Open Mic Spotlight: Devananda van der Veen

Devananda van der VeenThis 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.  

Devananda is currently leading the development of the OpenStack Bare Metal Provisioning (Ironic) program and helping to drive the OpenStack-on-OpenStack (TripleO) program. Before joining HP Cloud Services and diving into OpenStack, he was a MySQL scalability and performance consultant with Percona. Follow him on Twitter at @devananda.

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

Have a strong opinion about something related to OpenStack, and be willing to change either one (your opinion, or OpenStack).

I came from nearly a decade working with MySQL, focused on the scaling and performance problems that web properties run into as they grow. Like a man with a hammer, OpenStack’s database looked like a nail that needed some rearranging. While working on that, many of my views about project management and community organization have changed substantially, and I’ve gained a whole lot of knowledge and experience with things I never expected to work with, like OpenVZ and IPMI.

The most useful thing for me early on was to experiment with devstack, try changing some bits, and see what I could break and what I could do differently. When I went to my first summit (Folsom), I didn’t really have a lot to talk with the developers about, but I had a framework with which to understand many of the sessions. In the following months, I found a small project (adding OpenVZ driver support to devstack) to get involved with. This approach – start from what you know and branch out – has worked really well for me with other projects in the past as well.

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

Ease of installation.

There is already massive adoption of cloud APIs — everyone uses clouds — but the barrier to running your own cloud is still quite high. I think TripleO is a pretty awesome solution to this challenge: use the same API to install, manage, and then use your cloud. I’m hopeful that we’ll get all of the automation & tooling in place over the next year to make this a reality.

 3. What comment(s) have you received from users that made your proud of your work? When have you felt best about your work?

Driving the installation of infrastructure using PXE and IPMI isn’t, by itself, anything new. Lots of folks have been doing that for the last, oh, 20 years or so. At the Grizzly summit, a small group of folks — Monty Taylor, Robert Collins, myself, and a few others — did a lot of hallway-talking about the idea that we could treat the cloud as just another PaaS deployment by leveraging the Baremetal driver. Just a few months later, after making some headway demonstrating that it actually was possible, Robert Collins and I were talking about this at Josh McKenty came up to me after my miniconf session and said, “You know, I think you’re all bat-shit crazy,” with a great big smile on his face! His enthusiasm and sarcasm captured my feelings about the project very well. We *are* crazy – in a very good way. Inspiration is like that.

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

This is for anyone testing image builds or frequently building VMs/instances locally, who also has a slow internet connection or frequently works from a cafe, conference, or airplane. My advice is to set up a squid proxy on your laptop, and let that cache image and package downloads. (You’ll have to tune squid to cache large files.) Also set up a local git repo and mirror all of (and maybe too), then in your dev environment, point to your local mirror. This will make each initial run of devstack much faster, and if you’re using diskimage-builder, it’ll help a lot. This should also help if you live far away from where most of these servers are hosted (e.g., if you’re in Australia).

 5. What is the one thing you wish you did differently in your career?

I really have no regrets about choices I made early on in my career, and I’m in a great place now, so there’s nothing I’d change. I made some critical choices along the way, like getting heavily involved with MySQL and NDB cluster in 2004, and passing up several other opportunities to take a job at Percona in 2008. I was very fortunate to meet some amazing folks all throughout my career. Switching to OpenStack was another strategic choice for me – there’s still a lucrative career for expert MySQL DBAs, but I chose to break out of my comfort zone when the opportunity presented itself.

The OpenStack community is filled with many of the brightest, most creative, and most enthusiastic folks I’ve ever known. We’re being paid to develop awesome open source software that, I believe, really will change the world. What could be more amazing than that? We’re working for enterprise companies like HP, Dell, IBM, etc — and we’re all collaborating!

I think the best advice I could give to the next generation of engineers is two-fold: get out there and get involved, and create balance. Social skills don’t come easily for some of us – they certainly didn’t for me –  but they are just as important as tech chops. Go to conferences, user groups, meetups, etc, every chance you get, and don’t be afraid to organize one if there’s not one near you. And then, create balance in your life. It could be home brewing, or playing in a band, or salsa dancing, or burning man, or whatever stimulates the other half of your brain and brings you closer to people in ways that matter to you.


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