TL; DR: OpenInfra may be the driving force behind OpenStack, the most popular open-source software in the developer community, but it’s also behind other projects. We chatted with Kendall Nelson, Senior Upstream Developer Advocate, who told us about OpenInfra’s goal as a host within the open infrastructure landscape. Its mission is simple: to break away from the dominance of a single entity and support a diverse, collaborative approach to shaping the future of technology.
The power of open-source software is growing more and more each day. Between 2022 and 2023 alone, we witnessed history’s largest first-time contributors toward open-source software.
While this growth reflects the rising prominence of open-source development, it’s also an educational hub: 68% of open-source developers learned to code through open infrastructure and community-created resources.
I know we’re getting a little stat-heavy. Still, you have to admit it’s easy to see how these numbers show open-source technology’s incredible influence on today’s generation of developers and designers.
One of the faces behind these open-source projects is the OpenInfra Foundation.
“We focus on providing a neutral, open environment so that developers, users, and operators can come together to build open-source infrastructure,” said Kendall Nelson, Senior Upstream Developer Advocate of OpenInfra.
“Anyone can participate, and everything is iterable. You can share an opinion on any part of the design or development process and be involved from start to finish, no matter who you are, where you’re located, or your expertise.”
OpenInfra hosts popular software, including OpenStack, StarlingX, Kata Containers, and Zuul, with more than 9,000 contributors across 180+ countries.
Real Solutions with Open-Source Projects
OpenInfra — a clever wordplay on the term open infrastructure — comprises inclusive participation of developers, users, and organizations with active contributions through code writing, bug fixing, documentation creation, and feature suggestions.
“One of the things we do differently is our focus on the methodology, the Four Opens. It fosters a healthy, diverse project community to support these projects that are being used at scale worldwide,” Kendall explained.
The Four Opens follow the guiding principles of open-source, open design, open development, and open community, which incorporates public code reviews, design summits, technical committees, and lazy consensus.
Today, many widely used technologies, from operating systems to web servers, databases, and development frameworks, are open-source. Kendall emphasized it’s through community-driven open collaboration that OpenInfra provides real solutions for modern technology. And since OpenInfra’s community is located all around the world, there are countless different perspectives for use cases.
OpenInfra’s project, OpenStack, recently released its 28th version, Bobcat. OpenStack is the most popular open-source software, with more than 580 contributors for this release. (But that just encompasses a small percentage of the nearly 10,000 contributors OpenStack has seen since its creation in 2010.)
Another project, StarlingX, released its 8.0 version earlier this year. StarlingX provides a complete cloud infrastructure software stack specifically for edge computing.
“We’re proud of this open infrastructure ecosystem that we’ve built around these projects and the fact they’re all compatible with each other,” Kendall said. “We’re also excited because there are a lot of other holes in the ecosystem that we would love to provide solutions for.”
Tackling New-Age Technologies
OpenInfra’s number-one goal is to level the playing field for collaboration by providing an unbiased space for developers, users, and organizations to create without being influenced by any single entity’s agenda.
You might wonder why this is important. It’s simple: With open infrastructure, you get diverse perspectives, innovation, community engagement, and transparency.
Sure, it can be great to finally receive a long-awaited product from trusted companies like Apple or Microsoft. But it’s also hard to deny the limitations that come with them. In fact, one of my biggest gripes with Apple is its refusal to enable iMessaging on Androids.
Take Adobe Flash as a bigger example. Although it was once famous for web multimedia, it wasn’t compatible with all browsers, had security issues, and was very resource-intensive. As a result, many browsers discontinued Flash support, and it officially retired in 2020.
That’s why OpenInfra is so dedicated to an open-source infrastructure, and some of its most well-known projects include OpenStack, Kata Containers, and StarlingX.
OpenStack provides a comprehensive solution to build and manage cloud infrastructure and addresses evolving technology needs, such as AI and machine learning (ML).
“OpenStack kind of lives in the middle to make sure that you’re getting the most out of your hardware to meet the needs of the AI or ML workload running on top of that infrastructure,” Kendall said.
Another product, Kata Containers, provides security for sensitive data in various industries with workload isolation and architecture compatibility.
Kendall said one of the main use cases for Kata Containers is in industries where security is a huge concern, like finance.
“Kata Containers provides isolation that helps increase security and not take a hit regarding the efficiency of the workloads running there,” she added.
The other ongoing project, StarlingX, specializes in edge computing. It’s a cloud infrastructure software that ensures low latency for applications with a container-based and scalable approach for production use.
It’s especially popular in industrial automation, healthcare, and multi-access edge computing — but Kendall noted there’s been a change in trends recently.
“From the beginning, we’ve seen a large number of telecoms involved, but we’ve also noticed there has been growth around industrial IoT over the last couple of years,” said Kendall. “And I’m sure there are many other ones that we have yet to discover.”
What’s Next for OpenInfra?
Kendall said OpenInfra has some emerging trends it’s addressing. Cybersecurity and sustainability are still at the forefront of both new and emerging technologies. There’s also the potential for integration with AI/ML technologies.
With that in mind, OpenInfra is open to collaboration, accepting new projects, and building on the success of existing projects.
“Our methodology works, and we have very healthy, robust, and successful projects,” Kendall said. “So now, we’re open to accepting new projects. But to do so, we need to know about them. We need to contact the open-source program offices, policy offices, and larger companies that may already collaborate with others but want to do more in the open and get more involvement. And we’re able to help with all of that.”
Kendall also said OpenInfra is open to surveys and feedback on its projects or ideas to understand user needs, improve existing projects, and guide the development of new initiatives.
Whether you have an idea or want to delve into the world of renowned open-source projects, discover the face behind it all. Learn more about OpenInfra and its impactful initiatives here.