do the next right thing. And that next right thing was for Open vStorage moving away from a pure-play open source business model. Currently Open vStorage goes with the open core model. This means that we have a core distributed block storage project which is open source and free to use. But on the other hand we also have a closed source, commercial Enterprise Edition which adds more functionality to the core.
Maybe the term open core sounds a bit too pejorative. What we release as core is a fully functional distributed block storage platform. Deciding which feature ends up in the core and which in the Enterprise Edition is a difficult assessment. As rule of thumb, the core version should allow small clusters to be set up and operated without data loss and with decent performance. Even block storage clusters which span across multiple data centers can be set up with the core version. Enterprises which are looking to build their company (or part of it) on a service which couldn’t be built without the Open vStorage technology are gently steered towards the Enterprise Edition. These are typically well established, large enterprises which are looking to offer a new or better service to their customers. They also understand that one size doesn’t fit all and they want to be able to fiddle with all bells and whistles of Open vStorage. They want for example full control over which vDisk is using which part of the distributed cache. Or they want best in class performance and to achieve this they need features like the High Performance Read Mesh. Over time the list of ‘Enterprise Edition only’- features will grow. On the other hand nothing prevents us from moving features from the Enterprise Edition to the open source version down the line.

A final note

The open core model might offend some people. Yet, we aren’t the only one operating under an open core model. The open core business model is for example also used by Docker, MySQL, InfluxDB, MongoDB, Puppet, Midokura and many, many other software companies. It isn’t an easy business model as there is always discussion on which features to release as part of the open source project and which as part of the Enterprise Edition. But, we are confident that the open core model is the path forward. Not only for us but also for the whole software infrastructure market.

PS: Keep following our blog as over the next few weeks we will demonstrate the success of our open core business model with some extensive, multi petabyte, multi data center implementations.

Open vStorage by CloudFounders

basementIn a recent conference call an attendee expressed the following:

There is a real company behind Open vStorage? I thought this was a project done by 2 guys in their basement.

There is a big misconception about open-source projects. Some of these projects are indeed started and maintained by 2 guys in their basement. But on the other hand you see more and more projects where a couple of hundred people contribute. Take as an example OpenStack. To this open-source project companies such as Red Hat, IBM, HP, Rackspace, SwiftStack, Mirantis, Intel and many more are contributing code and are actually paying people to work on the project.

Open vStorage is a similar project being backed up by a real company: CloudFounders. At CloudFounders we love to build technology. People working for CloudFounders have done this for companies such as Oracle/Sun, Symantec, Didigate/Verizon, Amplidata and many more leading technology companies. We have also been active in the open-source community with projects such as Arakoon, our distributed key-value store.

The technology behind Open vStorage is not something we wrapped together over the last 6 months by gluing some open-source components together and being coated with a nice management layer. The core technology, which basically turns a bucket on your favorite object store into a raw device, is developed from scratch by the CloudFounders R&D and engineering team. We have been working for more than 4 years on the core. We have used the technology in our commercial product, vRun, but decided the best way forward is to open-source the technology. We believe software -defined storage is too important a piece of the virtualization stack for a proprietary solution that is either hypervisor specific, hardware specific, management stack specific and storage backend specific. With Open vStorage we want to build an open and non-proprietary storage layer but foremost something modular enough which allows developers to innovate on top of Open vStorage.

PS. According to Ohloh, Open vStorage has had 1,384 commits made by 14 contributors representing 55,404 lines of code!

