Doing is Doing – my 10 open source principles

2013-07-14_17-28-21_468Open source projects’ greatest asset is their culture and FOSS practitioners need to deliberately build and expand it. To me, culture is not soft or vague.  Culture is something specific and actionable that we need to define and hold people accountable for.

I have simple principles that guide me in working in open source.   At their root, they are all simply “focus on the shared work.”

I usually sum them up as “Doing is Doing.”  While that’s an excellent test to see if you’re making the right choices, I suspect many will not find that tautology sufficiently actionable.

The 10 principles I try to model in open source leadership:

  1. Leadership includes service: connecting, education, documentation and testing
  2. Promotion is a two-edged sword – leaders needs to take extra steps to limit self-promotion or we miss hearing the community voice.
  3. Collaboration must be modeled by the leaders with other leaders.
  4. Vision must be articulated, but shared in a way that leaves room for new ideas and tactical changes.
  5. Announcements should be based on available capability not intention. In open source, there is less need for promises and forward-looking statements because your actions are transparent.
  6. Activity (starting from code and beyond) should be visible (Github = social coding) – it’s the essence of collaboration.
  7. Testing is essential because it allows other people to join with reduced risk.
  8. Docs are essential because it reduces friction for users to adopt.
  9. Upstreaming (unlike Forking) is a team sport so be prepared for some give-and-take.
  10. It’s not just about code, open source is about solving shared problems together.  When we focus on the shared goals (“the doing”) then the collaboration comes naturally.

Crowbar lays it all out: RAID & BIOS configs officially open sourced

MediaToday, Dell (my employer) announced a plethora of updates to our open source derived solutions (OpenStack and Hadoop). These solutions include the latest bits (Grizzly and Cloudera) for each project. And there’s another important notice for people tracking the Crowbar project: we’ve opened the remainder of its provisioning capability.

Yes, you can now build the open version of Crowbar and it has the code to configure a bare metal server.

Let me be very specific about this… my team at Dell tests Crowbar on a limited set of hardware configurations. Specifically, Dell server versions R720 + R720XD (using WSMAN and iIDRAC) and C6220 + C8000 (using open tools). Even on those servers, we have a limited RAID and NIC matrix; consequently, we are not positioned to duplicate other field configurations in our lab. So, while we’re excited to work with the community, caveat emptor open source.

Another thing about RAID and BIOS is that it’s REALLY HARD to get right. I know this because our team spends a lot of time testing and tweaking these, now open, parts of Crowbar. I’ve learned that doing hard things creates value; however, it’s also means that contributors to these barclamps need to be prepared to get some silicon under their fingernails.

I’m proud that we’ve reached this critical milestone and I hope that it encourages you to play along.

PS: It’s worth noting is that community activity on Crowbar has really increased. I’m excited to see all the excitement.

What makes OpenStack meaningful to the market?

THIS POST IS #2 IN A SERIES ABOUT “WHAT IS CORE.”

What gives a project a strong core? 

A strong project has utility, community, and longevity.

TelescopeUtility, community and longevity are the fundamental objectives of any project or product.  It must do something that people find useful (utility).  It’s not enough for one person to like the project, there must be a market (community).  And that useful and popular work must be sustainable over multiple “generations” (longevity).

These goals are basic.  The challenge is finding the right rules to keep OpenStack in the sustainable project zone.  Unfortunately, as an open source project, the OpenStack Foundation ultimately has very little real power (like hiring flocks of developers) to enforce use or maintenance of the code base.

The Foundation’s tools are velocity, culture, and brand.  Understanding “what is core” hones these tools to ensure they are effective.

Velocity – the rate of progress and quality of the code base.  A project at sufficient velocity is not worth forking or duplicating.  The fact that >1000 developers companies are contributing and 100s of companies are deploying OpenStack makes it profitable to remain in our community.   Make no mistake: being part of a community takes effort so there must be a return on that investment.  The foundation must ensure that commercial entities find an ROI from their participation.

Culture – open source culture strongly encourages sharing and collaboration.  I have seen that culture as a more potent force than the legalese and licenses.  While a strong culture reinforces itself, a toxic culture will rot a project like ice cream in the summerCulture maintenance is a chief foundation objective and includes fostering new users, documentation, orderly interactions and co-opetitive collaboration.

Brand – when all else fails, OpenStack can use legal means to define our brand.  This is the weakest of all the tools because the strength of the defense is only as good as the brand.  If we allow the OpenStack brand (sometimes we say it’s mark) to become weak or diluted then people have little reason to support velocity or culture.

An important insight when looking at these three control levers is that they are very different between individuals and corporations.  While individuals may highly motivated by culture they are not as motivated by brand; conversely, corporations are highly motivated by brand and compliance and minimally by culture.

