Ubuntu's growing plans to add more Cloud contributors to the Open Source Atmosphere

In this interview I am introducing folks to Ahmed Kamal. Ahmed is the newest member of the Ubuntu Community Team and has been tasked with the job of growing the Ubuntu Cloud Community. First of all, Ahmed thank you so much for taking time out of your busy days to answer a few questions and let the Ubuntu community get to know you and how they can contribute to the *Cloud* areas in Ubuntu. Back in July Jono Bacon introduced you to the community in on his blog with the post intitled Ahmed Kamal Joins the Horsemen . However I wanted to take a closer and see what you're up and some of the ways you plan to grow the Ubuntu Cloud Community. Introducing Amhed Kamal.


QUESTION: Since joining the Ubuntu Community Team, what has been most surprising or unexpected challenge so far? How did you overcome it? Has the Ubuntu community to be welcoming? How does the Ubuntu Community compare to other communities you have been involved with?

Ahmed Kamal: Hi Amber, thank you for having me. I am very excited to be part of the Ubuntu community at large, and especially the cloud and server related communities. I've joined this position for a little over a month now, and there has definitely been some challenges. The biggest of which (while not really unexpected) is understanding the dynamics of interaction internal to large communities such as the Ubuntu community. Basically what makes a community tick, what motivates its members. What keeps them coming back, wanting to contribute, enjoying it and enjoying improving Ubuntu and helping other users. I believe that only through understanding the basic guiding principles of community dynamics, can we help communities form and thrive around Ubuntu, creating a better experience for all of us. I wouldn't really say I've overcome that challenge, it is rather an on-going process. One that I am definitely enjoying and that is made easier through the help that I get from the rest of the team (Jono, Daniel, David and Jorge)

as well as through interaction with our great community members. Speaking of which, the Ubuntu community has been extremely welcoming. It is truly a great feeling to belong to this community. I would like to encourage Ubuntu new users who may not have had much exposure to the community yet, to reach out, contact your loco team, hang out on IRC either in the loco team's channel or in the global Ubuntu channel. It is such a great feeling to be part of the Ubuntu community, to help improve Ubuntu, and to help and get help from other Ubuntu community members.

Previously I had been involved with various open-source groups in my home town that is sunny Cairo, Egypt. For instance I had started the local Open-Solaris User Group, where we had a few events organized at Universities to spread the FOSS culture, and yes we handed out the obligatory CDs and Books :) Moreover, I had been involved (together with many local geeky friends) with the local Ubuntu and Fedora user groups. Organization and conflict resolution are generally much simpler when everyone is in the same room and sharing the same cultural background. Comparing that to the global Ubuntu community, I find that the sheer size and variance of the Ubuntu community members adds a lot of richness to the ideas and talent pool available. However it can be more challenging in-case a conflict arises. However till now, the Ubuntu community, and especially the server and cloud communities have been incredibly synergetic and fun to be around


QUESTION: As a member of the Ubuntu Community Team you have the opportunity to work with many other teams. I would imagine you work closely with the Server Team. What does this collaboration consist of? Do you take the goals of the Server Team and communicate them internally (Canonical) and externally (Community)? Do you help mold those goals and outward message to grow the Ubuntu Cloud Communty? If so, how?

Ahmed Kamal: Since I'm working to stimulate the cloud community, I do interact with a lot of different teams and people, however it is true that most importantly I work with the server team. Since server and cloud are so closely knit together, it makes perfect sense to do so. Basically what we do is, we have these sprints where we fly to meet in a certain city to discuss plans for the next sprint. Which basically means the plan for the next work period in scrum jargon. Our latest sprint (and my first) was in Prague. I had some great meetings face to face with Ubuntu server team where we discussed various points of concern and I heard their feedback on the current state of the server and cloud communities, as well as brain-stormed some ideas on how to improve the situation.

