[openstack-dev] [all][tc] Proposal: Separate design summits from OpenStack conferences

Monty Taylor mordred at inaugust.com
Mon Feb 8 01:51:41 UTC 2016

On 02/07/2016 02:07 PM, Jay Pipes wrote:
> Hello all,
> tl;dr
> =====
> I have long thought that the OpenStack Summits have become too
> commercial and provide little value to the software engineers
> contributing to OpenStack.
> I propose the following:
> 1) Separate the design summits from the conferences
> 2) Hold only a single OpenStack conference per year
> 3) Return the design summit to being a low-key, low-cost working event
> details
> =======
> The design summits originally started out as working events. Developers
> got together in smallish rooms, arranged chairs in a fishbowl, and got
> to work planning and designing.
> With the OpenStack Summit growing more and more marketing- and
> sales-focused, the contributors attending the design summit are often
> unfocused. The precious little time that developers have to actually
> work on the next release planning is often interrupted or cut short by
> the large numbers of "suits" and salespeople at the conference event,
> many of which are peddling a product or pushing a corporate agenda.
> Many contributors submit talks to speak at the conference part of an
> OpenStack Summit because their company says it's the only way they will
> pay for them to attend the design summit. This is, IMHO, a terrible
> thing. The design summit is a *working* event. Companies that contribute
> to OpenStack projects should send their engineers to working events
> because that is where work is done, not so that their engineer can go
> give a talk about some vendor's agenda-item or newfangled product.
> Part of the reason that companies only send engineers who are giving a
> talk at the conference side is that the cost of attending the OpenStack
> Summit has become ludicrously expensive. Why have the events become so
> expensive? I can think of a few reasons:
> a) They are held every six months. I know of no other community or open
> source project that holds *conference-type* events every six months.
> b) They are held in extremely expensive hotels and conference centers
> because the number of attendees is so big.
> c) Because the conferences have become sales and marketing-focused
> events, companies shell out hundreds of thousands of dollars for schwag,
> for rented event people, for food and beverage sponsorships, for keynote
> slots, for lavish and often ridiculous parties, and more. This cost
> means less money to send engineers to the design summit to do actual work.
> I would love to see the OpenStack contributor community take back the
> design summit to its original format and purpose and decouple it from
> the OpenStack Summit's conference portion.
> I believe the design summits should be organized by the OpenStack
> contributor community, not the OpenStack Foundation and its marketing
> and event planning staff. This will allow lower-cost venues to be chosen
> that meet the needs only of the small group of active contributors, not
> of huge masses of conference attendees. This will allow contributor
> companies to send *more* engineers to *more* design summits, which is
> something that really needs to happen if we are to grow our active
> contributor pool.
> Once this decoupling occurs, I think that the OpenStack Summit should be
> renamed to the OpenStack Conference and Expo to better fit its purpose
> and focus. This Conference and Expo event really should be held once a
> year, in my opinion, and continue to be run by the OpenStack Foundation.
> I, for one, would welcome events that have no conference check-in area,
> no evening parties with 2000 people, no keynote and
> powerpoint-as-a-service sessions, and no getting pulled into sales
> meetings.
> OK, there, I said it.
> Thoughts? Criticism? Support? Suggestions welcome.

I agree with the overall suggestion. I have a few additional thoughts.

First - so that nobody thinks we're saying negative things- I think that 
the Foundation Staff has done an amazing job in running these events so 
far. That we've gotten to the point where this conversation is useful is 
a testament to how well they've done their job. I'd like to make sure 
that the tone of "take it back" doesn't become 'tech folks vs. 
foundation staff' thing - but rather framing the problem as to being 
able to distribute some of the burden so that they can focus on the big 
hoopla events. I expect we'll still need their involvement even if the 
design summit turned into a complete grass-roots thing. Making sure all 
of the things we do are collaborations is key.

Second - what is now the Ops Mid-cycle is much better suited to be 
co-located with the Conference and Expo. The people who are selling 
products and the people who are running clouds are much more naturally 
aligned (running a cloud? try buying our $insert-product-here which 
makes your cloud awesome) than the Conference is with the Design Summit.

Third - the one thing where I disagree slightly - I think two-a-year is 
fine by me given the alternating US / non-US nature of things. Having a 
conference in the US every other year would be not enough, and excluding 
our non-US friends from the party seems also a bit much. That said - 
again to your point above, if this is an actual customer/user event then 
our companies do not need to send hundreds of devs to the semi-annual 
alternating event and the normal economics of event budgets can totally 
come in to play. Also, the "parties" can be customer events like they 
are at other events, rather than needing to feel inclusive of a sea of 
2000 developers - many of whom are tired and would prefer to stop going 
to parties and would rather sit around and talk about the hard technical 

Fourth - I agree about having it be tech-community organized. I 
specifically suggest a model similar to how DebConf, Linux Conf 
Australia and PyCon operate - where teams in cities put in bids to the 
community to host the event. LCA usually gets hosted on a University 
campus somewhere. (guess who can easily handle 2000 developers wifi 
needs? Universities who are normally filled with thousands of youngsters 
with a billion wifi enabled devices, that's who)

Fifth - if we do this, the real need for the mid-cycles we currently 
have probably goes away since the summit week can be a legit 
wall-to-wall work week.

Sixth - there is a logistical issue of design summit tied to release 
schedule which is tied to venue rentals which are planed a decent amount 
out because of size. If we want to decouple, we're likely going to have 
to have either a single short or a single long release cycle so that we 
can shift the release calendar to be offset from the conferences. I 
would personally suggest a single short cycle. Know how people keep 
talking about a no-features cycle? How about if we did that, but did it 
over a 3-month release? In any case, if we did this - it would also mean 
that the conference could actually be a place where people could talk 
about the latest release and what problems they've solved / how to use 
the new features in it - rather than people mainly talking about the 
previous release because it's the only thing they've had time to use.

Seventh - my biggest concern is something James Bottomley said in an 
email after I started writing this long thing ... that without the 
'draw' of the conference part, we lose key people from being able to 
come. That said - we have people travelling to mid-cycles without 
conferences currently - if the ask for devs goes from 4 events a year to 
2 events a year, maybe it won't be too much of a decline - or maybe even 

Those are just my thoughts - take them for what they're worth.


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