A major OpenStack conference attracted roughly 1,000 attendees last week in San Francisco. More than an open source cloud technology, OpenStack is emerging as an ecosystem of hardware, software and service providers committed to building public and private clouds. Now, the challenge: Community leaders say they are desperate to find and train more OpenStack experts -- and there could also be need for an OpenStack certification.

First, the good news: Big hardware companies (Cisco Systems, Dell, Hewlett-Packard, IBM), key software companies (Red Hat, Canonical, SUSE) and big service providers (AT&T, Rackspace) are backing OpenStack. Plus, nearly two dozen companies are investing a combined $4 million to $5 million annually to support the OpenStack Foundation -- an organization designed to promote and coordinate OpenStack developments.

Seeking Trained OpenStack Experts

But like any emerging market, OpenStack will need trained IT professionals to expand and thrive. Just ask Boris Renski, co-founder and CMO at Mirantis, one of the top IT consulting firms focused on OpenStack.

Mirantis is a 10-year-old firm that has offshore software developers. The company gradually focused more and more on applications infrastructure and then about 18 months ago shifted its focus almost exclusively to OpenStack. Mirantis has consulted with Cisco Systems, Rackspace and numerous other companies in the OpenStack arena. Roughly 50 of the company's 250 employees are OpenStack experts.

Renski says Mirantis can use plenty of additional OpenStack professionals -- but OpenStack talent is hard to find.

"Any OpenStack professional right now is a hot commodity," said Renski. "We need to breed our own talent. We're also seeing a ridiculous amount of turnover in the OpenStack community right now as companies seek OpenStack talent."

Mirantis is helping to solve the problem. The company hosted OpenStack training at last week's OpenStack Design Summit and Conference in San Francisco. The training, Renski said, was sold out. Among the hot topics: OpenStack vs. VMware use case scenarios. Rackspace also offers OpenStack training, he added.

Longer term, Renski sees an opportunity for someone -- perhaps the OpenStack Foundation -- t0 step up and offer an OpenStack certification. He concedes it "might be a little early" for such a certification, but Renski expects certification chatter to potentially emerge during OpenStack Foundation meetings in the summer or fall of 2012.