March 8, 2017 OpenStack Foundation Strategic Planning Workshop

The OpenStack Foundation Board of Directors met in-person for two days in Boston last week.

The first day was a joint workshop with the Technical Committee, User Committee, and Foundation staff. The workshop was planned in response to the "OpenStack Futures" discussion at our three previous board conference calls in November, December, and January.

Introductions

We began the workshop with very brief personal introductions, followed by Alan, Thierry, and Edgar giving an overview of the roles and responsibilities of the Board of Directors, the Technical Committee, and the User Committee.

State of the Union

Next, Mark Collier presented his view of the state of OpenSack, with a particular emphasis on the four areas planned for discussion during the day. Mark began by talking about the exciting opportunity we had by having such breadth and depth of expertise in the room, and appealed to everyone to put aside their particular roles and work together as a single leadership team to talk about the work.

Evolving The Architecture

Mark spent some time trying to demystify the Big Tent change, describing how the previous Stackforge/Incubation/Integrated stages have been replaced by almost any project being welcome to use OpenStack infrastructure with the TC responsible for reviewing applications to join the set of official OpenStack projects known as "The Big Tent".

Mark then described one of the key changes happening in OpenStack right now as the containerization of the control plane, with projects like Kolla, openstack-helm, and TripleO all tackling this area. He also talked about the work happening around running containers on OpenStack itself with projects like Kuryr, Fuxi, Magnum, and Zun, but he also wondered aloud whether we're addressing all the right integration points. He also described some of the ongoing debates about the scope of OpenStack and our technology choices, with topics like the use of golang, the Gluon project, whether we welcome competition within the Big Tent, and community-wide goals.

Finally, Mark gave us a preview of the work happening around version 2 of the OpenStack Project Navigator and talked about how this will play a key role in helping people understand what OpenStack provides and how it can be used.

Unanswered Requirements

Mark talked briefly about the working groups under the User Committee and the transition from Design Summit to Project Team Gathering and Forum formats. These concepts are all important in understanding how OpenStack thinks about our requirements gathering, strategic long-term planning, and implementation planning.

Mark also gave a preview of some detractor quotes from our user survey, and emphasized a common theme - the perceived and actual complexity of OpenStack, both in terms of understanding and operating the software.

Adjacent Communities

Mark classified the various sets of adjacent communities that we are particularly interested in developing strong relationships with. Container technologies like Kubernetes, Docker, and Mesos. PaaS technologies like CloudFoundry and OpenShift. NFV projects like OPNFV and Cloudify. Provisioning technologies like Terraform, Puppet, and Saltstack. And specific ecosystem relationships, with companies like CoreOS.

Mark described the change in the Foundation's event strategy, targeting events like KubeCon, DockerCon, CoreOS Fest, etc. as key events where we should be positioning the OpenStack brand and developing relationships.

He also described particular focus areas of individual staff members which are relevant to the topic - Chris Hoge working with upstream Kubernetes and running OpenStack SIG meetings, David Flanders working on a report around the gaps when running platforms on OpenStack (like Cloud Foundry, OpenShift, Kubernetes, and Terraform), and how Ildiko Vancsa and Kathy Cacciatore are both working closely with OPNFV.

Finally, Mark talked about the Open Source Days event at the OpenStack Summit in Boston, as well as some very early stage discussions for an OpenDev event which would be a small, focused event around improving the integration between applications frameworks and open infrastructure.

Community Health

The final area of discussion was the subject of community health, and Mark first put out some statistics that he felt painted a very reassuring picture of the community's health. In 2016, we had 3,500 unique contributors, 1,850 of which were retained from 2015. In Ocata, we had fewer developers than Newton, most likely because it was a shorter cycle.

Mark contrasted challenges with projects like Trove and Designate losing contributors, while projects like Kuryr, Kolla, and Zun seeing the greatest number of new contributors.

Similarly, Mark talked about HPE laying off upstream developers, Cisco killing off intercloud, a small slowdown in Summit sponsorships, while we have also added 7 more Gold members, and many first-time corportate members and Summit sponsors.

Strategic Planning Exercise

The rest of the day was given over to a multi-stage strategic planning exercise prepared by Allison and Alan. The idea was to discuss these focus areas, gather everyone's ideas for improvement, summarize and categorize these ideas, vote on ideas in each focus area, and finally agree on how to proceed with concrete goals for the next 6-9 months.