As the OpenStack Foundation Board takes up the “what is core” question, we must be cognizant of the duality between individual and corporate interests.  OpenStack must be both meaningful culturally to individuals and strong brand-wise to corporations.   Both are needed to sustain OpenStack’s velocity.

READ POST IS #2: SPIDER CHART

my lean & open source reading list – recommendations welcome!

Cube Seat

I think it’s worth pulling together a list of essential books that I think should be required reading for people on Lean & open source teams (like mine):

  • Basis for the team values that we practice: The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable Patrick Lencioni (amazon)
  • This is a foundational classic for team building:  Peopleware: Productive Projects and Teams (Second Edition) Tom DeMarco (amazon)
  • This novel is good primer for lean and devops The Phoenix Project: A Novel About IT, DevOps, and Helping Your Business Win Gene Kim and George Spafford & Kevin Behr (amazon)
  • Business Focus on Lean: The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses Eric Ries (amazon)
  • Foundational (and easy) reading about Lean: The Goal: A Process of Ongoing Improvement Eliyahu M. Goldratt (amazon)
  • One of my favorites on Lean / Agile: Implementing Lean Software Development: From Concept to Cash Mary Poppendieck (amazon)
  • Should be required reading for open source (as close to “Open Source for Dummies as you can get): The Cathedral & the Bazaar: Musings on Linux and Open Source by an Accidental Revolutionary Eric S. Raymond (amazon)
  • Culture Change Liquid Leadership: From Woodstock to Wikipedia–Multigenerational Management Ideas That Are Changing the Way We Run Things Brad Szollose (amazon)
  • More Team Building – this one is INTERACTIVE! http://www.strengthsfinder.com/home.aspx

There are some notable additions, but I think this is enough for now.  I’m always looking for recommendations!  Please post your favorites in the comments!

7 takeaways from DevOps Days Austin

Block Tables

I spent Tuesday and Wednesday at DevOpsDays Austin and continue to be impressed with the enthusiasm and collaborative nature of the DOD events.  We also managed to have a very robust and engaged twitter backchannel thanks to an impressive pace set by Gene Kim!

I’ve still got a 5+ post backlog from the OpenStack summit, but wanted to do a quick post while it’s top of mind.

My takeaways from DevOpsDays Austin:

  1. DevOpsDays spends a lot of time talking about culture.  I’m a huge believer on the importance of culture as the foundation for the type of fundamental changes that we’re making in the IT industry; however, it’s also a sign that we’re still in the minority if we have to talk about culture evangelism.
  2. Process and DevOps are tightly coupled.  It’s very clear that Lean/Agile/Kanban are essential for DevOps success (nice job by Dominica DeGrandis).  No one even suggested DevOps+Waterfall as a joke (but Patrick Debois had a picture of a xeroxed butt in his preso which is pretty close).
  3. Still need more Devs people to show up!  My feeling is that we’ve got a lot of operators who are engaging with developers and fewer developers who are engaging with operators (the “opsdev” people).
  4. Chef Omnibus installer is very compelling.  This approach addresses issues with packaging that were created because we did not have configuration management.  Now that we have good tooling we separate the concerns between bits, configuration, services and dependencies.  This is one thing to watch and something I expect to see in Crowbar.
  5. The old mantra still holds: If something is hard, do it more often.
  6. Eli Goldratt’s The Goal is alive again thanks to Gene Kims’s smart new novel, The Phoenix project, about DevOps and IT  (I highly recommend both, start with Kim).
  7. Not DevOps, but 3D printing is awesome.  This is clearly a game changing technology; however, it takes some effort to get right.  Dell brought a Solidoodle 3D printer to the event to try and print OpenStack & Crowbar logos (watch for this in the future).

I’d be interested in hearing what other people found interesting!  Please comment here and let me know.

From orphans to open source, data matters

TMF ChildrenMy wife’s day job helps Indian orphans through the Miracle Foundation here in Austin. On the surface, our jobs are very different; however, there is lately more and more intersection in both form and substance. It was not always like that, initially the Miracle Foundation primary engagement had been an emotional appeal: “look, these orphans are sad, they need you. Did we mention that they are orphans?”

Joking aside, there are plenty of kind people who want to help children; however, there are a lots of worthy causes with equally strong appeal. The question is how do you pick which one? Donors/Contributors want one that is both emotionally appealing and effective.

While radically different in human impact, both of raising orphans and building open source rely heavily on personal engagement and passion for success. Just like non-profits, there are many open source projects that want you to invest your time in installing and contributing to their most worthy technology.

About 18 months ago, the Miracle Foundation pivoted their strategy from tending individual children towards cultivating whole orphanages (the “NEST program”, video below). They started tracking things like how much milk and fruit each child ate and if they had been vaccinated. They connected observable data like hemoglobin levels of children to their ability to pay attention in school. They were even aware of additional days girls spent in school just because they got monthly hygiene products.

