Welcome!

Related Topics: Open Source Cloud, Linux Containers, @CloudExpo

Open Source Cloud: Article

Cloud.com Exec Mark Hinkle on Community, Infrastructure, and T-Shirts

"Open Source Only Works When You Empower People to Do Exceptional Things"

Cloud.com was founded in 2008 with a mission to "take the complexity and high costs out of deploying cloud services," according to its website. It delivers an open-source software platform for public and private cloud environments, delivering components to build, deploy, and manage multi-tier and multi-tenant cloud applications.

Cloud.com's CloudStack solution aims to let the company's customers get rolling "in minutes, without the overhead of integration, professional services, (or) complex deployment schedules."

The company's VP of Community, Mark Hinkle, is well-known in the open-source community, having been the force behind driving the Zenoss Core community to more than 100,000 members.

Mark co-founded the Open Source Management Consortium and the Desktop Linux Consortium, has served as Editor-in-Chief for both LinuxWorld Magazine and Enterprise Open Source Magazine, and authored the book, "Windows to Linux Business Desktop Migration." (Thomson, 2006).

Roger Strukhoff: Where does Cloud.com fit into the SaaS/PaaS/IaaS continuum?

Mark Hinkle: Cloud.com is an infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) solution. We abstract the server, storage and networking to allow IT to offer elastic computing power on demand so that IT personnel can match resources with the needs of the organization.

If you look at software-as-a-service (SaaS) and platform-as-a-service they usually build on top of IaaS. We are striving to be the best cloud platform that enables users to provide virtual resources in a secure, highly-available and scalable way and we want to provide the foundation for other cloud offerings.

Roger: You've been involved in open-source and community building for a long time. How does this experience come into play at Cloud.com?

Mark: The two things I've learned above all else is open source is a technology development process not a business model; using Red Hat as the best example that a thriving community can drive a profitable business.

Second, open source only works when you empower people to do exceptional things. That starts with giving them a useful, open piece of technology to use and extend without additional software or services from a sponsoring organization. I think a lot of companies foul things up by trying to create superficial, divisive mechanisms to force free users into upgrading to commercial versions.

Roger: And how do you apply those lessons?

Mark: My experience has given me a better understanding of what tactics work for facilitating a community, and which ones don't. For example, many people discuss the value of community development, which is an activity that only a small percentage of the community participates in.

Before you get to open source success you must start with user-led adoption. Typically only after there are successful users does it help with the development of the technology.

You cannot cause this to happen; it's just a function of having a critical mass in your community. In addition, I subscribe to Bill Joy's Law: "No matter who you are, most of the smartest people work for someone else." Open source development is unique in that it allows you to tap the talents of those people.

Roger: And those smart people are everywhere...

Mark: Yes, and so I've come to understand that communities thrive when they interact with and learn from other communities. I have tremendous respect for the Red Hat-sponsored Fedora project, for example, which published a book on open source community development and methodologies called "The Open Source Way." It's an excellent blueprint for developing open source communities. I hope that we can leverage their experience to build our own cloud computing community.

Roger: What are your day-to-day activities? What unique challenges are there to community building in a Cloud environment, ie, a more strategic environment than pure geek stuff?

Mark: My day-to-day activities are consumed with two things: evangelizing and trying to facilitate the use of our cloud computing software.

Roger: And how do you go about this?

Mark: This means communicating the value of our project in forums and in the press as well as talking and interacting with people interested in using our technology. By providing the technology as open source it widens the audience by removing barriers to participation and provides a forum for a richer conversation about the product versus pay-to-play software.

Also, I have to give credit to Cloud.com for providing substantial resources to build the project. I have recently added a technical community manager to the team who handles the day-to-day interactions including answering forum questions, providing answers to FAQs and a lot of the things a user needs from a technical perspective.

Roger: How do you get your jollies?

Mark: One of my favorite community activities is to go to LinuxFests--volunteer-run, open source expos--and talk to people about their needs and get live feedback on what they do. This spring we'll be at the Southern California Linux Expo, Indiana LinuxFest, and LinuxFest Northwest, speaking, offering free training, and providing demos.

Roger: And handing out T-shirts, I hope.

Mark: Of course! Handing out Cloud.com T-shirts. We're also doing a "Build and Open-Source Cloud" event at some of them.

Roger: What's the difference, to you, between a "customer" and a "community member"? Is there any effective difference?

Mark: The main difference is that customers pay us money for a guaranteed level of support and service, and input for the product roadmap. Some customers pay us for cloud implementation services and customizations.

Unlike many commercial open-source companies, our open-source software and products are convergent, not divergent. So later this spring, we'll be combining our code bases completely.

The CloudStack product will be the same for commercial and community users. We'll also be offering free unrestricted use add-ons though we want to maintain control of the development.

That said, as a community manager I don't draw a distinction between free and paid customers, in that I try to offer the highest level of support to all members of the community. As a company, Cloud.com strives to service the customers in a way that makes them acknowledge the value they pay for, as well as provide resources for our do-it-yourselfers in our open source community.

Roger: What hot buttons do you see with members of your community?

Mark: There aren't many, but if I had to pick one it is the lack of solutions to build truly useful infrastructure for collaboration. I think it's an area that every open-source project at some level struggles with.

Having a platform that allows users to interact via forums, post blogs, report bugs, contribute documentation, etc. is important and I don't think there is a great solution out there.

