The OpenStack Foundation process has hit another milestone and is getting closer to reality. In total, 19 companies have now signed on in support of the draft framework and pledged to support the foundation at the platinum or gold levels. The list includes AT&T, IBM, Red Hat, SUSE, Cisco, Dell, Piston Cloud and (of course) Rackspace.

These are big names. And they’re spending big money. But while that’s a big boost for the Foundation, its ultimate success depends on the community’s commitment, not just cash.

The next step is that the companies will form a drafting committee comprising contacts from the platinum companies and elected representatives from the gold-level sponsors. The drafts will be open to comments from anyone in the OpenStack community, not just the member companies.

The current schedule calls for a couple rounds of drafts for the final foundation documents, to be completed by July 2. If a third round of drafts and comments is necessary, that will happen after July 2.

That’s a lot of work, obviously. And it’s one reason many projects choose to join organizations like Apache instead of trying to form their own foundation.

Foundation, Community and Development

This is a big step in handing over the OpenStack project to the entire community, but it’s important to understand the role of a foundation in a project like this. Some members of the OpenStack community seem to have mistaken budget for standing in the open source world, and are claiming the OpenStack Foundation as the “new open source superpower.”

Yes, it looks like the OpenStackers are going to be rolling in cash with Platinum members forking over $500,000 a year to help create a $5 million dollar budget. But cash doesn’t equal community. Marketing muscle doesn’t come from foundations. Foundations are about supporting the community and being a “center of gravity” for a project or set of projects.

As Eclipse’s Ian Skerrett writes, “If the community is not engaged, the Foundation has no use. I am pretty sure the Linux Foundation doesn’t claim credit for Linux. They support Linus, the kernel maintainers and the entire Linux community. Same thing for the Eclipse Foundation, and I am sure the Apache Foundation. OSS Foundations are about servicing a community, not being a superpower.”

So, this is good news for OpenStack, but let’s not overstate the importance or effect of signing on companies to make a modest financial commitment. (Modest in terms of the companies’ overall size, even if it adds up to a significant amount.)

The developers who are working on OpenStack are the real lifeblood of the project, and the larger community’s support is what will determine its success.

Expect a big flurry of OpenStack news next week, as the OpenStack Design Summit will be held in San Francisco.