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Gap explains how a retail customer can give back to OpenStack

Tamlin Magee | May 11, 2017
The retail giant works closely with Rackspace and other vendors to offer suggestions.

Elliot's four-person team operates five clouds, two of them "next-gen" and the other three legacy, though these will be moved over. Having a team that small does bring some challenges with it.

"You definitely end up specialising," Elliott said. "Being the one person this particular customer calls with this particular problem we work hard to knowledge share and document, and we meet every morning. We try to do as much as we can ourselves - it's important at least to my team that we be knowledgeable in the technology and platforms, and while we have Rackspace to back us up we go to them holistically on those bigger issues. But we want to be fingers in the pie, we want to be playing with Neutron and trying to troubleshoot, we want to be playing with everything that's going wrong.

"So we definitely take a hands-on approach, which I think is unique among a lot of customers that are purchasing a cloud service, even if it's in-house, they really push everything off to that vendor."

It can be common at conferences to hear a lot from the vendors but not so much from the customers - so where does Elliott believe OpenStack is going right and wrong, between now and the last summit he attended, in Austin, Texas, around this time last year?

Well, he thinks "they're doing a pretty good job".

"I'm a big fan of combining the disparate APIs into one," he said. "I wish it was going a little faster - every once in a while I'll run across a command I think will work, and I'll have to go back to Nova or Neutron to get the answer.

"But I'm happy with a lot of those aspects -- when I run into frustrations it's usually not the OpenStack Foundation that's causing them, it's usually because my customers want to be cutting edge so I want to be cutting edge."

That's not to say the vendors he works with are doing wrong either: "My vendors, not always Rackspace as we use multiple vendors, know that it's too dangerous to be that cutting edge. So they're kind of the resistance: that's why I say I drive them nuts, because I want that service from them, and I want to know I'm buying a safe and secure and stable service, but I also want what I want, and I want what my customers want, so most contention happens there.

"They're being smart - you can't sell a product that's constantly going down, so they're doing the right thing. But since they're my interface into the OpenStack community, the vendors are the guys I have to talk to who can go to the coders and say 'hey guys, there's this thing that's really annoying'.


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