Yesterday I hosted the first Minnesota OpenStack Meetup at the local Cisco office in Bloomington. It was an event I had been planning for about 2 months. I was very excited to meet with other Stackers in the Twin Cities. But the story starts much before this, I’m getting ahead of myself a bit here. Let me backup and tell you the full story of how the Minnesota OpenStack Meetup came to be.

The Minnesota Tech Scene

As my friends and some readers may know, I work remotely for Cisco. I live in Minnesota, not in Silicon Valley. What most people outside of Minnesota likely don’t know is there exists a pretty thriving tech scene here. A lot of the roots of Minnesota’s tech scene, certainly the one I’ve grown up with, come from the roots of Cray Inc and Control Data Corporation. From these early tech giants, many companies have grown in Minnesota over the last 30 years. Like any area, Minnesota has some sweet spots with regards to specific areas of technology. One such area is storage, and in particular storage networking. Look no further than companies who currently have offices in Minnesota with development happening in the storage area: Dell/Compellent, Symantec, EMC/Isilon, Quantum, Cray, SGI, Qlogic. All of these companies have been doing great work in various areas around storage, storage networking, data protection, highly scalable filesystems, and other infrastructure layer projects and products.

Minnesota OpenStack

I recently changed roles at Cisco, and my new role allows me increasing involvement in Open Source technologies. Specifically, I am becoming more involved with OpenStack. One of the things I wanted to do was find other people interested in OpenStack in the Minnesota area. So I went to to try and find an OpenStack Meetup group. There existed none at the time. Minnesota had other groups, some of which had hundreds of members, so I knew there was interest for meetups around technology. I set out to create the Minnesota OpenStack Meetup at this point, hoping to find and grow interest in OpenStack in the Minnesota (and likely western Wisconsin) areas.

Planning For the Initial Meetup

I had roughly two months to plan for the initial meeting. My initial focus was on securing a space to host the meeting. This was made slightly difficult by not having a rough idea of how many people would attend. I made the call early on to secure a room at the local Cisco office which would hold around 40 people. Part of me thought having 40 people would be unrealistic for an initial meetup, while another part of me thought getting more than 40 people would be a good problem to have. With the room secured, I turned my attention to an agenda. I’m good friends on Twitter with Colin McNamara, and I had seen his spectacular presentation he gave at the San Diego OpenStack Summit around “Surviving Your First Checkin“.  The presentation was exactly what you would want to show to a new Meetup audience interested in participating in the OpenStack community. I reached out to Colin, and he was kind of enough to fly out to Minnesota and give his presentation at our inaugural meeting. Colin and I talked about what to do after his presentation, and we decided the best thing would be to have everyone do a live devstack install (e.g. a devstack installfest).

The Day of the Meetup

The day of the Meetup I was able to get to the Cisco office well in advance and make sure the room was ready. Colin arrive early, and was able to setup before folks started arriving. We ended up having around 20 people show up for the initial meeting. I was able to provide drinks and pizza for folks, make initial introductions of everyone, and Colin was able to give his presentation. Afterwards, we helped everyone get devstack up and running (despite the oddly flakey wireless at the Cisco office, who would have guessed?).

The Result

I have to say the inaugural Minnesota OpenStack Meetup was a success. It turns out we have a broad diversity of interest in OpenStack in the Minnesota area. We currently have 36 members of our Meetup. There are people interested in developing OpenStack, people who are INTERESTED in deploying it in production, people who HAVE deployed it in production. There were folks who had just heard of it and wanted to learn more. Other people had their customers asking about it, so wanted to sharpen their own understanding about it. It was great to meet everyone who attended and plant the seeds of an OpenStack community in Minnesota.

Community Is Critical In Open Source

And this brings me to something very important to me. Community. Read the definition from the Wikipedia article linked there, and let it sink in. Working on Open Source projects is about community. It’s about involvement. It’s about working for the greater good of something important to you. My experience in shepherding the Minnesota OpenStack Meetup has shown me that all it takes is one person to  plant the seed. If one person does that, other people will help provide water and nourishment to help the flower grow. In Open Source, there are many ways to contribute and be a part of the community. You can write code. You can test code. You can write documentation. You can spread the word. You can start a Meetup. You can present at conferences. You can answer questions on mailing lists. You can edit a wiki. You can get excited and make something happen. It’s all about community. It’s all about the power of Open Source. It’s about sharing your experiences with the world.

The slide below from Colin’s presentation sums it all up nicely.

Giving back

So what are you waiting for? If there is no Meetup around OpenStack or other Open Source technology in your area, go ahead and start one. You’ll be surprised and encouraged by the response you will likely receive. And you will help to grow and strengthen an Open Source community in your area.