Last week I attended the OpenStack Summit in Portland. This was my fifth OpenStack Summit, and a lot has changed since I attended my first OpenStack Summit in Santa Clara in 2011. Everything about this spring’s event was bigger: The crowds, the demos, the design summits. It was pretty awesome to see how far OpenStack has come, and even more exciting to see how much is left to be done. So many new ideas around virtual machine scheduling, orchestration, and automation were discussed this week. I thought I’d share some thoughts around the Summit now that things have really sunk in from last week.

Is It Time to Separate the Conference and the Design Summit?

With the growth of the conference, and the increased attendance by folks new to OpenStack, the question was asked by many folks if the time has come to split the event into a separate Conference and Design Summit. Particularly on Monday, the Design Summit rooms were packed with people, almost to the point of overflowing. The photo above was taken in the OpenStack Networking (formally the project known as Quantum), but was fairly representative of most Design Summit Sessions. For the most part, the design sessions withstood the influx of people and proceeded as they have in past conferences. And certainly having users participate in design sessions is a good thing. But the scale the conference has now attained means the organizers will need to keep a close on eye on this going forward to ensure relevant design sessions are still attainable by attendees interested in this portion of the event.

OpenStack Networking Is Still Hot

With regards to the design summit sessions and the conference in general, the interest in networking in OpenStack is at an all time high. The Networking Design Summit sessions were packed with attendees, and the discussions were very vibrant and exciting. For the most part, the discussions around Networking in OpenStack are all moving beyond basic L2 networks and into higher level items such as service insertion, VPNs, firewalls, and even L3 networks. There was a lot of good material discussed, and some great blueprints (see here and here, among others) are all set to land in Havana.

In addition to the design discussions around OpenStack Networking, there were panels, conference sessions, and plenty of hallway conversations on the topic. Almost all the networking vendors had a strong presence at the Summit including Cisco (disclosure: I work for Cisco), Brocade, Ericsson, VMware/Nicira, Big Switch, PLUMgrid, and others. The level of interest in networking around OpenStack was truly amazing.

Which leads me to my next observation.

How Many Panels on SDN Does a Single Conference Need?

It’s obvious Software Defined Networking is hot now. And per my prior observation, it’s obvious that OpenStack Networking is hot. So it would seem the two fit together nicely, and in fact, they do. But how many panel discussions around SDN and OpenStack does one conference need? There were at least two of these, and it seemed like there was a large amount of “SDN washing” going on at this conference. To some extent, this was bound to eventually happen. As technologies mature and more and more people and money are thrown at them, the hype level goes crazy. Trying to level set the conversation, especially in the Design Summit sessions, and ensure an even discourse will become increasingly challenging going forward.

Customers, Customers, and More Customers

This conference had the real feel of actual customers deploying OpenStack. Take a look at the video of the Day 2 Keynote which featured Bloomberg, Best Buy, and Comcast for a taste of how some large enterprise customers are deploying and using OpenStack. But even beyond those big three, it was easy to walk around the conference floor and bump into many other people who are in the process of deploying OpenStack into their own data centers. Most of these people come to the OpenStack party for one of two reasons: Price and scalability. But once they enter the ecosystem, they realize there is much more to OpenStack than simple economics and scalability. As I’ve written before, OpenStack is a community, and deploying OpenStack in your datacenter makes you an honorary member of that community. To some customers, the idea of open collaboration with vendors and solutions providers is a new idea. But this type of open collaboration is the way forward, and I think ultimately, this is what will help to keep customers utilizing OpenStack to solve their real business needs.