November 17th OpenStack Foundation Board Meeting

I had previously posted summaries of most board meetings, but had stopped doing this when I was appointed as Red Hat's representative on the board. Lately, I've sensed folks at Red Hat becoming more interested in the workings of the Foundation, so I figured it might be useful to start doing this again.

The OpenStack Foundation Board of Directors met for a two hour conference call last week. The usual disclaimer applies - this my informal recollection of the meeting. It’s not an official record.

Gold Member Applications

The first half of the meeting was given over to an Executive Session, after which the board voted to approve China Telecom, Inspur, and ZTE as Gold Members of the Foundation.

This completes the handling of the 7 Gold Member applications that were presented to the board at the October 24 meeting in Barcelona. 99Cloud, China Mobile, City Networks, and Deutsche Telecom were approved at that meeting.

For the first time, the Foundation now has reached the maximum of 24 Gold Members. We will only be able to consider applications for new Gold Members if an existing member departs, or if we go through a difficult process to change the limit in our bylaws.

User Committee Proposal

Next up, Edgar Magana updated the board on some proposed changes to the User Committee that was first discussed at the October meeting.

Currently the bylaws describe the User Committee is an "advisory committee" of three members appointed by the Board and TC, which prepares regular reports for the Board and TC. The idea with this proposal is to make the User Committee a parallel entity to the TC, with its members chosen through an election of Active User Contributors (AUC).

The bylaws changes outline how the User Committee has at least five members, that elections of Active User Contributors (AUCs) are held every six months, an affiliation limit for members of the UC, how AUC status is determined, and more.

The hope is that feedback will be collected as comments in the proposal document and that the Board will vote on the proposal during our December 6 meeting. A vote of the Board is sufficient to enact the changes.

One point of discussion was whether bylaws changes are necessary at all. The hope when the bylaws were originally drafted was that the User Committee would have plenty of lattitude to evolve via changes to the UC charter. Edgar made the point that the key change is for the UC to become a parallel entity to the TC rather than an advisory committee to the Board and TC.

"Futures" Discussion

Next, Toby Ford gave a presentation on a topic he had proposed along with Imad Sousou, Allison Randal, and Mark Baker. Toby introduced the topic by saying that as any project evolves and matures, it is important to reflect on competitive threats and the need to evolve the project.

Toby talked about a wide set of competitive threats to OpenStack from the container ecosystem (including Kubernetes and Mesos), to other storage implementations, to various projects in the Telco world (OpenVIM, E2, 3GPPP), and the obvious challenge of AWS, Azure, and Google with AWS revenue over $10B.

Toby moved on to talk about "the good and the bad of the Big Tent", describing the need for a balance between diversity and innovation versus consolidation and refactoring. Toby made the case that we're seeing a lot of expansion in the Big Tent, but not consolidation and refactoring. He expressed particular concern about how and whether core projects will be able to evolve, especially if the Big Tent does not allow for competitors to existing projects.

Toby then put on his "AT&T hat" and talked about the challenges for OpenStack from an AT&T perspective - the need to get to a control plane that scales to 10k servers, the problem of managing over 100 different production sites, the challenge of more and more happening "at the edge" with 5G, innovation happening in the networking space and how it relates to OpenStack, and the unsolved problem of keeping a production environment current with latest OpenStack releases.

To wrap up his presentation, Toby listed a few "possible recommendations" the Board could make to the technical community - (1) allow core projects to have competition within the Big Tent, (2) a mechanism to incubate new approaches, and (3) a mechanism to reationalize, clean up, or refactor.

What followed was a pretty lively discussion that covered much ground, over and beyond the concerns raised by Toby. While the success of OpenStack in bringing together such a diverse set of interests was acknowledged, there was a definite frustration that some form of necessary change is failing to emerge naturally, and whether it falls on the Board to try to at least try to clearly articulate the problem at a strategic level.

Jonathan tried to focus the conversation by giving his perspective that the Big Tent concerns had tied down until "recent comments in the media", and that is probably a distraction from the concerns people are expressing about core projects like Nova and Neutron. He was at pains to say that this isn't about project teams doing bad work - we continue to make huge progress in each release, and valuable work is being done. However, we're definitely seeing frustration from some quarters that it is difficult to influence the community with their ideas.

Jonathan warned that talking too much in the abstract creates the risk that the discussion will go around in circles. Despite this, the discussion never did go into any particular detail on where we've witnessed the problems we were discussing. From my own perspective, it was clear that much of frustration was as a result of how the Ciao and Gluon projects have been received, but we're failing to learn anything significant from those experiences by not talking about them in detail.

By the end of the discussion, we had agree to collaborate on a concrete description of specific problem areas, the questions they raise, and some possible solutions. The hope is that we would complete this before our December meeting, and we may then plan a longer meeting (possibly face-to-face, possibly with the TC) to dig into this.