Dell: Can you introduce yourself and tell us about your company that you just founded.
Hui Cheng: I am an early OpenStack evangelist in China and once led a OpenStack dev team at Sina. Now I am a new entrepreneur, I just founded a OpenStack company UnitedStack, it is a new start up targeting the Chinese and the Asia market, since the U.S. market is so crowded. We are the first professional OpenStack start-up in China and even in Asia, we gather a group of outstanding OpenStack developers as well as some top engineers in networking, storage and DevOps.
Q: What exactly is UnitedStack doing?
A: We are building a cloud OS, UnitedStack OS, which is completely different from all the so-called cloud OSes in the market. We want to build a commoditized and self-serviced cloud OS which will be as easy as Windows or MacOS. Everybody who has interest in our cloud OS but does not have any professional knowledge on OpenStack can play it without external service from others. Specifically, we have a unified storage solution which manages local storage and distributed block storage in one single storage system, we have simplified OpenStack Networking to make networking easy to use and understand, we have world-class UI designers and front-end engineers to design and develop a more intuitive and elegant management console etc.
Q: What is different about a distribution targeted at an Asian market compared to those distributions that are already available?
A: For example, our management console not only implements lots of powerful functionalities and features but also, I believe, is the most human and artistic work. Besides the UI works, we invest much resources to design the core backend services, such as the unified storage system, which combines the advantage of high-performance local disks and flexibility of distributed block storage.
Q: Do you already sell your distribution to customers?
A: It is still under heavy development, but we will release our first distro this summer. Our goal is to make UnitedStack OS the best cloud OS (including the OpenStack distributions) in the world. So that’s very ambitious, eh? (laughs)
Q: What use cases are you targeting with your distribution?
A: Good quesiton. Another big difference from other OpenStack distributions is that we are build a general purpose cloud OS including a sophisticated cloud app store, not a domain specific cloud. The customization and business related requirements are fulfilled through the app store. Enterprise app developers, ISVs can easily put their software on our app store, and distribute to their customers directly.
That’s to say we aim to build a fundamental platform for any types of companies that want to build private or public clouds or whatever type of technologies.
Q: What is currently the state of affairs with OpenStack in China?
A: China has the second biggest OpenStack user base in the world after the U.S. Almost all major players in the Chinese IT industry are interested in OpenStack and most of them are at least doing some research. Some of them have already deployed OpenStack in their production environment, amongst them are the biggest Chinese internet companies. As for developers, I know of some of our top 10 universities that are engaging with OpenStack, their students are doing research and writing papers about OpenStack. The Chinese OpenStack user group has more than 3,000 members.
But we also have some problems in the Chinese OpenStack community. One is that most Chinese companies are just using OpenStack instead of contributing to upstream. This is a big problem.
Q: What is the reason?
A: OpenStack community is basically centralized in U.S., whereas the Chinese community is decentralized. Also, the language barrier is a significant one for Chinese developers. And few companies are truly understanding open source spirit and culture, so they do not have much desire to deeply involve in the open source community, never say to contribute back. I have an open source community background, and as the founder of a tech company, I want UnitedStack to be a open source company, and I want it to be as huge and successful as Red Hat.
Q: Do you see the spirit and culture change somehow?
A: Yes, as the international communication becomes more and more frequent among Chinese developers, there are more engineers are realizing that involving into open source projects is the best way to develop themselves and propel their career. We also have done a lot of promotion activities such as meet ups around OpenStack and open source projects, I think it’s changing now and things are getting better.
Q: How can the global OpenStack community support peers in China?
A: As far as I observed, the global OpenStack players such as Rackspae, Red Hat, Dell and etc. have little presence in Chinese market. Maybe they do not know how to enter such a special market with an ambiguous government policy and market, and they do not have much experience in dealing with local companies, but they should prepare and try it ASAP … build local teams, find some local partners, give much support to local OpenStack communities.
Q: Thank you very much.
A: Thank you.