OpenStack Summit reflections

Here are my thoughts after attending my first OpenStack Summit.

All of my comments are relative to other conferences I’ve recently attended — PyConOSCONOpen Source Bridge, local unconferences, etc. I won’t claim my observations are inspiring or unique. Everything here has been said before about one conference or another. But this is my blog so sod off if you’re not interested. 🙂 I need to write something this week so this is it!

tl;dr: I enjoyed the Summit. It was well run and useful, but had some hiccups. Some of my observations spring solely from my personal preferences, and you should take them with a grain of salt. I learned a lot about the OpenStack ecosystem, and this is the conference to attend if you’re entering the OpenStack world.

Vancouver, Convention Center. Vancouver is a great city, and the Convention Center is a great venue. I stayed at the best Hyatt hotel I’ve ever stayed at! In fact, it was in the top 10 of any hotel I’ve ever stayed at.

It’s huge. There were about 6,000 attendees. Everyone guessed the next Summit would break 7,000 if attendance wasn’t capped. The larger the conference, the fewer venues that can accommodate it. I prefer smaller conferences.

No swag waste! Delightfully, the attendees didn’t receive a bag full of useless crap. Instead, we got one piece of universally appreciated conference swag, which was a OpenStack jacket. The thought that went into this impressed me. Well done!

Great break munchies. Much better break munchies than I’m used to. Decent large pretzels, make-your-own trail mix, and nice muffins. Yum!

Navel gazing. I heard a lot of, “This is where we’ve been, this is where we are, and this is where we’re going. Aren’t we great, this is OpenStack!” This was due partly to OpenStack being a new technology that’s still finding its place in the world, and partly because corporations drive the conference agenda. It got old after the first day.

Less technology, more marketing. Plainly more talks were corporate marketing spin vehicles. Very few were purely technical. For the first time, I was adequately served by bringing my iPhone with me, and leaving my laptop in my hotel room. (But to be fair, two of my tweeps exhorted me to do that at future PyCons anyway.)

Less soul.  I didn’t attend any sessions from someone talking about their hobby or passion, or who contributed because they loved giving back to OpenStack. This is very different from PyCon. This is a corporate conference.

Multiple here’s-what-we-do sessions. It’s useful to learn how an OpenStack cloud was created, migrated, or deployed, if it had some interesting qualities. Say, if it was huge, or had to be deployed on a shoestring, or in a mission-critical production environment, etc. But it seemed like every fourth session was like this. I’m not sure what to make of this.  I suppose there’s a demand for them, but how many times do you need to hear the same message? News flash, you need to be careful when you migrate to a new version of OpenStack — do you need to hear this five times?

Poorer presenters, no session feedback. The presenter, and presentation, quality was lower. There was no vehicle to give session feedback. (E.g., no surveys to rate the sessions or speakers.) Disappointing.

Artificial community. We’re a community, we’re the OpenStack community. Okaaaaaaaaaay…What are the attendance stats? No info given. What are the diversity stats? No info given. What’s the code of conduct? There is none. Etc. You can argue that all online communities are artificial constructs, but some associations do the hard work to try to be real, and have formalities that walk the walk. Not at OpenStack, yet.

Fewer women. I think the percentage of women was lower here than at PyCon. The environment seemed healthy, but then again I’m a white male so maybe I’m wrong.

Meh mobile conference app. They had a custom mobile app for conference scheduling. It wasn’t very good. Why they didn’t use Guidebook is beyond me.

Storage consolidation. This is anecdotal, but it seems to me that there are more storage solution products and companies than the market can bear. Storage should be cheap, scalable, resilient, expandable, etc. I see the usefulness of a driver or controller that’s optimized for Cinder, but there’s only so much that can be optimized, and there are only so many ways to offer resilient/expandable/scalable/uniform storage. I wonder how many storage products and companies will survive the next three years.

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