The Way Forward

The OpenStack project structure has been under heavy discussion over the past months. There was a long email thread, a lot of opinionated blogposts, a cross-project design summit session in Paris, and various strawmen proposed to our governance repository. Based on all that input, the OpenStack Technical Committee worked on a clear specification of the problems we are trying to solve, and the proposed way to fix them. What follows is an excerpt of the approved resolution.

Problem description

Our project structure is currently organized as a ladder. Developers form teams, work on a project, then apply for incubation and ultimately graduate to be part of the OpenStack integrated release. Only integrated projects (and the few horizontal efforts necessary to build them) are recognized officially as "OpenStack" efforts. This creates a number of issues, which were particularly visible at the Technical Committee level over the Juno development cycle.

First, the integrated release as it stands today is not a useful product for our users. The current collection of services in the integrated release spans from cloud native APIs (swift, zaqar in incubation), base-level IaaS blocks (nova, glance, cinder), high-level aaS (savana, trove), and lots of things that span domains. Some projects (swift, ironic...) can be used quite well outside of the rest of the OpenStack stack, while others (glance, nova) really don't function in a different context. Skilled operators aren't deploying "the integrated release": they are picking and choosing between components they feel are useful. New users, however, are presented with a complex and scary "integrated release" as the thing they have to deploy and manage: this inhibits adoption, and this inhibits the adoption of a slice of OpenStack that could serve their need.

Second, the integrated release being the only and ultimate goal for projects, there is no lack of candidates, and the list is always-growing. Why reject Sahara if you accepted Trove? However, processes and services are applied equally to all members of the integrated release: we gate everything in the integrated release against everything else, we do a common, time-based release every 6 months, we produce documentation for all the integrated release components, etc. The resources working on those integrated horizontal tasks are very finite, and complexity grows non-linearly as we add more projects. So there is outside pressure to add more projects, and internal pressure to resist further additions.

Third, the binary nature of the integrated release results in projects outside the integrated release failing to get the recognition they deserve. "Non-official" projects are second- or third-class citizens which can't get development resources. Alternative solutions can't emerge in the shadow of the blessed approach. Becoming part of the integrated release, which was originally designed to be a technical decision, quickly became a life-or-death question for new projects, and a political/community minefield.

In summary, the "integrated release" is paradoxically too large to be effectively integrated, installed or upgraded in one piece, and too small to express the diversity of our rich ecosystem. Its slow-moving, binary nature is too granular to represent the complexity of what our community produces, and therefore we need to reform it.

The challenge is to find a solution which allows to address all those three issues. Embrace the diversity of our ecosystem while making sure that what we produce is easily understandable and consumable by our downstream users (distributions, deployers, end users), all that without putting more stress on the already overworked horizontal teams providing services to all OpenStack projects, and without limiting the current teams access to common finite resources.

Proposed change

Provide a precise taxonomy to help navigating the ecosystem

We can't add any more "OpenStack" projects without dramatically revisiting the information we provide. It is the duty of the Technical Committee to help downstream consumers of OpenStack understand what each project means to them, and provide them with accurate statuses for those projects.

Currently the landscape is very simple: you're in the integrated release, or you're not. But since there was only one category (or badge of honor), it ended up meaning different things to different people. From a release management perspective, it meant what we released on the same day. From a CI perspective, it meant what was co-gated. From an OpenStack distribution perspective, it meant what you should be packaging. From some operator perspective, it meant the base set of projects you should be deploying. From some other operator perspective, it meant the set of mature, stable projects. Those are all different things, and yet we used a single category to describe it.

The first part of the change is to create a framework of tags to describe more accurately and more objectively what each project produced in the OpenStack community means. The Technical Committee will define tags and the objective rules to apply them. This framework will allow us to progressively replace the "integrated release" single badge with a richer and more nuanced description of all "OpenStack" projects. It will allow the Technical Committee to provide more precise answers to the Foundation Board of Directors questions about which set of projects may make sense for a given trademark license program. It will allow our downstream users to know which projects are mature, which are security-supported, which are used in more than one public cloud, or which are really massively scalable.

Recognize all our community is a part of OpenStack

The second part of the change is recognizing that there is more to "OpenStack" than a finite set of projects blessed by the Technical Committee. We already have plenty of projects that are developed on OpenStack infrastructure, follow the OpenStack way of doing things, have development discussions on the openstack-dev mailing-list and use #openstack-meeting channels for their team meetings. Those are part of the OpenStack community as well, and we propose that those should considered "OpenStack projects" (and be hosted under openstack git namespaces), as long as they meet an objective criteria for inclusion (to be developed as one of the work items below). This might include items such as:

  • They align with the OpenStack Mission: the project should help further the OpenStack mission, by providing a cloud infrastructure service, or directly building on an existing OpenStack infrastructure service

  • They follow the OpenStack way: open source (licensing), open community (leadership chosen by the contributors to the project), open development (public reviews on Gerrit, core reviewers, gate, assigned liaisons), and open design (direction discussed at Design Summit and/or on public forums)

  • They ensure basic interoperability (API services should support at least Keystone)

  • They submit to the OpenStack Technical Committee oversight

These criteria are objective, and therefore the Technical Committee may delegate processing applications to another team. However, the TC would still vote to approve or reject applications itself, based on the recommendations and input of any delegates, but without being bound to that advice. The TC may also decide to encourage collaboration between similar projects (to reduce unnecessary duplication of effort), or to remove dead projects.

This proposed structure will replace the current program-driven structure. We'll still track which team owns which git repository, but this will let multiple different "OpenStack" teams potentially address the same problem space. Contributors to projects in the OpenStack git namespace will all be considered ATCs and participate in electing the Technical Committee.


As for all significant governance changes, we need to ensure a seamless transition and reduce the effect of the reform on the current development cycle. To ensure this seamless transition, the OpenStack taxonomy will initially define one tag, "integrated-release", which will contain the integrated projects for the Kilo cycle. To minimize disruption, this tag will be used throughout the Kilo development cycle and for the Kilo end release. This tag may be split, replaced or redefined in the future, but that will be discussed as separate changes.

Next steps

I invite you to read the full text of this Technical Committee resolution to learn more about the proposed implementation steps or the impact on current projects.

It's important to note that most of the work and decisions are still ahead of us: those proposed changes are just the base foundational step, enabling the future evolution of our project structure and governance. Nevertheless, it still is a significant milestone to clearly describe the issues we are working to solve, and to agree on a clear way forward to fix those.

The next step now is to communicate more widely about the direction we are going, and start the discussion on some more difficult and less consensual details (like the exact set of objective rules applied to judge new entrants, or the need - and clear definition for - a compute-base tag).