Since Ubuntu does everything in the open, the follow up mechanism consists of IRC meeting with the Ubuntu server team. The Ubuntu Server Team holds public meetings, usually on Tuesdays from 18:00 UTC to 19:00 UTC in #ubuntu-meeting. You can find previous meeting logs at https://wiki.ubuntu.com/MeetingLogs/Server

Here is an example of our collaboration. The Ubuntu server team is very excited about the upcoming 10.04.1 release. Since for many the first point release of a server distro is of significant importance, as they feel it has taken enough public testing to be worthy of deployment in a mission critical environment. So the Ubuntu server team mentions they would like to celebrate this release in a way that engages the server community. After some discussions I had this idea about creating a world map that shows an Ubuntu logo over each city that has been marked as running Ubuntu. I discussed with Jono who thought that's a great idea, so I went ahead and implemented it. We have it now running on http://maps.ubuntu.com I would like to encourage all Ubuntu server users to register themselves on that map (totally anonymous). So far it has been a complete success, we've been getting tons of hits, and users are asking that we do the same for desktop users! I think it's just a great feeling to belong to those millions of Ubuntu users around the world. Beyond that, in the next period, we will be focusing more on flourishing the server and cloud communities by studying the current engagement paths, potential problems and how to make it easier and more fun for community members to become active contributors.


QUESTION: What would you like to see the Ubuntu Cloud Community grow to? How can the existing Ubuntu Community help you build and grow the Ubuntu Cloud Community? Rackspace recently announced the OpenStack project? There will be a growing community surrounding the OpenStack project how do you see the Ubuntu Cloud Community interacting with other cloud communities such as OpenStack? What other Cloud communities and projects do you see growing together both in parallel and in partnership?

Ahmed Kamal: Ubuntu enjoys a lot of leverage in the cloud computing world, this is due to the great engineering work that went into integrating the best open-source stacks for cloud computing very closely with Ubuntu, as well as due to the great and helpful community of developers. I would like to see the Ubuntu cloud community grow even stronger. Currently the Ubuntu cloud community covers three main areas.

The first being, building an IaaS cloud over the Ubuntu platform. This is done through the Ubuntu Enterprise Cloud (UEC) product. UEC has been very tightly integrated with the Ubuntu installer, such that the whole experience of creating your own cloud computing environment over Ubuntu is now easy enough to be enjoyable! The second area the community focuses on is running Ubuntu as a guest over commercial clouds such as for example over Amazon EC2. Ubuntu AMIs are very popular as a guest image there. The third area, is cloud management and auto-deployment. This is a very important area of cloud computing, since to actually harness the promise of the cloud, one has to treat “Infrastructure-as-code”. This basically means that all configuration management, dependency management, server deployment, and monitoring has to be automated. If you're doing it manually, you're doing it wrong. This is the essence of the DevOps movement, and Canonical is creating some great technology in that area as well

Ubuntu integrates the best open-source tools for those tasks. I would like to see Ubuntu community members that have interest in any of these areas, join the available communication channels and become contributors. Current communication channels are the #ubuntu-cloud Freenode IRC channel, and the ubuntu-cloud@lists.ubuntu.com. Soon we will be launching a cloud portal on ubuntu.com to help new community members find their way easily to the available resources.

You mention the relationship between the Ubuntu cloud community and the OpenStack community. I don't really see them as separate entities. Basically, the Ubuntu cloud community focuses on making Ubuntu the best platform to build clouds and the best platform to be used over commercial clouds. This is done through integrating the best open-source cloud related tools and technologies. As such OpenStack is already part of this definition, and if the Ubuntu community sees value in OpenStack that automatically makes it part of the community's focus. In no way will anyone try to limit the available options, in fact I know the OpenStack nova component has just been accepted in universe making it easier to install and play with for all Ubuntu users.


QUESTION: I know you are the newest member of the Ubuntu Community Team and still probably getting your feet wet and learning about Canonical, Ubuntu, the Community and more. What other areas within the community has already snagged your attention and you find yourself wanting to know more about? Why?

Ahmed Kamal: Well, I'm very much intrigued by the community dynamics and self governance structures. I think many people don't appreciate enough the beauty and complexity of setting up a self governing structure that is as large, varied and complex as the Ubuntu community. That is something I definitely would like to work on so that I gain a deeper insight into.


