Co-Creating OpenStack

It’s easy to let enthusiasm get in the way of execution, especially when you’ve worked hard and have a lot to celebrate, as the OpenStack community does.

We are, after all, in the age of breakthroughs and breakout success; the time of turnover, turnaround, startup and buyout; the era of relentless revision to the core concepts of computing—the turbulent today that we each inhabit ever so briefly until we’re thrust mercilessly into an unknowable tomorrow. It follows then, that in the four years since Rackspace started OpenStack with support from engineers working for NASA that we ought now to be able to proclaim victory.

That’s the way these days. Those who are inundated by the ethos of “move fast and break things” and bombarded by the tired tropes of “disruption” are always looking for the quick commercialization, the easy exit.

Those who want to move deliberately and build things can seem out of step with the tempo of our times.

My greatest concern about OpenStack today is that this ambient expectation of quick hits and instant gratification could force us to factionalize, fight each other, mistrust motives and suspect self-serving agendas—all to the detriment of our collaboration and progress toward our shared goal of a Planet Scale Cloud Operating System. We need to continue to co-create OpenStack in cooperation with developers, operators, users and advocates.

This is hard work. Building always is. Building something truly transformative that can shepherd in a new era in computing is more work than any one of the companies involved in OpenStack could have done on its own.

And that’s what I want people to remember as we go into this week of work together at the Atlanta Design Summit: what we are doing is no small thing. It requires real coordination, cooperation and sustained effort to build this interoperable cloud operating system, real conviction to create the foundation on which the future will be built.

We each have invested our energy, our intelligence and our limited time on this planet to bring OpenStack to life. Now how do we grow it, nurture it and help it live up to its potential power—not only running scaled applications and mission-critical systems but to ultimately open the door to the Internet of Things?

I’ve been thinking a lot about this and working with others at Rackspace and on the OpenStack Board to come up with a way forward for the entire community. It fundamentally takes two things: contribution and trust.

We’ve traditionally thought of contribution in terms of code. That’s a good start, but we can also encompass the contributions that enable code creation. We can embrace the operators, users, advocates and others in our community. Operators can tell us what works and what works at scale. Users can give us guidance on what they want and what they need. Advocates can help us find the things that are going to connect with the developers, operators and users that are coming to our community for the first time. Each of these contributions is important and ought to be an integral part of how we co-create OpenStack together.

Doing this will help resolve the fundamental technical tension we face between running a stable core and incorporating innovations. Close co-creation relationships, especially between developers and operators, can go a long way to balancing stability and innovation.

We’ve been working at this at the board level too, by developing a set of standards and tests called DefCore. Our hope is that DefCore will help the community understand what projects are stable, widely used and key to interoperability. I’ve written about some of the more technical aspects of this work on my blog. The core is what the greater ecosystem and its innovations can come together around. We need both the core and the ecosystem to move forward.

But this co-creation can only be captured and capitalized on if we have a foundation of trust in our community. Trust enables positive and productive interactions. Trust gives us the ability to give voice to the positions we’re passionate about without being viewed with suspicion. “Conflict without trust is politics,” writes author Patrick Lencioni. “Conflict with trust is a search for the truth.” Trust takes us toward a better truth together.

The pressure to make money on OpenStack is going to intensify and each member of this community is going to feel it. I can tell you today that there will be plenty of money to go around when we create a true Planet Scale Cloud Operating System—the entire world is going to build on top of it. But to get there, we need to set aside our individual differences and see beyond our short-term goals to the bigger brighter future that we can co-create today.

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