Open Mic Spotlight: Joe Topjian

Joe TopjianThis 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.  

Joe Topjian is a systems architect at Cybera where he is currently designing, deploying, and maintaining various cloud environments to help technology adoption in Alberta, Canada. Cybera has been using and deploying OpenStack since the Cactus release.

1. What do you do when you’re not obsessing over and working with OpenStack?

In late May, my wife and I became parents to an awesome little guy. We spend all of our time with him – not just for the obvious reason that he’s a newborn, but because it’s incredibly fun. I always try to have side projects going on which can range anywhere from Puppet to synthesizing sounds to catching up on reading.

2. What are the essentials for someone just getting started with OpenStack? Sites? Books? Conferences? People?

Docs.openstack.org, the OpenStack mailing list, and the OpenStack-Operators mailing list are invaluable resources.

In addition, I think there are two other key areas to help beginners:

First, I’ve found that the most essential thing for people new to OpenStack is to understand that it’s simply an orchestration service for various underlying technologies such as KVM, Xen, LVM, NFS, etc. You don’t need OpenStack to run a basic virtual machine server – it’s totally possible to manually maintain KVM, a collection of qemu images, and user access to the server, but it’d be a pain. OpenStack takes responsibility of these tasks and makes everything work together. This idea demystifies OpenStack and its components into something more understandable.

Secondly, when a beginner has read up on the basics of OpenStack and has built a small cloud or two, they usually have a ton of questions. I’ve had the opportunity to meet with groups of new OpenStack users and just let them ask questions for hours – literally hours. These meetings are great ways to boost their self-confidence about OpenStack.

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

Definitely the team I was part of to write the OpenStack Operations Guide: Tom Fifield, Anne Gentle, Lorin Hochstein, Jon Proulx, and Everett Toews. As well, the OpenStack-Docs crew. OpenStack can have a steep learning curve and to try to fully understand and document it from a user’s perspective is an extremely difficult thing to do. Their desire to help users learn and understand OpenStack is very inspiring and it’s one of the main reasons I contribute back as much as I can in return.

Sam Morrison and crew from NeCTAR. Sam’s always a step ahead of me. Most of the time when I find a bug in OpenStack, he has already opened a bug report just a few days prior.

4. Describe an interesting OpenStack deployment that you were part of, and why others ought to know about it. What made that project work? Tick?

DAIR helps entrepreneurs by providing a Canada-wide OpenStack cloud to develop on. We ran a pilot of DAIR using OpenStack Cactus between 2011 and 2012 and received a lot of help from the OpenStack community to get it off the ground. We published all tools and scripts used during the pilot in hopes that others would benefit.

In October of 2012, DAIR graduated to a production cloud running OpenStack Folsom. In the same tradition as the pilot, we’re sharing our architecture designdeployment scripts, and configuration management scripts with the community.

5. If you could only have one album as your hacking playlist for the rest of time — what album would it be and why?

The Orb’s Orbus Terrarum has been a favorite of mine since I was a teenager.

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