We say the words “global community” and “collaboration” so often they can start to lose their meaning. It’s easy to lose sight of the bigger picture, and the scale of our community far beyond name-brand users from the US or the number of Summit attendees. A few weeks ago, members of the OpenStack community organized a series of events across Europe and Israel, including Budapest, Paris, Milan, Tel-Aviv and London.I was fortunate enough to attend several events, and my goals were two-fold: to do some learning as we prepare for the November Summit in Paris, including getting a pulse on the issues and topics resonating most in the region and identifying new users we could feature; and second, of course, to start promoting the Paris Summit (shameless plug, happening November 3-7) by getting sponsors, press and potential attendees on board.
But what I really took away from the trip was a reminder that our greatest strength truly is the diversity and size of our global community. They aren’t just words that we throw around, but the hundreds of people we met and stories we heard in just a few short days. Reflecting on my conversations and a few interviews with the user group leaders, I wanted to pass along my five takeaways from the trip:
Businesses everywhere just want to move faster. Full disclosure, my original plan for this blog post was to interview the user group leader at each event and ask about the unique drivers in their region for OpenStack (or cloud and general). I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised when they gave me essentially the same answers. The themes we discussed at the Atlanta Summit, including the Software-Defined Economy and needing to move faster than emerging competitors, resonated with everyone (unprompted!). Sure, there may be different regulatory environments or more financial services organizations in the UK and startups in Budapest, but at the end of the day they still want the same thing: the speed and agility to compete. The beauty of OpenStack is that there are many different ways to consume it, whether you’re a small business in Italy using Enter’s public cloud services, or building scale-out infrastructure for researchers to store and analyze data at CERN in Switzerland.
One of those user group leaders was Mariano Cunetti of Enter IT, based in Milan. According to Mariano, “the idea of team and company is changing. It has not been a painless process, but moving to the cloud is not only a matter of infrastructure. It’s not just a matter of how you develop your tools, it’s changing your processes. It’s being more agile and quick. In the next few years, the difference between companies adopting cloud compared to the ones who are not adopting cloud will be the difference of surviving and not. Time to market will be so fast, that you need to keep the pace. You choose the pace you want to run to.”
Data sovereignty and national services create a different landscape in Europe, especially in industries like telco. I am familiar with the concept of data sovereignty and implications for our users, but one interesting thing we learned on the trip is that likely this year an update is coming to the EU-wide Data Protection Act Directive established in 1995. The new regulation, called the General Data Protection Regulation, is expected to take into account globalization and technological developments like cloud computing. As I mentioned, we’ve been talking about data sovereignty for some time — and it’s been a pretty significant driver of adoption among mid-size service providers across Europe and Australia — but debate and discussion around the new EU regulations, as well as court cases like Microsoft’s Dublin datacenter will be very timely for the OpenStack Summit in Paris, where we expect to discuss such issues with leading telcos, enterprises and technology vendors.
We’ve moved from “what” to “how.” Attending many of these same events a year ago, what really struck me is how the conversation has changed in tone. We’ve moved beyond the question of “what is OpenStack?” or “why OpenStack” to how it’s being used and more advanced topics. Attendees seemed eager for more technical deep dives and workshops. At the Paris event, Andrew Mitry from Comcast presented their user story, and had the most engagement and questions from audience members who were planning or operating their own deployments. In a short video interview, Nati Shalom, CTO of GigaSpaces and organizer of the OpenStack Israel Day, said: “When they were getting started, there was a lot of questions about whether OpenStack was the right thing. Is it going to happen? Is it going to be successful? Is it something that I should bet on? Even until last year that was the main discussion, but this year it’s more about how do I get started, how do I actually implement things, and how do I move fast with OpenStack.”
Márton Kiss, who co-organized OpenStack CEE Day in Budapest, told me, “the major driving force behind this interest is that people started to trust the open source technology. The startups are definitive end-users of cloud technology, they know and use agile development, continuous integration / deployment, the entire devops culture, and OpenStack fits here as an alternative platform to Amazon. Larger enterprises here still have a conservative attitude, but telecom and financial sector are doing pilot projects. The structure of enterprises is a bit different in this Eastern European region, because most companies don’t have HQs here, but there are a lot of software development / technology center located here.”
Contribution pays off. One of the most exciting things to see is the companies who have been contributing — both code and community activities like organizing these events — have been making a name for themselves, and building their brand as OpenStack experts in the global community. They’ve gained knowledge and relationships that are translating into real business opportunities. We met some very large users who are choosing to work with smaller, focused companies in the OpenStack ecosystem because they know contributions equate to knowledge and influence. Companies who are consistently contributing are also openly attracting talent, because many of the OpenStack experts want to work in an environment where they know their efforts are going to have a broader impact. As one example, I was going to report on how impressive it has been to see eNovance grow and expand globally, because we had the chance to tour their new — OpenStack themed! — offices in Paris, but they’ve since been acquired!
Need more focus on operations and end users. This isn’t so much a lesson learned on this trip, as it was reinforced by these events. The makeup of attendees has evolved from primarily vendors looking to productize OpenStack and contributing developers to infrastructure teams within larger enterprises and research organizations who are using the software. The content has also evolved, but there’s more we can do to focus on cloud operators and app developers. One thought is for the Foundation to help recruit and sponsor more users like Andrew Mitry to travel and speak at these events, because hearing case studies and having the chance to ask/answer questions first hand is incredibly valuable.Please feel free to weigh in, whether or not you attended the events, I’d love to get your perspective.
Thank you to all of the organizers who put significant time into these events: Márton Kiss and Gergely Szalay in Budapest; Annie Potvin and the eNovance (now Red Hat) team in Paris; Martina Casani, Mariano Cunietti and the Enter team in Milan; Avner Algom, Nati Shalom, Sharone Zitzman and the GigaSpaces team in Tel-Aviv; and Mark Baker, Cezzaine Zaher and the Canonical team in London.
I’m energized as we head to Paris in November, and hope to see you there.