Twelve straw man positions to frame OpenStack “what is core” discussion


Train WheelsIt’s time to move to the what from the how and why.  In my experience discussing the framework, it’s important to understand the context at this point because our objective is to define the common ground.  If you mistake the intent then it’s much harder to understand the details, but here they are…

I’m hopeful that the framework we’re defining today will ultimately be taken for granted.  Until then, relax and remember that this straw man is a work in progress.

These positions have been crafted over the course of several weeks and are constantly evolving. Next steps are to expand discussions to the OpenStack Community for input and review at the next Board Meeting on August 6th.   Ultimately, we need to close this issue at the next Summit.

I present them here for reference and encourage the community to bring up dialog on the OpenStack list (positions are sourced here).

Update Aug 13, 2013: These original 12 points have been refined down to 10.

You’re welcome to read the original 12 below, but I recommend skipping over to the refined set.

Continue reading

My insights from OpenStack “what is core” Spider > we need pluggable architectures


IdeasSo what did we learn from the spider map exercise?  Above all else, the spider confirmed that to me that OpenStack is a world of paradox.  The perfect definition of core may be elusive, but I believe we can find one that is sufficient.

The goal was understanding not philosophical truth.  In a diverse and vibrant community with many objectives, understanding leads to consensus while being “right” can become very lonely.

Since our goal was not to answer the question, what did we want to accomplish?  Spider success was defined as creating a framework, really a list of agreed positions (post #4), that narrows the scope of the “what is core” dialog.

Too vague a framework leads to uncertainty about what’s included, stable and working while too rigid a baseline could drive away innovation and lead to forking.  Being too aggressively open could discourage commercial investment yet too proprietary an approach contradicts our collaboration and community values.

Having a workable framework that accommodates these diverse positions allows us to move forward.

So what did Alan and I learn from the spider to help the discussion?

  • “Plug-ins” are essential to the definition of core because they create safe places for innovation  [note: there has been much refinement of what “plug-in” means here]
  • It is possible to balance between stability and innovation if we have a way to allow implementations to evolve
  • OpenStack has a significant commercial ecosystem that needs to be accommodated in core
  • We need an approach that allows extension and improvement without having to incubate new projects
  • We need to ensure that we use brand and culture to combat forking
  • Interoperability is a worthy goal
  • Everyone thinks testing is good, but it’s still a sidebar
  • There are multiple distinct audiences with conflicting goals: some want stability and durability while others want innovation and flexibility.

Of these insights, the need to discuss how OpenStack promotes a plug-in architecture seemed address the most points of tension.  [update: in the course of discussion, we’ve defining plug-in more generally to be something like “a designated section of implementation code that can be altered without negatively changing the base function of the project.”]

This is not the only item worth discussing, but it was the one that made the most sense to cover first based on the spider map.  Our idea was that having the community find agreement on how we approach plug-ins would lead us closer to a common ground for the “what is core” discussion.

Finding a common thread shrinks the problem space so the Board, TC and Community can advance in discussion.  So far, that assessment has proven accurate enough to move the dialog forward.


Introducing the OpenStack Spider Graph: untangling our web of interdependencies

This post is #2 in a series about “what is core.”

peaceOne of the OpenStack Foundation’s most fundamental responsibilities is to define “what is core” for the OpenStack project.  A simple yet urgent question with profound implications for the project’s success; consequently, it’s no surprise that finding a consensus answer has been a thorny problem.   In fact, the answer (it’s 42, of course) is so convoluted that we had to step back establish common ground before we could proceed. I’m proud to say that we’ve made substantial progress towards establishing a framework for the discussion.   

This post (#2) is about the process we followed.  My next post (#3) is about what we learned.  Next, we want to engage the community in discussing the baseline positions (post #4) that make up the framework.   The challenge in discussion was that the Board (and Community) lacked common baseline.  When one person talked about commercial extensions to core another would insist that core always be open.  There are compatible statements; yet, we’d often talk past each other because the question was simply too big and fuzzy.

spider boardAlan Clark, Foundation Board Chairman, and I took on the task of breaking the logjam by decomposing the problem.  We used a multilayered mind map that I called the “spider” chart (yes, it’s a misnomer).  In constructing the spider, we first flagged out issue areas (the nodes) and added goals (red text) for each issue area.  Next we linked connected nodes together to form a graph.  We added blue text on connections where goals were opposed or in tension and green text where goals were aligned.

Note: Some of our text is controversial – it was our objective to find the tension.  If you are looking at the image, we also created some grid and flow charts to test the map.

We did not time capture the spider so it’s impossible to sweep back and see how the ideas progressed.  In general, we started at the center from “IncUp Discussion” which was the TC and Board’s collaboration, led by Alan, to define the process by which projects are promoted from incubation to integrated projects.

Some topics were easy like “API vs Implementation” and “Trademark” while “Implementation Led” and “Plug-ins” were more difficult.  Some clarification on those two items is worthwhile:

Implementation Led describes the OpenStack community for starting from working implementations rather than designing an API.  In my experience, this pattern serves the community well as long as we accept that APIs and implementations in incubated projects will take time to mature.   Using this approach gets us out of prolonged design by committee spirals.  It has serious pitfalls also – there’s no milk and honey approach. Plug-ins represented a big pot of politics in the community that was part of the challenge in defining what is core.  The obvious issue is that not all core projects use plug-ins and the ones that do take different approaches.  Even so, we felt that the concept of multiple implementations with a single API was a significant part of the opportunity (and challenge) for OpenStack core.

Ultimately, we decomposed the spider graph into the following table that shows some of our thoughts in raw form.  I’ll discuss the actual insights in my next post (#3) Continue reading

What makes OpenStack meaningful to the market?


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.


Kicking off discussion about OpenStack Core

What's in?I’ve been leading an effort with Alan Clark to define “what is OpenStack core” for the Foundation Board.  Now that I am sitting here at OSCON and celebrating OpenStack’s third birthday, I think it’s a great time to bring the general community into the discussion.

There is significant history behind this topic.  According to Foundation governance, the Technical Committee (TC) defines which incubated projects are integrated and the Board of Directors (I am one) determines which of the integrated projects are labeled as core.

When it comes to the core label, the stakes are high.

Defining core is a convoluted topic.  To make it digestible, I’m breaking it down into multiple blog posts over a series of weeks:

  1. Why do we care about core?
  2. Decomposing the problem (“the spider”)
  3. Insights from decomposition (healthy tensions in OpenStack)
  4. 12 Positions: A Common Framework (I recommend ready the list of 10 instead)
  5. Community Feedback at OSCON 
  6. “What is Core” the visualization
  7. Where I think this is going, OpenStack’s Test Driven Core
  8. Core Positions Refined: the 10 positions behind the core visualization (above).
  9. Videos (most >90 mins).  The online meetups are easier to follow.
    1. 9/5 OpenStack Core Meetup in San Antonio
    2. 9/22 OpenStack Core Meetup in NYC
    3. online: 10/16 Online Meetup (daytime) and 10/22 Online Meetup (evening)
  10. Thinking about how to Implement OpenStack Core Definition

Too much reading?  At OSCON, Rafael Knuth shot a video of me talking about “what is core.”