NEST Spider Graph

Used with Permission, The Miracle Foundation

With this new program, the Miracle Foundation can tell you exactly how much benefit each child will receive from each dollar. These are real results derived from collecting real data, and the results are powerful.

The children the Miracle Foundation nurtures are going from subsistence to flourishing. This is not happening because people care more about these children than before. It is happening because someone is keeping the data and making sure that the support they give gets the results they want. This in turn helps donors (become one) feel confident that their emotional response is delivering tangible improvements. Both are essential to TMF’s mission.

Open source projects have a similar gestalt.

People and companies contributing time and resources to a project want to both believe in the technology and see tangible metrics to validate adoption. Open source transparency makes it easier to find active projects and people are engaged contributors, but it can be harder to determine if the project is having broader impact.

For OpenStack, these tangible metrics began to surface in the last few days. Before the summit, Stephano Muffulli, community manager, launched the OpenStack Activity Board to show commit and quality data for the project. Last Monday, Tim Bell & Ryan Lane presented the results of the first user survey which showed how and what users are adopting for OpenStack.

If you like seeing this type of data driven behavior then vote with your keyboard and become part of an active open source project. For non-profits like the Miracle Foundation, voting is even easier – you just need a credit card to join in their Mothers’ Day campaign. Your mom may not understand anything you add to open source, but she can understand when you help orphans.

Continue reading

Creating Communities: the intersection between Twitter celebrities and open source

calvin_leeOne of the unexpected perks of my Chevy SXSW experience was access to some real social media celebrities such as Josh Estrin, Calvin LeeKristin Brandt, Doug MoraSamantha Needham and Jennie Chen.  They are all amazing, fun, wicked smart and NOT INTO CLOUD COMPUTING.

While I already knew Samantha (via Dell) and Jennie (via TechRanch), all of Chevy’s guests brought totally different perspectives to Chevy’s SXSW team ranging from pop culture  and mommies to hypermilers and gearheads.

The common thread is that we are all looking to engage our communities.

We each wanted to find something that would be interesting for our very different audiences to discuss.  That meant using our experiences at SXSW, Chevy and with each other to start a conversation within our communities.  We need good content as a seed but the goal is to drive the interaction.

Josh was the most articulate about this point saying that he measured his success when his followers talked to each other more than to him.   Being able to create content that engages people to do that is a true talent.

Calvin’s focus was more on helping people connect.  He felt successful when he was able to bring people together through his extended network. In those cases and others, the goals and challenges of a social media celebrity were remarkably similar to those helping lead open source projects.

In building communities, you must measure success in member communication and interaction.

If you are intent on being at the center of the universe then your project cannot grow; however, people also need celebrities to bring them together.  The amazing thing about the the people I met at SXSW through Chevy is that they managed to both attract the attention needed to build critical mass and get out of the way so communities could form around them. That’s a skill that we all should practice and foster.

PS: I also heard clearly that “I ate …” tweets are some of their most popular.  Putting on my collaboration hat: if you’re looking to engage a community then food is the most universal and accessible discussion topic.  Perhaps I’ll have to eat crow on that one.  

Crowbar Celebrates 1st Anniversary

Nearly a year ago at OSCON 2011, my team at Dell opened sourced “Crowbar, an OpenStack installer.” That first Github commit was a much more limited project than Crowbar today: there was no separation into barclamps, no distinct network configuration, one operating system option and the default passwords were all “openstack.” We simply did not know if our effort would create any interest.

The response to Crowbar has been exciting and humbling. I most appreciate those who looked at Crowbar and saw more than a bare metal installer. They are the ones who recognized that we are trying to solve a bigger problem: it has been too difficult to cope with change in IT operations.

During this year, we have made many changes. Many have been driven by customer, user and partner feedback while others support Dell product delivery needs. Happily, these inputs are well aligned in intent if not always in timing.

  • Introduction of barclamps as modular components
  • Expansion into multiple applications (most notably OpenStack and Apache Hadoop)
  • Multi-Operating System
  • Working in the open (with public commits)
  • Collaborative License Agreements

Dell‘s understanding of open source and open development has made a similar transformation. Crowbar was originally Apache 2 open sourced because we imagined it becoming part of the OpenStack project. While that ambition has faded, the practical benefits of open collaboration have proven to be substantial.

