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What the Tour de France teaches us about OpenStack

‎07-08-2014 08:00 AM - edited ‎07-08-2014 02:31 PM

Guest Post by Warren Volkmann
PSO Cloud Writer


The Tour de France – the world’s premier bicycle race – is racing across the French countryside. And while most Americans think of bicycle racing as a battle between individual riders, I see it as the greatest example of open-source collaboration on the planet.


Here’s why. On most days during the three-week tour, a small pack of riders will race away from the main pack – called the peloton. On the long races, the peloton will let them go with a collective shrug. The riders in the main pack aren’t concerned about a breakaway group in the early goings of the race because they all understand the super-human power of their collective will.


The riders in the peloton know that the breakaway group is battling alone against the wind. Over the miles, wind resistance will steadily wear down the small breakaway group. The peloton, on the other hand, is a huge drafting party. The riders at the front take turns splitting the air at top speed. A rider drafting in the middle of the pack uses about a third less energy than a solo rider.


So on they roll, mile after mile, until the riders in the peloton make the collective decision that it is time to “reel them in.” Then, arch rivals become expedient collaborators. The peloton flexes its collective muscle en mass, shifts into high gear and bears down on the early leaders until they are caught and engulfed. Resistance is almost always futile.

Then, as the finish line nears, the real contenders move to the front of the peloton for a breathtaking sprint to the finish line.


Open source is business pelotons

The same thing happens in business. The open source movement has demonstrated the enormous collective power of business competitors when they decide to work together. When rivals cooperate, they can catch and overtake early leaders in the marketplace.


Open-source collaboration in the server market propelled Linux to the top. In the cell phone market, Blackberry and the iPhone had seemingly unassailable leads until 2009 when Google led an open-source community to create the Android software stack for mobile devices. According to Gartner, Android now owns more of the global market for smart phones than all its competitors combined.


OpenStack peloton shifting into gear

In cloud computing, proprietary public clouds broke away early and established a commanding lead. No single company can catch the early leaders. But many companies – working together – can. In 2011, HP and several competitors united to form the OpenStack® Foundation. OpenStack is challenging the public cloud leaders with hybrid cloud technology, which can be either public, private, or both depending on business need.


In the great global peloton that is OpenStack, HP is collaborating with Platinum Members IBM, Rackspace, AT&T, Canonical, Red Hat, Nebula and SUSE. Gold members in the OpenStack pack include Cisco, Intel, VMware, NEC, Hitachi, Cloudscaling, Mirantis and Yahoo! Working together, they are flexing their collective corporate cloud muscle and driving the pace. OpenStack has become the fastest growing initiative in the history of open source.


HP is up near the front of the pack, a leading contributor of new OpenStack code. At the announcement of HP Helion, a portfolio of cloud services, HP pledged $1 billion to support and deliver new open source cloud products and platforms.

Like the peloton in the Tour de France, the OpenStack community is shifting gears to reel in the early leaders. The chase is on.

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Warren Volkmann
on ‎07-14-2014 04:24 PM

Author's note: A week after this blog was published, asserting that early breakaway leaders almost always gets caught by the superhuman power of the peloton, the amazing and rare exception happened. German cyclist Tony Martin jumped out to an early lead and outpaced the peloton for almost 100 miles to capture his first stage win of the Tour de France. Martin is a 3-time World Champion Time Trialer -- the fastest rider in the world in  solo duels against the wind. His remarkable endurance allowed him to outpace the pack for hours.


However, the thesis of this blog post isn't completely blown.  The overall race leaders were sitting back in the pack. They collectively decided that Martin, who was 18 minutes back in the overall time standings, was not a serious challenger. Even though he shaved an amazing 8 minutes off his deficit, he was still 10 minutes out of contention for the entire 3-week-long race.


The announcers speculated that the race leaders back in the peloton collectively decided to let Tony Martin go, granting him his first win of a Tour de France stage race.


I think there was another German sporting event in the news last weekend -- one of those ball sports, I believe.

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