[openstack-dev] [all] A proposal to separate the design summit

Thierry Carrez thierry at openstack.org
Mon Feb 22 15:14:06 UTC 2016

Hi everyone,

TL;DR: Let's split the events, starting after Barcelona.

Long long version:

In a global and virtual community, high-bandwidth face-to-face time is 
essential. This is why we made the OpenStack Design Summits an integral 
part of our processes from day 0. Those were set at the beginning of 
each of our development cycles to help set goals and organize the work 
for the upcoming 6 months. At the same time and in the same location, a 
more traditional conference was happening, ensuring a lot of interaction 
between the upstream (producers) and downstream (consumers) parts of our 

This setup, however, has a number of issues. For developers first: the 
"conference" part of the common event got bigger and bigger and it is 
difficult to focus on upstream work (and socially bond with your 
teammates) with so much other commitments and distractions. The result 
is that our design summits are a lot less productive than they used to 
be, and we organize other events ("midcycles") to fill our focus and 
small-group socialization needs. The timing of the event (a couple of 
weeks after the previous cycle release) is also suboptimal: it is way 
too late to gather any sort of requirements and priorities for the 
already-started new cycle, and also too late to do any sort of work 
planning (the cycle work started almost 2 months ago).

But it's not just suboptimal for developers. For contributing companies, 
flying all their developers to expensive cities and conference hotels so 
that they can attend the Design Summit is pretty costly, and the goals 
of the summit location (reaching out to users everywhere) do not 
necessarily align with the goals of the Design Summit location (minimize 
and balance travel costs for existing contributors). For the companies 
that build products and distributions on top of the recent release, the 
timing of the common event is not so great either: it is difficult to 
show off products based on the recent release only two weeks after it's 
out. The summit date is also too early to leverage all the users 
attending the summit to gather feedback on the recent release -- not a 
lot of people would have tried upgrades by summit time. Finally a common 
event is also suboptimal for the events organization : finding venues 
that can accommodate both events is becoming increasingly complicated.

Time is ripe for a change. After Tokyo, we at the Foundation have been 
considering options on how to evolve our events to solve those issues. 
This proposal is the result of this work. There is no perfect solution 
here (and this is still work in progress), but we are confident that 
this strawman solution solves a lot more problems than it creates, and 
balances the needs of the various constituents of our community.

The idea would be to split the events. The first event would be for 
upstream technical contributors to OpenStack. It would be held in a 
simpler, scaled-back setting that would let all OpenStack project teams 
meet in separate rooms, but in a co-located event that would make it 
easy to have ad-hoc cross-project discussions. It would happen closer to 
the centers of mass of contributors, in less-expensive locations.

More importantly, it would be set to happen a couple of weeks /before/ 
the previous cycle release. There is a lot of overlap between cycles. 
Work on a cycle starts at the previous cycle feature freeze, while there 
is still 5 weeks to go. Most people switch full-time to the next cycle 
by RC1. Organizing the event just after that time lets us organize the 
work and kickstart the new cycle at the best moment. It also allows us 
to use our time together to quickly address last-minute release-critical 
issues if such issues arise.

The second event would be the main downstream business conference, with 
high-end keynotes, marketplace and breakout sessions. It would be 
organized two or three months /after/ the release, to give time for all 
downstream users to deploy and build products on top of the release. It 
would be the best time to gather feedback on the recent release, and 
also the best time to have strategic discussions: start gathering 
requirements for the next cycle, leveraging the very large cross-section 
of all our community that attends the event.

To that effect, we'd still hold a number of strategic planning sessions 
at the main event to gather feedback, determine requirements and define 
overall cross-project themes, but the session format would not require 
all project contributors to attend. A subset of contributors who would 
like to participate in this sessions can collect and relay feedback to 
other team members for implementation (similar to the Ops midcycle). 
Other contributors will also want to get more involved in the 
conference, whether that's giving presentations or hearing user stories.

The split should ideally reduce the needs to organize separate in-person 
mid-cycle events. If some are still needed, the main conference venue 
and time could easily be used to provide space for such midcycle events 
(given that it would end up happening in the middle of the cycle).

In practice, the split means that we need to stagger the events and 
cycles. We have a long time between Barcelona and the Q1 Summit in the 
US, so the idea would be to use that long period to insert a smaller 
cycle (Ocata) with a release early March, 2017 and have the first 
specific contributors event at the start of the P cycle, mid-February, 
2017. See the attached PDF for a visual explanation. With the 
already-planned events in 2016 and 2017 it is the earliest we can make 
the transition. We'd have a last, scaled-down design summit in Barcelona 
to plan the shorter cycle.

With that setup, we hope that we can restore the productivity and focus 
of the face-to-face contributors gathering, reduce the need to have 
midcycle events for social bonding and team building, keep the cost of 
getting all contributors together once per cycle under control, maintain 
the feedback loops with all the constituents of the OpenStack community 
at the main event, and better align the timing of each event with the 
reality of the release cycles.

NB: You will note that I did not name the separated event "Design 
Summit" -- that is because Design will now be split into 
feedback/requirements gathering (the "why" at the main event) and 
execution planning and kickstarting (the "how" at the 
contributors-oriented event), so that name doesn't feel right anymore. 
We can bikeshed on the name for the new event later :)

Comments, thoughts ?

Thierry Carrez (ttx)
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