Balance between User Base and Community in OpenStack and OpenNebula

In our last post “OpenNebula vs. OpenStack: User Needs vs. Vendor Driven” we stated that “OpenStack penetration in the market is relatively small compared with the investment made by vendors and VCs”. We have received several emails from people asking for the numbers that support this statement. This conclusion arises from the comparison between OpenNebula and OpenStack user base, a well as between the resources invested in development and marketing by each of them.

User Base

OpenStack is experiencing explosive growth in the number of developers, with more than 200 companies contributing code, 15,000 people and 850 companies involved according to its web site, and almost 1,000 developers involved in its latest release. However, the number of users and the size of the deployments are not that impressive, at least compared with this software development force.

Let us compare the user base of OpenNebula and OpenStack by using their latest surveys:

  • According to the most recent OpenStack user survey (November 2013), they received 827 responses, and 387 were deployments. In the 80% of these deployments the number of nodes was below 100, and only 11 deployments with more than 1,000 nodes (hypervisors).
  • On the other hand, in the latest OpenNebula survey (November 2012), OpenNebula received 2,500 responses, 820 of these were deployments. In the 70% of these deployments the number of nodes was below 100 nodes, and 99 deployments have more than 500 nodes (hypervisors).


We avoid giving references to featured users, both projects could put on the table good references of large-scale cloud deployments. The surveys show that OpenNebula and OpenStack are achieving a similar level of deployment. However, OpenStack presents a ratio 1/40 between deployments in the survey and number of people involved, a ratio 1/3 between deployments and developers, and a ratio 1/2 between deployments and companies involved. Not every company contributed to the survey?.

We could also use the volume of web searches according to Google Trends to compare the impact of both projects. The ratio in the number of searchers between OpenNebula and OpenStack during the last 12 years is 1/20. This mainly reflects the successful marketing of OpenStack. OpenNebula mainly invests its resources in developing technology and serving its users, being really vendor agnostic and free of marketing.

There is also a quarterly comparative analysis of the community activity (mailing lists traffic mostly) of the four main open-source cloud management platforms: OpenStack, OpenNebula, Eucalyptus and CloudStack. The number of threads and participants in OpenStack is one order of magnitude higher than in OpenNebula. This mostly reflects a higher number of developers. Moreover, it is also worth noting that development coordination in OpenNebula is done through a redmine portal and not through a mailing list.

Resources Invested

We conservatively estimate the investment in OpenStack is approximately $300 million per year:

  • OpenStack Havana involved 950 developers almost completely hired by vendors. This is approximately $150 Million per year
  • OpenStack Foundation budget is approximately $10 Million per year
  • Marketing costs, i.e. marketing staff and external marketing programs, can be estimated in tens of millions per year
  • Just seven of the many start-ups involved in OpenStack have raised $120 million from VC. Assuming this is for 3 years. This is approximately $40 million per year
  • There are other direct costs from other many companies, there are almost 1,000 companies involved, that are also allocating resources to development, training, documentation,…, a big overhead in indirect costs, and of course opportunity costs

So $300 million per year is a good conservative estimate. We have seen other estimations above $0.5 billion per year, some reaching to $1 billion per year. In any case, over a few years, it’s billions. Will these companies ever get their money back?. I see VC’s starting to ask “Where’s our future money?”. Summarizing, a relatively small user base, and so penetration in the market, compared with the investment made by vendors and VCs. OpenNebula, with a budget at least two orders of magnitude lower, is achieving a similar user base. You can draw your own conclusions.

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