Open Mic Spotlight: Dirk Müller

Dirk MullerThis post is part of the OpenStack Open Mic series to spotlight the people who have helped make OpenStack successful as we celebrate the third birthday of the project. Each day in July, a new contributor will step up to the mic and answer five questions about OpenStack, cloud, careers and what they do for fun. 

Dirk is a Senior Engineer on OpenStack at SUSE, where he gets in touch with all aspects of OpenStack.

1. What was your first commit or contribution and why did you make it?

That was roughly half a year ago, when I uploaded the first review (https://review.openstack.org/#/c/19830/) immediately after my CLA application was approved, and two days after I started on OpenStack. My main reason was to test how easy it is to contribute on OpenStack. I learn while doing things, so contributing was my way to learn how to contribute, and I was positively surprised that it was quite easy. And I appreciate the hard work of that “mysterious” Mr. Jenkins when he gives a +1.

2. What other OpenStack developers deserve a shout out for the work they’re doing in the community? Who are our unsung heroes? Your own?

The three areas I had most contact with are those who work on the online documentation (which is continuously improving, and already tremendously helpful!), the countless volunteers that review code changes and almost always suggest a way to improve the patch even further and last but not least Stefano (and whoever helps him) for the Community Newsletter, which is great for busy people like myself to have at least a glimpse of understanding on what is going on. I can only barely anticipate the amount of work that is put in each of those, and who ever contributes to any of those is up for my applause.

3. What’s the most critical feature you think cloud software needs to be widely adopted over the next year?

The most crucial feature is not a single blueprint, it is everything that moves towards ease of installation, configuration and consistency in use. OpenStack did well in splitting out components that are managed in individual projects, but for the full feature experience all of those components need to be combined again by the Administrator (“user”), and when going through those steps from the beginning for the first time, there are many things that one can stumble upon. For example things that are slightly inconsistent between the various projects, like configuration options doing the same but named differently, or defaults being different between projects, or the command line of the clients being slightly different. A lot of work is going on into that already, but in order to really succeed, OpenStack as a whole needs to work together on that. I believe that consistency doesn’t mean there is a “right way” of doing things. Even a “wrong way” is still slightly better if it is at least consistent between all projects and can be changed at one glimpse in one single place.

4. What do you think are the benefits of the open, community-driven approach to development?

The main benefit I think is that it puts decisions about code and features on the shoulders of those who do the work. Those who do not actively review or actively contribute code have lesser impact on the project’s direction and on individual implementation details. That just feels natural and motivating and also keeps a healthy level of pragmatism in the project. The only downside is that one probably only values openness when having experienced the downsides of non-openness before, where steering happens without being affected by the decision.

5. What is your favorite productivity hack? Secret trick? Shortcut you’re slightly embarrassed to admit?

I use F10 as a hotkey in the editor that executes a throw-away “doit.sh”, which automates the boring steps of building, redeploying and executing the steps needed to reproduce the original problem,  e.g. simply running the one testcase again that I’m aiming for at the moment.

In general the main productivity “hack” that I aim for is that as soon as I do something again for the 3rd time, I go writing a script or at least a scripted check instead, and automate that one as well as possible. It requires quite a bit of self-control though, but by remembering that executing repetitive tasks flawlessly is not a human strength, it has always paid off so far.

6. What is the most common misconception you hear about OpenStack?

That is probably the perception that OpenStack is just another way of managing virtualisation, without realizing the different philosophy behind Cloud solutions in general and OpenStack in particular. Cloud offers self-service, self-management, usage metering, as well as being designed around the idea of failure being a feature.

 7. What is your biggest hope for the OpenStack community in the next 5 years? What would be really, really amazing?

You mean what will be after the “O” release (and I’ll vote that one being called “OpenStack release” then, which would make Triple-O being Quad-O finally)? Well, my biggest hope is that there is a next release with “P” in the name then, which also includes platform services. Or we’re already way beyond that and have a “S” release?! Let’s together find it out!

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