The meta-info of my OpenStack note
I’ve been reading the social media reactions to my recent note on OpenStack, “Don’t Let OpenStack Hype Distort Your Selection of a Cloud Management Platform in 2012” (that’s a client link; a free public reprint without the executive summary is also available), and wanted to respond to some comments that are more centered on the research process and publication process than on the report itself. So, here are a number of general assertions:
Gartner doesn’t do commissioned research. Ever. Repeat: Gartner, unlike almost every other analyst firm, doesn’t do commissioned resesarch — ever. Most analyst firms will do “joint research” or “commissioned whitepapers” or the like — research where a vendor is paying for the note to be written. About a decade ago, Gartner stopped this practice, because management felt it could be seen as compromising neutrality. No vendor paid for that OpenStack note to be written, directly or indirectly. Considering that most of the world’s largest IT vendors are significant participants in OpenStack, and plenty of small ones are as well, and a bunch of them are undoubtedly unhappy about the publication of that note, if Gartner’s interests were oriented around vendors, we certainly wouldn’t have published research practically guaranteed to upset a lot of vendors.
Gartner earns the overwhelming majority of its revenue from IT buyers. About 80% of Gartner’s revenues come from our IT buyer clients (we call them “end-users”). We don’t shill for vendors, ever, because our bread-and-butter comes from IT buyers, who trust us for neutral advice. Analysts are interested in helping our end-user clients make the technology decisions that are best for their business. We also want to help vendors (including those who are involved with free or commercial open-source) succeed in better serving end-users — which often means that we will be critical of vendor efforts. Our clients are asking about OpenStack, and every example of hype in that note comes directly from client interactions. I wrote that note because the volume of OpenStack queries from clients was ramping up, and we needed written research to address it.
Gartner analysts are not compensated on commissions of any sort. Many other analyst firms have incentives for analysts that are tied to revenue or publicity — be quoted in the press X times, sell reports, sell consulting, sell strategy days with vendors, etc. Gartner doesn’t do any of that, and hasn’t for about a decade. Our job, as Gartner analysts, is to try to offer the best advice we can to our clients. Sometimes, of course, we will be wrong, but we try hard. It’s not an academic exercise; our end-user clients have business outcomes that ride on their technology decisions.
Gartner doesn’t dislike open source. As a collective entity, Gartner tends to be cautious in its stances, as our end-user clients tend to be mid-market and enterprise IT executives who are fairly risk-averse; our analysis of all solutions, including OSS, tends to be from that perspective. But we write extensively about open source; we have analysts devoted to the topic, plus everyone covers the OSS relevant to their own coverage. We consider OSS a business strategy like anything else. In fact, we’ve been particularly vocal about how we feel that cloud is driving OSS adoption across a broad spectrum of solutions, and advocates that an IT organization’s adoption of cloud is a great time to consider replacing proprietary tech with OSS. (You’ll note that a whole section of the report predicts OpenStack’s eventual success, by the way, so it’s not like this a prediction of doom, just an observation of present stumbling-blocks on the road to maturity.)
Gartner research notes are Gartner opinion, not an individual analyst’s opinion. Everything that Gartner publishes as a research note (excluding things like blog posts, which we consider off-the-clock, personal time and not a corporate activity) undergoes a peer review process. While notes do slip through the cracks (i.e., get published without sufficiently broad or deep review), our internal processes require analysts to get review from everyone who touches a coverage area. My OpenStack note was very broadly peer reviewed — by other analysts who cover cloud infrastructure, cloud management platforms, and open source software, as well as a bunch of related areas that OpenStack touches. (As a result of that review, the original note almost quadrupled in size, split into one note on OSS CMPs in general, and one note on OpenStack itself.) I also asked for our Ombudsman’s office, which deals with vendor complaints, to review the note to make sure that it seemed fair, balanced, and free of inflammatory language, and they (and my manager) also asked questions about potentially controversial sections, in order to ensure they were backed by facts. Among other things, these processes are intended to ensure that individual analyst bias is eliminated to as large an extent as possible. That process is part of why Gartner’s opinions often sound highly conservative, but when we take a stance, it is usually neither casual nor one analyst’s opinion.
The publication of this note was not a shock to the vendors involved. Most of the vendors were aware that this note was coming; it was a work in progress over the summer. Rackspace, as the owner of OpenStack at the time that this was placed in the publication pipeline, was entitled to a formal review and discussion prior to its publication (as we do for any research that covers a vendor’s product in a substantive way). I had spoken to many of the other vendors in advance of its publication, letting them know it was coming (although since it was pre-Foundation they did not have advance review). The evolving OpenStack opinions of myself and other Gartner analysts have long been known to the vendors.
It would have been easier not to write anything. I have been closely following OpenStack since its inception, and I have worked with many of the OpenStack vendors since the early days of the project. I have a genuine interest in seeing them, and OpenStack, succeed, and I hope that the people that I and other analysts have dealt with know that. Many individuals have confided in me, and other Gartner analysts, about the difficulties they were having with the OpenStack effort. We value these relationships, and the trust they represent, and we want to see these people and their companies succeed. I was acutely careful to not betray any individual confidences when writing that report, ensuring that any concerns surfaced by the vendors had been said by multiple people and organizations, so that there would be no tracebacks. I am aware, however, that I aired everyone’s collective dirty laundry in public. I hope that making the conversation public will help the community rally around some collective goals that will make OpenStack mainstream adoption possible. (I think Rackspace’s open letter implicitly acknowledges the issues that I raised, and I highly encourage paying attention to its principles.)
You will see other Gartner analysts be more active in OpenStack coverage. I originally picked up OpenStack coverage because I have covered Rackspace for the last decade, and in its early days it was mostly a CMP for service providers. Enterprise adoption has begun, and so its primary home for coverage is going to be our CMP analysts (folks like Alessandro Perilli, Donna Scott, and Ronni Colville), although those of us who cover cloud IaaS (especially myself, Kyle Hilgendorf, and Doug Toombs) will continue to provide coverage from a service provider perspective. Indeed, our coverage of OSS CMPs (CloudStack, Eucalyptus, OpenNebula, etc.) has been ramping up substantially of late. We’re early in the market, and you can expect to see us track the maturation of these solutions.