Discussion

The initial discussion covered a lot of ground. Allison introduced each focus area by describing the input we gathered via the etherpads and input she gathered through 1:1 interviews with a variety of people.

One topic of discussion related to how OpenStack can simplify how we describe OpenStack, particularly to reduce confusion introduced with the Big Tent change. Various ideas around categorization, tagging, vertical definitions, a concept of constellations, maturity ratings, and much more, were discussed.

We talked about the promise for the future that OpenStack provides. That there will be evolution over time, that we deliver the cloud solutions of today and will deliver the solutions of tomorrow. That the challenge of smooth upgrades is part of our challenge in delivering "future proof infrastructure".

We talked about the challenges of scalability, manageability, and complexity. The theme of containerized deployments, the need for vertically focused views of OpenStack, for example for Telco users. We discussed the need for OpenStack to be able to evolve over time, with refactoring or rewriting components being only one of the possible approaches we may see over time.

We talked at great length about how OpenStack could work more closely with adjacent communities. How the relationship with these communities should bring value to both communities. We particularly emphasized the need for a closer relationship with the CNCF and the Kubernetes community.

Gathering Ideas

Over lunch, everyone wrote their concrete, actionable ideas for improvement on sticky notes and put them on flipcharts for each of the areas of discussion. Later, Jonathan volunteered to group the ideas into themes, and summarized these themes for the group, facilitating further discussion before voting on which theme in each area we should particularly focus on.

On the subject of communicating about "what is OpenStack", the main themese were marketing activities, various categorization ideas, and idea Allison talk about earlier referred to as "constellations". We later voted to focus on the categorization area and formed a group of interested parties:

Communicate about OpenStack: Categorize (objective data) and map (subjective approach) OpenStack projects as base versus optional (within a specific use case), integrated versus independent release, emerging versus mature, stability, adoption metrics, what works together, services versus consumption (operational tools/client libraries), and other criteria

Names: Thierry Carrez [lead], Alan Clark, Allison Randal, Jon Proulx, Melvin Hillsman, Lauren Sell, Tim Bell, Mark Baker, Kenji Kaneshige

For unanswered requirements, we discussed how to prioritize, ideas around a solution focus, scalability challenges, and a list of specific features that people felt were important. A counter-point was made that rather than focusing on any of these ideas, perhaps the focus should be on working with adjacent communities. Later, we discussed the need to grow the connection between the Product Working Group, the TC, and individual projects. The outcome and group for this was:

Requirements: Bring different groups (UC/technical/etc) together at Forum to collaborate/communicate aroud user stories, gap analysis, what fits in the current state of tech, prioritize what would have the greatest impact in reducing pain for users.

Names: Melvin Hillsman [lead], Yih Leong Sun, Jon Proulx, Rob Esker, Emilien Macchi, Doug Hellmann, Tim Bell, Shamail Tahir

On the topic of adjacent communities, we observed that by far the most dominant area of discussion was the need to create better connection with the Kubernetes community. The themes were community engagement, technical engagement, OpenStack consuming technology from the Kubernetes and containers world, and making OpenStack technology more consumable by Kubernetes. In the end, there was strong consensus to focus on the consumability of OpenStack technologies:

Adjacent Technologies: Make our technology more consumable (independently) by other communities/projects.

Names: Chris Price [lead], Alan Clark, Dims, Rob Esker, Mark Collier, Steven Dake, Mark McLoughlin, Shamail Tahir

For changes to the technology, we discussed simplifications, making containers first class citizens, recording tribal knowlede, culling failed efforts, converging deployment tools, and welcoming emerging or competing projects. The theme we voted to focus on was:

Changes to the Technology: Workstream to simplify existing projects, reduce dependency options, reduce config options.

Names: Mike Perez [lead], --> TC project

Finally, on the subject of community health, we talked about onboarding contributors, reworking our processes, community tools, growing leaders, corporate involvement in the project, and recognizing work with adjacent communities. We voted to focus on the leadership theme:

Community Health: Grow next generation of leadership/experts/cross-project devs within the community

Names: Steven Dake [lead], Chris Price, Jeremy Stanley, Dims, AlanClark, Joseph Wang

Next Steps

For each of these focus areas, the lead person in the group committed to organizing a kick-off meeting by March 22nd. The real work will begin there!