Open Mic Spotlight: Lorin Hochstein

This 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.  

Lorin Hochstein is an academic-turned-software developer/operator. He is the lead architect for Cloud Services at Nimbis Services, where he deploys OpenStack for technical computing applications. Lorin is a regular contributor to the OpenStack documentation project. He tweets as @lhochstein and blogs at lorinhochstein.wordpress.com

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

I develop software for my employer, Nimbis Services (we’re hiring!), so that technical computing users like, say, mechanical engineers, can run their simulations on high-performance computers in the cloud. A lot of my work involves writing software that runs on top of clouds like OpenStack, rather than working directly on the infrastructure layer. I’m fortunate enough to work for an organization that is very supportive of contributing back to open source projects.

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

The first time I tried to run the nova unit tests, it failed because virtualenv wasn’t installed, so I added two lines to a script to install the virtualenv library.

My first non-trivial contribution was adding support for “extra specs”, so that an admin could specify that certain compute hosts had additional capabilities, and a user could request access to these capabilities. At the time, I was working for University of Southern California’s Information Sciences Institute (USC/ISI), and we were adapting OpenStack to run on a heterogeneous collection of high-performance computing resources: some machines had GPUs, one of them was a large shared-memory machine (SGI UltraViolet), and we also had some boards running a non-x86 manycore CPU architecture (Tilera). We needed a way for the admin to be able to describe the different types of resources that we had, and for the a user to request them through the OpenStack API.

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?

I think that the OpenStack documentation team, led by Anne Gentle, does great work. Because of the nature of open source projects, fewer people work on documentation than on code. And yet, the docs are ultimately the public face of the project, so having good documentation is critical. Tom Fifield stands out as someone who devotes an enormous amount of effort to the project, he recently became an OpenStack Community Manager. Diane Fleming has also done a lot of great work to improve the quality of both the API documentation and the manuals.

4. What is the most important contribution you’ve made that will make OpenStack users happy?

I recently started a new manual called the OpenStack Virtual Machine Image Guide. The existing OpenStack documentation on virtual machine images was old and tucked away in the Compute Admin Guide, so I brought the content up to date and pulled it into a separate manual. Hopefully, this will make life easier for operators deploying OpenStack for the first time.

5. How do you think the OpenStack community will need to evolve over the next few years in light of the fast growth and maturing user needs?

The OpenStack project has accumulated a lot of infrastructure, both software tooling and process, in order to function effectively given its size and scope. With a smaller open source project, you can contribute by, say, submitting a pull request on Github, but that simply isn’t possible with a project this size. One thing I worry about is the onboarding effort required for new project members, the amount that they have to do and know before they can make that first contribution.

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