OpenStack Operations Guide: One Week, One Book

A book in a week? Yes, a book in a week. It can be done! It’s called a book sprint, and it’s intense. As the documentation coordinator for OpenStack, I knew we’d find the right book to write with this technique. In February, it all came together thanks to generous funding from the OpenStack Foundation for $10,000 to fly the team into our Austin Rackspace location.

Fellow Racker Everett Toews and I assembled a dream team of writers at the OpenStack Summit in October 2012. Many contribute to the OpenStack docs regularly, and Everett had operated clouds with two of them in both Canada and Australia. We hired a book sprint facilitator, Adam Hyde, who has done 55 of these sprints resulting in a book each time.

Day one we had to come up with an example architecture. Why? Because OpenStack gives you a cloud and clouds can be shaped in many configurations. We had a good mix of clouds to pick from. We knew about Rackspace’s Private Cloud offering and its use cases. We had a senior system administrator from MIT who has been running an OpenStack cloud for his researchers in the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab. We had two cloud architects from Canada and Australia, both running clouds for publicly-funded government projects. The use cases range from those running web servers for web sites to researchers needing real computing power and throughput. The only tiny bit of argument stemmed from choosing the network architecture – should it be multi-host or not? With that civil, gentlemanly arguing out of the way, we churned through sticky notes like there was no end to the stack. We split into two small groups right away to get the outline for an Architecture section and an Operations section. We didn’t quite know what the book would be going in, but by the end of day one, we knew the book we’d write would be the one we needed.

Tom Fifield and Everett Toews post sticky notes during the book sprint

We wrote about 10,000 words a day as a team, resulting in nearly 50,000 words and over 230 pages. The book, OpenStack Operations Guide, is now available at, and you can buy a printed copy on Lulu. It’s priced at $29.90, and all the proceeds go to the OpenStack Foundation to fund more community efforts like this one.

We had a ton of help from Rackers in the Austin and San Antonio offices. Thank you Rackers! On Wednesday, day three of the sprint, the Rackspace videographer team of Jacob Forbis and Dennis Weaver made the great video explaining the method to our madness. Take a look, and please read the book and let us know what you think.

Anne Gentle was the fanatical technical writer and community documentation coordinator at Rackspace for OpenStack. Through collaboration and continuous integration, running the documentation project like a code project, Anne has helped the community produce and maintain installation and administration manuals, how-tos, API information, and reference documentation since September 2010.


  1. Oh, very exciting! Anne, you are the one that inspired me to do a two-day Doc Sprint here at Calxeda, over a year ago, when we had one tiny little book written by one of the company founders, and that was it. We now have around 23 Docs. I still am so grateful for the work done during those two intense days. The biggest values that we got from the Doc Sprint were 1)defining the types of Docs our new company needed (Software Reference Manual, User’s Guide, Datasheets, etc) and even more importantly, 2)creating good, solid outlines for each Doc. Our goal was only to get a minimum of three sentences written in each section, but those outlines are still proving to be solid, and of course over the year we have slowly added to each section. Having the engineers and the tech writer work together to craft the outline for each Doc is great: the engineers know the product, the use cases, and our users’ expectations, and the writer knows classic info mapping, etc.
    You always inspire me, Anne! Thanks for that.


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