QUESTION: Right now we have Ubuntu Open Week, Ubuntu Developer Week, Ubuntu App Dev Week, as well as Ubuntu User Days and various other classes held in Ubuntu Classroom. Are there any forecasts for some Cloud Days where you take a day or week and focus on teaching and sharing cloud and server related classes? If so what types of classes would you like to see being taught online via IRC related to those Cloud(y) Days?

Ahmed Kamal: That is definitely something I am planning on doing. I think it's very interesting and important that experienced community members share their knowledge and provide an easy on-ramp for new community members. I think everyone benefits from such events. I don't have a specific schedule yet, but it's definitely coming. Regarding the types of classes to be taught there, I suspect the focus will be on the main three areas I believe the Ubuntu cloud community needs to focus on. Namely, building your own cloud using UEC, running and managing Ubuntu as a guest over EC2, and cloud deployment and automation tools and scripts. The cloud portal I am currently building is going to host (hopefully many) screencasts and tutorials made by community members and myself in an easily accessible and searchable format.


QUESTION: If people want to get involved with the Ubuntu Cloud Community how can they? Is there an IRC Channel? Mailing List? Forums? For people who are new to cloud technology what do you recommend as a “must read”?

Ahmed Kamal: First of all, I would like to welcome all community members who are thinking about joining the cloud community. If you find that cloud stuff interesting, if you're using a commercial cloud such as EC2, if you're considering running your own cloud over UEC please do come and join us. I suspect the main involvement will be IT professionals, basically systems folks (engineering, administration, operations) and developers wanting deploy and test their code over cloud infrastructure.

The main communication channels are as follows

* The ubuntu-cloud mailing list: https://lists.ubuntu.com/mailman/listinfo/Ubuntu-cloud

* The #ubuntu-cloud IRC channel on Freenode

* Forums: http://ubuntuforums.org/. We don't yet have a separate cloud forum, but I'm working on that. We will either create a cloud forum, or a cloud tag for your questions. Right now posting in the server forum is close enough

* We should be launching a “cloud portal” hopefully around 10.10 release time, watch out for that. It aims to aggregate all the news and resources needed to kickstart a new community member into the cloud world

For those completely new to what cloud computing is really about, it can be a little hard to grasp the concepts since the term cloud has been horribly abused to fit everything. I would recommend reading Matt's insightful take on the topic at http://mdzlog.alcor.net/2010/04/22/on-cloud/

Be sure to understand the differences between IaaS, PaaS, and SaaS, decide which one makes sense for your application and then take it from there. All questions, even basic ones like “I don't know what cloud is all about” are more than welcome on the ubuntu-cloud mailing list.


QUESTION: Is there anything else you would like to tell readers that I haven’t asked you about?

Ahmed Kamal: Just as Ubuntu as redefined the free desktop, it is now redefining the cloud computing and server world. In fact it is quite evident that without free and open source software, most of today's clouds wouldn't exist. Ubuntu, Linux, and the open-source communities in general have played an amazing role in the advancement of computing in general and I think we need to take a moment to appreciate that as we go forward.


QUESTION: Thank you again for taking time to answer these questions. I appreciate your time and talent and look forward to seeing how the Ubuntu Cloud Community grows.

Thank you Amber for your great work, and thanks to everyone who is helping advance Ubuntu and foss in general. Looking forward to Ubuntu and UEC rocking the cloud computing sphere even more.


For more info on how you can download, use, participate and contribute to Ubuntu, visit:http://www.ubuntu.com/community/participate.

Questions, Comments suggestions can be sent to Amber at: amber [AT] ubuntu-user.com.






Follow along as Ubuntu enthusiast and Community organizer Amber Graner helps put the "You" in Ubuntu.

Amber Graner is an active Ubuntu community member and organizer who encourages everyone around her to participate, support, and learn about Ubuntu and Open Source. With a smile and a sense of humor, Amber reminds people that there is a place for everyone in the Ubuntu community – regardless of technical skill level (or lack thereof). She is constantly looking for people, places, and events within the Ubuntu community that help inspire Ubuntu users to participate actively within the Ubuntu community. Email Amber at amber AT ubuntu-user DOT com.


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