“OpenStack in the future is whatever we expand it to”, said Red Hat Chief Technologist, Chris Wright during his keynote at the OpenStack Summit in Austin. After watching several keynotes including those from Gartner and AT&T, I attended other sessions during the course of the day culminating in a session by Lauren E Nelson, Senior Analyst at Forrester Research. Wright’s statement made me wonder about what lies in store for OpenStack and where would the OpenStack Community -- the “we” that Wright referred to -- take it to in the future. Several sessions in the Analyst track called out the factors that explain the increased adoption of OpenStack as well as the technological challenges encountered. But, Nelson’s session brought it all home for me -- especially in the last slide of her presentation which is a call to action to the enterprises at large to take key steps entailing a cultural shift that would ease the adoption of OpenStack and the principles entailed. Live from the OpenStack Summit at the crossroads of Culture and Technology, let me explain how this intersection can take OpenStack to a new Frontier.

Red Hat sees great potential for technological advances for OpenStack. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) has built an OpenStack based private cloud, saving significant time and resources spent on datacenters by modernizing its on-premise storage and server capacity, giving them the ability to support hundreds of JPL mission scientists and engineers. Red Hat has positioned OpenStack to be taken to a new frontier.

But it is not all technology.  

Culture matters -- a message that came through in Nelson’s session.

Some of the steps that Nelson outlined may seem very obvious to those enterprises that have already embraced open source and the principles it comes with. After all, as someone declared recently, the State of Enterprise IT is open! However, the points Nelson made still ring true for those enterprises who may be considering making the shift or are exploring alternatives to the status quo.

Upstream your code.  Sharing your “proprietary” code is actually a good thing. Multiple experienced pairs of eyes continuously review the code and identify vulnerabilities, suggesting remediate measures as good citizens of the OpenStack Community. And enterprises get this without having to staff up projects dedicated to this effort within their four walls. At the very least, enterprises get new insight on different ways of doing things -- a baby step towards innovation.  Nelson cautions that there is likely to be resistance within enterprises looking to make this shift because it is a fundamental change to the DNA of the enterprise bloodstream -- or as we simply refer to it -- its culture!

Don’t fight the community. “Communities to the Enterprise” was the title of one of the slides that Wright presented in his keynote. Nelson observed that it is better to “listen” and respect the underlying sentiment of the community at large rather than going against the community. After all, it is the community that is going to be the long term caretaker of the concepts that are being implemented in the code.

Don't be alarmed by transparency of bugs. If you know something is not working, say so and share that information proactively. The OpenStack Community is all about transparency based upon its open source foundation. Sharing the knowledge about what is wrong can actually establish more credibility and trust than it would otherwise. Come to think of it, character matters too in an environment of open culture. Nelson says this may take some time to adjust especially where the “List of Known Bugs” is perceived to reflect negatively on the enterprise that originated the code.

Embrace the community. Nelson shared that the peer-to-peer interaction is one of the most important benefits that enterprises can get out of adopting OpenStack. It is a study group of sorts for developers where there is a free exchange of innovative ideas and best practices.

Go to the user events. Summits are great! There is no denying that. As a matter of fact, this blog is being written live from the Summit premises at the Austin Convention Center! However, user events are also a closed-group, informal setting where there is focus on a particular topic with varied perspectives. There is a more concentrated discussion on topics germane to the enterprise.

Developers need services. “Developer Experience matters”, says Nelson. It is not just about making the tools and technologies available to the developers. They need access to the supporting services that makes their life easier. Making such services available characterizes a culture that better appreciates the developer’s need and creates a productive environment overall.  

Those then are the thoughts that Nelson shared towards the end of her session. I have taken the liberty of adding my observations as well. What I like about these bullets is that they provide a prescriptive set of actions that enterprises can take -- whether they are new or current users of OpenStack.

And if more enterprises take these steps, I like where OpenStack is likely to be in the future -- for a very simple reason. The Community will drive it in the right direction. I simply defer to the Community. Far be it from me, to fight the Community -- just like Nelson advocated.  

The Community will take OpenStack wherever it needs to go -- even beyond outer space -- its latest frontier thanks to the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Just what Chris Wright said in his keynote.

What say you?  Are there other steps that enterprises can take to ease the adoption of OpenStack?  Any thoughts you want to share from other sessions you attended at the OpenStack Summit? How would you contrast the influence of culture versus technology on the evolution of OpenStack?

Please let me know.




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