The results from this first year are compelling:

  • For OpenStack Diablo, coordination with the Rackspace Cloud Builder team enabled Crowbar to include the Keystone and Dashboard projects into Dell’s solution
  • For OpenStack Essex, the community focused work we did for the March Essex Hackday are directly linked to our ability to deliver Dell’s OpenStack-Powered Essex solution over two months earlier than originally planned.
  • For Apache Hadoop distributions for 3.x and 4.x with implementation of Cloudera Manager and eco system components.
  • We’ve amassed hundreds of mail subscribers and Github followers
  • Support for multiple releases of RHEL, Centos & Ubuntu including Ubuntu 12.04 while it was still in beta.
  • SuSE does their own port of Crowbar to SuSE with important advances in Crowbar’s install model (from ISO to package).

We stand on the edge of many exciting transformations for Crowbar’s second year. Based on the amount of change from this year, I’m hesitant to make long term predictions. Yet, just within next few months there are significant plans based on Crowbar 2.0 refactor. We have line of site to changes that expand our tool choices, improve networking, add operating systems and become more even production ops capable.

That’s quite a busy year!

Open Source Vision, Strategy & Execution: The Community Garden Analogy

I’ve been working on a white paper series about open source culture and projects based on my experience with at Dell with Crowbar and OpenStack.  I’m hoping to show off the first result of that collaboration soon, until then I’m glad to share some ideas that we’ve been throwing around to help explain the fundamental shift that we see taking place in the technology community.

It’s obvious that executing a collaborative open source project is fundamentally different than a either a licensed or an open single contributor project.

However, we have yet to describe the culture, process and success criteria needed to drive a collaborative open source project.

I am not saying that projects are not being successful – there are many great examples (OpenStack, CloudFoundry, Apache). My point is that we I do not have articulated the vision, strategy or execution needed for people grounded in traditional software delivery to understand why these projects are different and how to navigate the differences. Lack of alignment within the lead delivery team can be highly disruptive to the project.

Community gardening is all about people working together to produce something tangible that is bigger than they could accomplish individually. Each participant has an expectation of return – a garden is not a charity, it must produce; however, there is a community drive rewards a garden wide focus.

  • You could just pull weeds from your plot, but doing extra means that the garden as a whole will prosper.
  • Fixing the fence keeps the “MQ” rabbits out of your carrots and your neighbors lettuce
  • The person growing the mint also keeps out the ants and so helps the entire garden.
  • The oddball that wants inverted chinese radishes may also be an expert vermiculturist who nurtures the whole worm population as a side interest
  • While everyone may want tomatoes, they may not want to same variety or amount. You may want a small batch of heirlooms for your salad while someone making pasta sauce wants

For a community garden, like an open source project, the specific objectives of the participants do not have to be identical for the garden to florish. In fact, the very diversity of intent is what makes the garden successful. A single gardener may only plant watermelons and corn, but the community group will likely have a complete crop.

But the analogy does not end with the gardeners. A community garden is also strengthened by the cooks and dinners who enjoy the food because they are the audience.

This post was designed to plant some seeds of understanding.  I know it does not get to the meat of the vision, strategy or execution for open source, that will come in future posts.  Specifically, I’m planning to discuss how OpenStack and Crowbar measure up as they near their respective second and first anniversaries.

OpenStack vs CloudStack? It’s about open innovation.

Yesterday, I got a short drive in a “Kick-Ass” Fisker Karma.  As someone who converted a car to electric, it was a great treat to see the amazing quality, polish and sophistication of the Karma.  Especially since, six years ago, I had to build my own EV.  Today there is a diversity of choices ranging from the Nissan, GM, Tesla, Aptera, Fisker and others.  Yet even with all these choices, EVs are far from the main stream.

How does that relate to Cloud *aaS?  It’s all about innovation cycles and adoption.

Cloud platforms (really, IaaS software) have transformed from DIY to vibrant projects in the last few years; however, we still don’t know what the finished products will look like - we are only at the beginning of the innovation cycle.

With yesterday’s Citrix’s “CloudStack joins Apache” announcement painted as a shot against OpenStack, it is tempting to get pulled into a polarized view of the right or wrong way to implement cloud software (NetworkWorld,  JavaWorld, CloudPundit).  I think that feature by feature comparisons miss the real dynamics of the cloud market.

The question is not about features today, it is about forward velocity tomorrow.  There are important areas needing technology development (network, storage, etc) in the cloud infrastructure space.  

So the real story, expressed eloquently by Thierry Carrez, is about open collaboration and the resulting pace of innovation.  That means that I consider all the cloud platforms in the market to be immature because we are still learning the scope of the “cloud” opportunity.

The critical question is how the various cloud projects will maintain growth and adopt innovation.  Like the current generation of EVs, we must both prove value in production and demonstrate our ability to learn and improve.

The Citrix decision to submit CloudStack to the Apache Foundation underscores this point: success of projects is about attracting collaboration and innovation.

From the perspective of building innovation and attracting developers, the tension between OpenStack and CloudStack is very real.