Open Mic Spotlight: Brian Elliott

Brian ElliotThis 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. 

Brian is a software developer at Rackspace, working in the cloud servers group.  Brian’s work focuses on reliability and performance of the Rackspace public cloud.  He is also a member of the OpenStack Nova core team, a managing partner of Sparkle Software, LLC and formerly a technical lead at  He has a B.A. in Computer Science from Cornell University.  Follow him on Twitter @briandelliott

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

I spend a lot of time with my two weimaraners, Zelda and Otto.  I participate in K9 Nose Work with Zelda and am getting started in agility with Otto.  I’m also a genealogy enthusiast and have been researching my family tree for the past 10 years.

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

This is technology that is advancing rapidly, so just dive in.  Install it, read the code, and seek out likeminded folks.  There are a lot of written resources around OpenStack, but honestly the code is well-maintained and very readable overall.  Python code is designed to be “read much more often than it is written,” so don’t be afraid to poke around behind the curtain.

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

Nothing sexy!  I committed a small change to Nova after fixing a bug in the pep8 library.  It was a good learning experience and an easy way to get my feet wet on the project.

commit 549616d12270a64548a907213c8e486bf0265dc8
Author: Brian Elliott
Date:   Mon Apr 9 19:01:43 2012
bug 968452
Update test-requires to use pep8>=1.0.  Removed PEP8 warning suppression around 3-arg raises.
Change-Id: Ib4ed42adc167aa1e8078619a36b409b76b9f5d73

4. If you could start your career over again, where would you want to begin? Advice for someone just getting started?

If I had to start over, I’d get involved with open source right away, working on projects “that matter.”  Money is nice, but doing something with your life that is valuable is very satisfying.  At some point you have to look back and ask yourself whether you made a difference.  It’s great to see your work get used by more than a single company.  For someone getting started, I’d just advise them to follow their passion.  Work on something they’d be tempted to do for free anyway!

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

Probably Beethoven’s 9th symphony.  I have a version from the Chicago Symphony Orchestra that is often my go-to music for solving hard problems.  Simply put, it’s just one of the greatest pieces of music ever written and it really puts me in the right frame of mind to focus and get work done.


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