10 pounds of OpenStack cloud in a 5 pound bag? Do we need a bigger bag?

Yesterday, I posted about cloud distruptors that are pushing the boundaries of cloud. The same forces pull at OpenStack where we are working to balance between including all aspects of running workloads and focusing on a stable foundation.

Note: I am seeking re-election to the 2015 OpenStack Board.  Voting starts 1/12.

For weeks, I’ve been reading and listening to people inside and outside the community.  There is considerable angst about the direction of OpenStack.  We need to be honest and positive about challenges without simply throwing stones in our hall of mirrors.

Closing 2014, OpenStack has gotten very big, very fast.  We’ve exploded scope, contributions and commercial participants.  Unfortunately, our process infrastructure (especially the governance by-laws) simply have not kept pace.  It’s not a matter of scaling processes we’ve got; many of the challenges created by growth require new approaches and thinking (Thierry’s post).

OpenStack BagIn 2015, we’re trying to put 10 pounds of OpenStack in a 5 pound bag.  That means we have to either a) shed 5 pounds or b) get a bigger bag.  In classic OpenStack style, we’re sort of doing both: identifying a foundational base while expanding to allow more subprojects.

To my ear, most users, operators and business people would like to see the focus being on the getting the integrated release scope solid.  So, in spirit of finding 5 pounds to shave, I’ve got five “shovel ready” items that should help:

  1. Prioritizing stability as our #1 feature.  Accomplishing this will require across the broad alignment of the vendor’s product managers to hold back on their individual priorities in favor of community.  We’ve started this effort but it’s going to take time to create the collaboration needed.
  2. Sending a clear signal about the required baseline for OpenStack.  That’s the purpose of DefCore and should be felt as we work on the Icehouse and Juno definitions.
  3. Alignment of the Board DefCore project with Technical Committee’s Levels/Big Tent initiative.  By design, these efforts interconnect.  We need to make sure the work is coordinated so that we send a clearly aligned message to the technical, operator, vendor and user communities.
  4. Accelerate changes from single node gate to something that’s either a) more services focused or b) multi-node.  OpenStack’s scale of community development  requires automation to validate the new contributions do not harm the existing code base (the gate).  The current single-node gate does not reflect the multi-node environments that users target with the code.  While it’s technically challenging to address this mismatch, it’s also essential so we ensure that we’re able to validate multi-node features.
  5. Continue to reduce drama in the open source processes.   OpenStack is infrastructure software that should enable an exciting and dynamic next generation of IT.  I hear people talk about CloudStack as “it’s not as exciting or active a community but their stuff just works.”  That’s what enterprises and operators want.  Drama is great for grabbing headings but not so great for building solid infrastructure.

What is the downside to OpenStack if we cannot accomplish these changes?  Forks.

I already see a clear pattern where vendors are creating their own distros (which are basically shallow forks) to preserve their own delivery cycle.  OpenStack’s success is tied to its utility for the customers of vendors who fund the contributors.  When the cost of being part of the community outweighs the value, those shallow forks may become true independent products.

In the case of potential forks, they allow vendors to create their own bag and pick how many pounds of cloud they want to carry.  It’s our job as a community in 2015 to make sure that we’ve reduced that temptation.

1/9/15 Note: Here’s the original analogy image used for this post

OpenStack ATL Recap to the 11s: the danger of drama + 5 challenges & 5 successes

HallwayI’ve come to accept that the “Hallway Track” is my primary session at OpenStack events.  I want to thank the many people in the community who make that the best track.  It’s not only full of deep technical content; there are also healthy doses of intrigue, politics and “let’s fix that” in the halls.

I think honest reflection is critical to OpenStack growth (reflections from last year).  My role as a Board member must not translate into pom-pom waving robot cheerleader.


What I heard that’s working:

  1. Foundation event team did a great job on the logistics and many appreciate the user and operator focus.  There’s is no doubt that OpenStack is being deployed at scale and helping transform cloud infrastructure.  I think that’s a great message.
  2. DefCore criteria were approved by the Board.  The overall process and impact was talked about positively at the summit.  To accelerate, we need +1s and feedback because “crickets” means we need to go slower.  I’ll have to dedicate a future post to next steps and “designated sections.”
  3. Marketplace!  Great turn out by vendors of all types, but I’m not hearing about them making a lot of money from OpenStack (which is needed for them to survive).  I like the diversity of the marketplace: consulting, aaServices, installers, networking, more networking, new distros, and ecosystem tools.
  4. There’s some real growth in aaS services for openstack (database, load balancer, dns, etc).   This is the ecosystem that many want OpenStack to drive because it helps displace Amazon cloud.  I also heard concerns that to be sure they are pluggable so companies can complete on implementation.
  5. Lots of process changes to adapt to growing pains.  People felt that the community is adapting (yeah!) but were concerned having to re-invent tooling (meh).

There are also challenges that people brought to me:

  1. Our #1 danger is drama.  Users and operators want collaboration and friendly competition.  They are turned off by vendor conflict or strong-arming in the community (e.g.: the WSJ Red Hat article and fallout).  I’d encourage everyone to breathe more and react less.
  2. Lack of product management is risking a tragedy of the commons.  Helping companies work together and across projects is needed for our collaboration processes to work.  I’ll be exploring this with Sean Roberts in future posts.
  3. Making sure there’s profit being generated from shared code.  We need to remember that most of the development is corporate funded so we need to make sure that companies generate revenue.  The trend of everyone creating unique distros may indicate a problem.
  4. We need to be more operator friendly.  I know we’re trying but we create distance with operators when we insist on creating new tools instead of using the existing ecosystem.  That also slows down dealing with upgrades, resilient architecture and other operational concerns.
  5. Anointed projects concerns have expanded since Hong Kong.  There’s a perception that Heat (orchestration), Triple0 (provisioning), Solum (platform) are considered THE only way OpenStack solves those problems and other approaches are not welcome.  While that encourages collaboration, it also chills competition and discussion.
  6. There’s a lot of whispering about the status of challenged projects: neutron (works with proprietary backends but not open, may not stay integrated) and openstack boot-strap (state of TripleO/Ironic/Heat mix).  The issue here is NOT if they are challenged but finding ways to discuss concerns openly (see anointed projects concern).

I’d enjoy hearing more about success and deeper discussion around concerns.  I use community feedback to influence my work in the community and on the board.  If you think I’ve got it right or wrong then please let me know.