PTLs and Project Success in OpenStack

We’re in the middle of another PTL change cycle.  Nominations have occurred over the last week.  We’ve also seen several people step down this cycle (Keystone, TripleO, Cinder, Heat, Glance).  This is becoming a regular thing in OpenStack.  The PTL position for most projects has changed hands over time.  The Heat project changes every cycle.  Nova has its 3rd PTL from a 3rd company (about to enter his 2nd cycle).  With all of this change, some people express some amount of discomfort and concern.

I think the change that we see is quite healthy.  This is our open governance model working well.  We should be thrilled that OpenStack is healthy enough that we don’t rely on any one person to move forward.

I’d like to thank everyone who steps up to fill a PTL position.  It is a huge commitment.  The recognition you get is great, but it’s really hard work.  It’s quite a bit more than just technical leadership.  It also involves project management and community management.  It’s a position subject to a lot of criticism and a lot of the work is thankless.  So, thank you very much to those that are serving as a PTL or have served as one in the past.

It’s quite important that everyone also realize that it takes a lot more than a PTL to make a project successful.  Our project governance and culture includes checks and balances.  There is a Technical Committee (TC) that is responsible for ensuring that OpenStack development overall remains healthy.  Some good examples of TC influence on projects would be the project reviews the TC has been doing over the last cycle, working with projects to apply course corrections (Neutron, Trove, Ceilometer, Horizon, Heat, Glance).  Most importantly, the PTL still must work for consensus of the project’s members (though is empowered to make the final call if necessary).

As a contributor to an OpenStack project, there is quite a bit you can do to help ensure project success beyond just writing code.  Here are some of those things:

Help the PTL

While the PTL is held accountable for the project, they do not have to be responsible for all of the work that needs to get done.  The larger projects have started officially delegating responsibilities.  There is talk about formalizing aspects of this, so take a look at that thread for examples.

If you’re involved in a project, you should work to understand these different aspects of keeping the project running.  See if there’s an area you can help out with.  This stuff is critically important.

If you aspire to be a PTL at some point in the future, I would say getting involved in these areas is the best way you can grow your skills, influence, and visibility in the project to make yourself a strong candidate in the future.

Participate in Project Discussions

The direction of a project is a result of many discussions.  You should be aware of these and participate in them as much as you can.  Watch the openstack-dev mailing list for discussions affecting your project.  It’s quite surprising how many people may be a core reviewer for a project but rarely participate in discussions on the mailing list.

Most projects also have an IRC channel.  Quite a bit of day-to-day discussion happens there.  This can be difficult due to time zones or other commitments.  Just join when you can.  If it’s time zone compatible, you should definitely make it a priority to join weekly project IRC meetings.  This is an important time to discuss current happenings in the project.

Finally, attend and participate in the design summit.  This is the time that projects try to sync up on goals for the cycle.  If you really want to play a role in affecting project direction and ensuring success, it’s important that you attend if possible.  Of course, there are many legitimate reasons some people may not be able to travel and those should be understood and respected by fellow project members.

Also keep in mind that project discussions span more than the project’s technical issues.  There are often project process and structure issues to work out.  Try to raise your awareness of these issues, provide input, and propose new ideas if you have them.  Some good recent examples of contributors doing this would be Daniel Berrange putting forth a detailed proposal to split out the virt drivers from nova, or Joe Gordon and John Garbutt pushing forward on evolving the blueprint handling process.

Do the Dirty Work

Most contributors to OpenStack are contributing on behalf of an employer.  Those employers have customers (which may be internal or external) and those customers have requirements.  It’s understandable that some amount of development time goes toward implementing features or fixing problems that are important to those customers.

It’s also critical that everyone understands that there is a good bit of common work that must get done.  If you want to build goodwill in a project while also helping its success, help in these areas.  Some of those include:

See You in Paris!

I hope this has helped some contributors think of new ways of helping ensuring the success of OpenStack projects.  I hope to see you on the mailing list, IRC, and in Paris!

OpenStack Board Meeting – 2014-09-18

I’m not a member of the OpenStack board, but the board meetings are open with the exception of the occasional Executive Session for topics that really do need to be private.  I attended the meeting on September 18, 2014.  Jonathan Bryce has since posted a summary of the meeting, but I wanted to share some additional commentary.

Mid-Cycle Meetups

Rob Hirschfeld raised the topic of mid-cycle meetups.  This wasn’t discussed for too long in the meeting.  The specific request was that the foundation staff evaluate what kind of assistance the foundation could and should be providing these events.  So far they are self-organized by teams within the OpenStack project.

These have been increasing in popularity.  The OpenStack wiki lists 12 such events during the Juno development cycle.  Some developers involved in cross project efforts attended several events.  This increase in travel has resulted in some tension in the community, as well.  Some people have legitimate personal reasons for not wanting the additional travel burden.  Others mention the increased impact to company travel budgets.  Overall, the majority opinion is that the events are incredibly productive and useful.

One of the most insightful outcomes of the discussions about meetups has been that the normal design summit is no longer serving its original purpose well enough.  The design summit is supposed to be the time that we sync on project goals.  We need to work on improving the design summit so that it better achieves that goal so that the mid-cycle meetups can be primarily focused on working sessions to execute on the plan from the design summit.

There was a thread on the openstack-dev list discussing improvements we can make to the design summit based on mid-cycle meetup feedback.

Foundation Platinum Membership

Jonathan raised a topic about how the foundation and board should fill a platinum sponsor spot that is opening up soon.  The discussion was primarily about the process the board should use for handling this.

This may actually be quite interesting to watch.  Nebula is stepping down from its platinum sponsor spot.  There is a limit of 8 platinum sponsors.  This is the first time since the foundation launched that a platinum sponsor spot has been opened.  OpenStack has grown an enormous amount since the foundation launched, so it’s reasonable to expect that there will be contention around this spot.

Which companies will apply for the spot?  How will the foundation and board handle contention?  And ultimately, which company will be the new platinum sponsor of the foundation?


This topic took up the majority of the board meeting and was quite eventful.  Early in the discussion there was concern about the uncertainty caused by the length of the process so far.  There seemed to be general agreement that this is a real concern.  Naturally, the conversation proceeded to how to move forward.

The goal of DefCore has been around defining a single minimal definition to support the single OpenStack Powered trademark program.  The most important outcome from this discussion was that the board consensus seemed to be that this is causing far too much contention and that the DefCore committee should work with the foundation to propose a small set of trademark programs instead of trying to have a single one that covered all cases.

There were a couple of different angles discussed on creating additional trademark programs.  The first is about functionality.  So far, everything has been included in one program.  There was discussion of separate compute, storage, and networking trademark programs, for example.

Another angle that seemed quite likely based on the discussion was having OpenStack powered vs. OpenStack compatible trademark programs.  An OpenStack compatible program would only focus on compatibility with capabilities.  The OpenStack powered trademarks would include both capabilities and required code (designated sections).  The nice thing about this angle is that it would allow the board to press forward on the compatibility marks in support of the goal of interoperability, without getting held up by the debate around designated sections.

For more information on this, follow the ongoing discussion on the defcore-committee mailing list.

Next Board Meeting

The next OpenStack board meeting will be Nov. 2, 2014 in Paris, just before the OpenStack Summit.  There may also be an additional board meeting to continue the DefCore discussion.  Watch the foundation list for any news on additional meetings.