2015, the Open vStorage predictions

New Year Wallpaper.The end of 2014 is near so it is time to look forward and see what 2015 will have to offer. Some people say there’s no point in making predictions and that it’s not worth speculating because nothing is set in stone and things change all the time in storage land. Allow us to prove these people wrong by sharing our 2015 storage predictions*:

Acceleration of (hyper-)converged platforms
Converged platforms are here to stay. Converged solutions are even the fastest growing segment for large storage vendors. But it will be players like Open vStorage who will really break through in 2015. Hyperconverged solutions showed that there is an alternative to expensive SAN or all-flash solutions by adding a software based caching layer to the host. Alas, these overhyped hyperconverged solutions are even more expensive per TB storage than an already expensive all-flash array. In 2015 we will see more solutions which unite the good of the hyperconverged appliance and the converged platform but at a significantly lower cost. Storage solutions that will be extremely hot and prove to be future proof will have to have following characteristics:

  • Caching inside the (hypervisor) host: caching on SSD or PCIe flash should be done inside the host and not a couple of hops down the network.
  • Scalability: all-flash will continue to be a waste of money due to the huge cost of flash. It is better to go for a Tiered solution: Tier 1 on flash, Tier 2 on scalable, cheap (object) storage. In case the Tier 1 and Tier 2 storage are inside the same appliance (hyperconverged), your scalability and flexibility will be limited. A much better solution is to keep the 2 Tiers completely separate in a different set of appliances but managed by the same software layer.
  • Open and programmatically: storage silo’s should in 2015 be something of the past. Integration and openness should be key. Automation will be one of the hottest and most important features of a storage solution.

It should not come as a surprise that Open vStorage checks all of the above requirements.

OpenStack will dominate the cloud in 2015
This is probably the most evident prediction. During the OpenStack conference in Paris it was very clear that OpenStack will dominate the cloud the next few years. In 2014 some new kids showed support for OpenStack such as VMware (they understand that hypervisor software is now a commodity and that the data center control plane has become the high-margin battle arena). With VMware releasing their own OpenStack distribution the OpenStack distribution battlefield will be crowded in 2015. We have RedHat, Ubuntu, Mirantis, HP, VMware and many more so it is safe to say that some consolidation will happen in this area.
A new OpenStack battlefield that will emerge in 2015 will be around OpenStack storage. Currently this area is being dominated by the traditional arrays but as the software-defined storage solutions gain traction, solutions such as Open vStorage will grab a huge market share from these traditional vendors. They can compete with these SANs and all-flash arrays as they offer the same features and have the benefit of a much lower cost and TCO. While they maybe not top the total revenue achieved by the big vendors, they will definitely seize a large share of the OpenStack storage market.
If we add the fact that the Chinese government is promoting OpenStack and open-source in general, you can bet your Christmas bonus on the fact that open-source (OpenStack) storage projects (Swift, Open vStorage, …) will be booming next year. These projects will get a lot of support from Chinese companies both in adoption and development. It will be essential for traditional high-tech companies and countries not to miss the boat as once it has left the harbor it will be very hard to catch up.

New markets for object storage vendors
2015 will be the year where object storage will break out of its niche market of large video or object repositories. This has been said for many years now but 2015 will be THE year as many companies have started to realize which benefits they achieved by implementing their first object storage projects. The next target for these enterprises is to make better use of their current object storage solution. Changing all of their legacy code will not happen in 2015 as this might impact their business. Solutions where they don’t have to change their existing code base and still benefit from the cost saving of object storage will be selected. Open vStorage is one of those solutions but we are pretty sure other solutions like for example storage gateways to object storage will flourish in 2015.
Another reason why object storage vendors will enter new markets is because currently too many players are after the same customer base. This means that if they want to keep growing and provide ROI for the venture capital invested, new markets will definitely need to be addressed. The 15-25 billion dollar SAN market is a logical market to address. But entering this market will not be a bed of roses as object storage vendors have no experience in this highly-competitive market or sometimes not even the right sales competencies and knowledge. They will have to look for partnerships with companies such as CloudFounders who are seasoned in this area.

Seagate Kinetic drives
The Kinetic drives are the most exciting, fundamental change in the storage industry in several years. These drives went GA at the end of 2014 but in 2015 we will gradually see new applications and solutions who make use of this technology. With these IP drives, you will, for the first time, be able to manage storage as a scalable pool of disks. Open vStorage will support the Kinetic drives as Tier 2 backend. This means Virtual Machine will have their hot data inside the host on flash and their cold data on a pool of Kinetic drives.

* We will look back on this post at the end of 2015 to see how good we scored.