Why the OpenStack Summit is Valuable for Me

The Liberty Summit going on this week in Vancouver is my third consecutive OpenStack Summit.  After working with OpenStack for almost two years, I no longer feel like a noob when I’m in the company of everyone else at the Summit.

As things are winding down here (most of the operators sessions wrapped up yesterday), I’m moving into retrospective mode and reflecting on what I’ve learned and accomplished this week… and why I continue to find a lot of value in the Summits.

Travel and the Swag

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It’s no secret the Summits take place in some pretty great cities.  This is my first time in Vancouver, and it’s awesome.  Paris was great.  The upcoming locations in Tokyo, Austin, and Barcelona should be fantastic as well.  Without OpenStack, I certainly wouldn’t have the opportunity to visit these places.

Plus, every six months I get to refresh my wardrobe!  (I am semi-serious about this.)  Many of the vendors and sponsors have pretty cool shirts, plus I can usually pick up a few things that are fun for my kids.

Ok… these are superficial things.  But they are nice little benefits that I appreciate.

A Valid Excuse for Skipping Work

This is more important than it sounds.  As cloud operators, we are always swamped.  There are rare chances to really step back from our day-to-day responsibilities to look at new technologies and features that might be valuable.

Being at the Summit for a week sets the expectation with everybody back at the office that I won’t be available and won’t be responding to emails.  It helps relieve some of the pressure to keep up on what’s going on at work during the day, and catching up on email in the evening.

This helps me to clear my head and make room for what we engineers really love to do:  think about ways to solve problems and come up with great innovations that benefit the users of our systems.  Truth be told, we don’t have much time to actually do this on a regular basis.

Fresh Ideas and Some Validation

Getting to a more serious point, though, the Summits are always a great opportunity to compare experiences with others and get some fresh ideas.  Sometimes we get so pigeon-holed in our own environments that it’s difficult to get the blinders off and recognize new and better ways to do things.  Hearing about what other operators are doing in their clouds is immensely valuable.

In the same vein, I often find out that most of us have the same problems and have come to the same conclusions and solutions independently.  It’s great to get this validation of “Ok, I’m really not crazy, and I’m not the only one dealing with this!”

Relationships and Camaraderie

Making contacts and getting to know others who operate clouds at different companies is by far the most valuable thing I get out of the Summits.  At each Summit I meet at least a couple new people that turn into longer and closer relationships as we each go down the path of day-to-day management of OpenStack.

Not only does this give me more people I can reach out to if I’m struggling with an issue, but it makes the next Summit that much more enjoyable as there are more people who I know personally.  And, as an extra fringe benefit, this gives me a lot of “ins” at other employers if ever have a need to find a new one!

Impacting Something Bigger than Myself

This is really the icing on the cake for me.  What a great feeling it is to be involved in this project.  Not only am I making life better for Go Daddy through OpenStack, but I’m contributing to building the OpenStack Powered Planet.

Enabling high-energy physics, Mars missions, billions of dollars of financial transactions, or even just voice search on a cable box… how awesome is it to be part of the team moving the world forward?  This is pretty great stuff.