Roger: Really?

Mark: Right now there are great open source projects for parts of the problem--Drupal for content management, MindTouch or MediaWiki for wikis, Trac for bug tracking and collaborative development. But there is very little "glue" to hold them all together.

Roger: And what does that mean for Cloud.com?

Mark: Right now we have a lot of work to do on our infrastructure for the Cloud.com community. But I have found that the easier it is to interact, the quicker the community grows and more value they get from it.

I would point to Linux.com as one of the best examples around of community infrastructure. I think they did a good job extending the Joomla! open source CMS to make their community easy to participate in. Ubuntu's Launchpad is pretty good, too.

But there are always features individual communities want or need that aren't features of even the most broad projects.

More Stories By Roger Strukhoff

Roger Strukhoff (@IoT2040) is Executive Director of the Tau Institute for Global ICT Research, with offices in Illinois and Manila. He is Conference Chair of @CloudExpo & @ThingsExpo, and Editor of SYS-CON Media's CloudComputing BigData & IoT Journals. He holds a BA from Knox College & conducted MBA studies at CSU-East Bay.

Comments (0)

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


Latest Stories
Your clients expect transactions to never fail, cloud access to be fast and always on, and their data to be protected - no exceptions. Hear about how Secure Service Container (SSC), an IBM-exclusive open technology, enables secure building and hosting of next-generation applications, both cloud and on-premises. SSC protects the full stack from external and insider threats, allows automatic encryption of data in-flight and at-rest, and is tamper-resistant during installation and runtime – with no...
With major technology companies and startups seriously embracing Cloud strategies, now is the perfect time to attend 21st Cloud Expo October 31 - November 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center, CA, and June 12-14, 2018, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, and learn what is going on, contribute to the discussions, and ensure that your enterprise is on the right path to Digital Transformation.
SYS-CON Events announced today that B2Cloud will exhibit at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. B2Cloud specializes in IoT devices for preventive and predictive maintenance in any kind of equipment retrieving data like Energy consumption, working time, temperature, humidity, pressure, etc.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Interface Corporation will exhibit at the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) Pavilion at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Interface Corporation is a company developing, manufacturing and marketing high quality and wide variety of industrial computers and interface modules such as PCIs and PCI express. For more information, visit http://www.i...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Massive Networks, that helps your business operate seamlessly with fast, reliable, and secure internet and network solutions, has been named "Exhibitor" of SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo ®, which will take place on Oct 31 - Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. As a premier telecommunications provider, Massive Networks is headquartered out of Louisville, Colorado. With years of experience under their belt, their team of...
SYS-CON Events announced today that NetApp has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. NetApp is the data authority for hybrid cloud. NetApp provides a full range of hybrid cloud data services that simplify management of applications and data across cloud and on-premises environments to accelerate digital transformation. Together with their partners, NetApp em...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Mobile Create USA will exhibit at the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) Pavilion at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Mobile Create USA Inc. is an MVNO-based business model that uses portable communication devices and cellular-based infrastructure in the development, sales, operation and mobile communications systems incorporating GPS capabi...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Nihon Micron will exhibit at the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) Pavilion at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Nihon Micron Co., Ltd. strives for technological innovation to establish high-density, high-precision processing technology for providing printed circuit board and metal mount RFID tags used for communication devices. For more inf...
SYS-CON Events announced today that N3N will exhibit at SYS-CON's @ThingsExpo, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. N3N’s solutions increase the effectiveness of operations and control centers, increase the value of IoT investments, and facilitate real-time operational decision making. N3N enables operations teams with a four dimensional digital “big board” that consolidates real-time live video feeds alongside IoT sensor data a...
While some developers care passionately about how data centers and clouds are architected, for most, it is only the end result that matters. To the majority of companies, technology exists to solve a business problem, and only delivers value when it is solving that problem. 2017 brings the mainstream adoption of containers for production workloads. In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Ben McCormack, VP of Operations at Evernote, will discuss how data centers of the future will be managed, how th...
SYS-CON Events announced today that SIGMA Corporation will exhibit at the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) Pavilion at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. uLaser flow inspection device from the Japanese top share to Global Standard! Then, make the best use of data to flip to next page. For more information, visit http://www.sigma-k.co.jp/en/.
Enterprises are moving to the cloud faster than most of us in security expected. CIOs are going from 0 to 100 in cloud adoption and leaving security teams in the dust. Once cloud is part of an enterprise stack, it’s unclear who has responsibility for the protection of applications, services, and data. When cloud breaches occur, whether active compromise or a publicly accessible database, the blame must fall on both service providers and users. In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Ben Johnson, C...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Suzuki Inc. will exhibit at the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) Pavilion at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Suzuki Inc. is a semiconductor-related business, including sales of consuming parts, parts repair, and maintenance for semiconductor manufacturing machines, etc. It is also a health care business providing experimental research for...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Ryobi Systems will exhibit at the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) Pavilion at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Ryobi Systems Co., Ltd., as an information service company, specialized in business support for local governments and medical industry. We are challenging to achive the precision farming with AI. For more information, visit http:...
21st International Cloud Expo, taking place October 31 - November 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. Cloud computing is now being embraced by a majority of enterprises of all sizes. Yesterday's debate about public vs. private has transformed into the reality of hybrid cloud: a recent survey shows that 74% of enterprises have a hybrid cloud strategy. Me...