To make meetups more productive and useful, Edgar Magana at Workday proposes smaller, operator-focused gatherings.


Last year, I transitioned from being entirely focused on development activities (mainly in the Neutron area) to an OpenStack operator role as operations architect in Workday cloud operations team. As you can imagine, I moved from writing Python code to being concerned about configuration management, automation, stability, scalability, performance and many more production-ready requirements.

So, I started attending as many operator meetings as possible to get familiar with the challenges that my fellow architects face day-to-day while running a production cloud. The first meeting was in San Antonio, hosted by Rackspace and it had a good number of attendees. It was followed by the Mid-Cycle Ops Meetup in Philadelphia where the number of attendees increased dramatically, to about 150, making it a very successful and popular event. The last get-together was in Palo Alto with a similar number of attendees.

Since the Juno release, there have also been operator sessions coinciding with the Design Summit and main sessions at the OpenStack Summits. I have been also attending those sessions, but I can’t attest that they were very effective for my team or for me because we were very distracted with all the other activities going on in parallel.

The reason for attending these operator sessions is to have a space where we can share, collaborate, learn and develop best practices to successfully operate and support production clouds based on OpenStack. After the last mid-cycle event in Palo Alto, I felt that these sessions were not meeting this goal. I started to wonder why and how we could fix it, so I undertook an "empathy exercise" with other operators and realized that the community could be quite intimidating for new operators. On top of that, a massive vendor presence makes things harder — you come to a session with an open heart and end up receiving a bunch of indirect suggestions that you are not doing things right.

In short, I don’t think operators feel safe in these meetups.

What I do I mean by “feeling safe?” Basically, operators feel they must be cautious with the information shared with others about their deployments — architectural designs, blueprints, gaps in their system and failures that we all go through, no matter how well you understand the platform. The last thing an operator wants is to create a security breach or be chased by very proactive vendor representatives, who seem to fill the seats more and more at these meetups.

Suddenly, a crazy idea hit me. I wanted to create a safe and trusted environment for OpenStack operators where the above-mentioned goals can be realistically achieved. So, I approached some operators in Silicon Valley to find out if this idea made sense. I was amazed at the positive response from other operators and even more when I heard they had the same concerns that my team and I had experienced. “This is going to work!” is what I said to myself in that a-ha moment.

We have met four times so far, to get to know each other better and understand which topics people want to share and how to align our interests with the OpenStack Foundation. Recently, a gathering offered space to some special guests, including Foundation executives Jonathan Bryce and Lauren Sell as well as Individual Board member Rob Hirschfeld, who wrote an interesting post about one of the many topics that we discussed.

Some very successful operators came together based on this crazy idea, and several of us have already seen an impact on challenges that we were facing. We believe that if we coordinate better, we could make a major impact in the community. We want to help and be part of this open source project, but we also need to worry about calls in the middle of the night because our customers are not receiving the service they pay for. This is why we need to make our connection with the OpenStack Board and the Foundation executives stronger and closer.

This team will keep working on these goals and I believe we can make significant contributions in multiple areas.

This is the official way to come out into the open and extend the invitation for other operators to join us in this cause or, I should say, extend the vision of that crazy idea!

Superuser is always interested in how-tos and other contributions from the OpenStack community, please get in touch! Write to [email protected]

Cover Photo // CC BY NC