One look around the airport waiting lounge or family living room will tell you everything you need to know about where the cloud is headed. Christmas carols drift on by thanks to Pandora, gifts come without having to stand in line at the mall, and those holiday snaps of the family will be stored on someone else’s server.
In the next 12 months, software running on clouds will rule our world more than ever—but unfortunately not many of those clouds are powered by OpenStack.
While we rightly raise a glass to celebrate the substantial gains OpenStack has achieved in 2015, it’s time to recognize the vast potential to gain new ground in 2016. So, let’s put those New Year’s resolutions to good use by rallying application developers to the cause. To win them over, we must make OpenStack a more inviting and immediately valuable solution to serve their needs.
If we fail, we risk a generation of developers that are wooed away by proprietary cloud infrastructure services that don’t hold to any open standards.
Here’s my list of New Year’s resolutions for the OpenStack Foundation in 2016:
0) Show application developers the real value of "OpenStack Powered." Some OpenStack clouds behave differently than others, even if they support the same set of APIs and run the same code produced by the community. This translates into hurdles for applications to be ported from one OpenStack Powered cloud to another. Things like support for IPv6 or tenant networks need to be known by application developers as much as the list of available guest operating systems.
1) Lend OpenStack application developers a helping hand. This means bringing OpenStack where developers are hanging out, to help them port their existing applications to OpenStack. It means assisting in the promotion of applications that run on OpenStack. It means fostering relationships with—and support for—creative developers and startups whose contributions will pay dividends to OpenStack in the long run. And it means improving the development experience through partnerships with other open source tools. We should also provide a fully modern website to readily supply the content and knowledge that developers require. OpenStack.org/appdev/ is a beginning, but 2016 is the year to directly engage developers and showcase new support resources.
2) Give developers a voice. OpenStack application developers would benefit from more powerful methods of expressing themselves. They need a resource where they can share experiences, needs, and concerns. They need to have their questions answered. Ask.OpenStack.org can be this resource, but to realize its potential it must be improved. In 2016 it ought to receive the funding and attention needed to add highly knowledgeable moderators, UI/UX improvements, and expanded language support; it would be valuable for operators, too.
3) Create a space for application developers to learn and grow. This means promoting the powerful, highly interoperable public clouds so that application developers have a reliable place to test their work and learn the ins and outs of OpenStack.
4) …and investigate making that testing space for startup developers free to use.
Right now, developers don’t have an easy-access public OpenStack testing ground that isn’t vendor sponsored. A new developer, the kind who we need to make feel invited to try OpenStack, currently must become a customer of one of the public clouds on the marketplace to try OpenStack API. There is TryStack.org, but it certainly requires investments before it becomes a welcome mat for developers. We might try instead a program comparable to what Amazon, Azure, and others in the cloud space offer to startups: a very valuable package of free virtual machines, storage, and bandwidth for the coolest projects. It would take a dedicated investment, but a program like this would make a bold statement and bolster OpenStack’s mission to be the ubiquitous cloud platform.
5) Clean up the hoop jumping currently required to contribute. As OpenStack has grown and found increasing success, in some areas it’s left behind a mess. The process for submitting a quick patch is still convoluted: it requires juggling several separate accounts and forces everybody through a legal agreement and a review process, even for trivial fixes—enough to scare new contributors away. Let 2016 be the year we streamline entry into OpenStack. With OpenStackID.org we can make Launchpad auth obsolete, removing at least some of those hurdles and simplifying account management.
6) Provide mentorship. Lastly, we can renew our efforts to match new developers with mentors, again making involvement with OpenStack that much easier (while adding new close knit bonds of support to our community). We have had the wiki.OpenStack.org/wiki/mentors and activity on IRC, but that’s never been enough. Let 2016 see a higher profile and well-supported mentorship program that makes the path to OpenStack expertise clear and brightly lit for newcomers.
By offering these compelling new invitations to OpenStack, I believe we could win new developers to our cause, and we would place OpenStack firmly on the path toward completing its mission of becoming the open source cloud of choice for all.