The other day I was presented with a question from someone in my office. They had seen a LinkedIn update I had posted about being invited to Tech Field Day 14 and that I was going to OpenStack Summit. I posted this shortly after arriving back from Seattle and a Microsoft hybrid cloud airlift event (focused on Azure Stack). They found it interesting that we had corporate initiatives to eventually implement Microsoft Azure Stack (along with expanding the Cloud Service Provider practice within). They wanted to know why I even wanted to go to OpenStack Summit.
I felt this was an interesting question to start writing about. It made me realize that there are many in our industry that puts very definitive lines between various cloud platforms out there and that they can’t seem to fathom why anyone would want pay attention to all, rather than just go deep into one platform and live there for our technical eternities.
For me, the answer wasn’t a very simple answer. I come at cloud platforms (and cloud, in general) as someone who tries to get the basics between the various camps and finds what is unique to either. Like many parts of technology, I view these as different tools for different jobs. While many of them provide bare basics (like virtual machines or virtual networks), many differ in their approach for how to interact with various audiences.
One of the primary reasons I wanted to go to OpenStack Summit came down to finding out who the primary audience of OpenStack. I want to be able to ask questions to those on the technical side, as well as the business side. One of the weird things I’ve noticed about myself, when selecting sessions for OpenStack Summit, is that I’m going to have plenty that are labeled as the “Cultural and Organizational Change”. While the technology and the inner workings of all the OpenStack projects fascinates me, I want to see how organizations are using OpenStack and what they intend to change within.
Another reason, as I alluded to in the prior paragraph, is the technology within the ecosystem. I know of many of the tried and true OpenStack projects (like Nova, Cinder, Keystone, Neutron, Glance, and Swift) but I haven’t had the opportunity to administer or work with OpenStack for longer than mild attempts in a very closed lab scenario. I want to see how the other projects are coming along and see which ones might break into the core project realm, especially as business drivers dictate it.
That last statement leads into my most important reason why I wanted to attend OpenStack Summit. We all hear about the business drivers for cloud adoption. What I want to see and hear is about how businesses came to see how OpenStack can achieve their goals. Those of us, especially from heavy virtualization backgrounds, have likely heard about the complexities of standing up OpenStack, especially on your own and in the early stages of using open sources software and in an enterprise environment.
In the end, when you peel back the nuts and bolts of the various cloud platforms out there, you come to realize they all tend to look the same. What differs each of them is their intended target markets. For instance, Microsoft has been positioning Azure and Azure Stack as a hybrid answer to those still approaching Microsoft-centric environments, but also trying to go about micro-services architectures for cloud-native applications. I want to see if OpenStack is trying to mature their message to enterprises, while reducing the supposed complexities that exist in standing up the platform from either source or from the ever expanding vendor and partner integrations that are out there.
So, to those in my organization that feel that I’m wasting my time going to OpenStack Summit, I’m going to leave you with some final thoughts. Too often in this industry, especially at the operational (along with some of those that are architects in a technical subject matter expert sense) level, we get caught up in only going to events that seem to satisfy or maintain the subject matter expert parts of our brain. My role is one that asks me to see many different perspectives before trying to solve business problems. To do this, we have to go to events that may not make sense on the surface or even provide any tangible benefit to those business outcomes. Sometimes, we go to these events purely out of curiosity and/or information gathering. I don’t know about you, I’d rather be armed with information rather than be one of the uninformed.