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Open Community Infrastructure How-to

Karsten Wade (Red Hat/Fedora Project)
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Not every project has experienced or heard about the horrors of what can happen when a community’s code and content are on closed infrastructure it can’t control. People leave, relationships change, vendors stop supporting, bad things happen.

In this presentation learn the reasons for running a 100% open community infrastructure and the practical steps for how to build your own open infrastructure, with lessons-learned from the Fedora Project, oVirt project, CentOS Project, and others.

How do you start an open source projectr? When self-starting, there is often no budget for niceties such as virtual machine hosting. In addition, it’s a bit of a pain to build and run your own servers. How much easier it is use a combination of GitHub (or Jira at Apache, Google hosting, etc.) and a Google Group!

On the other side of this thinking is the realization that even the most stable no-cost closed hosting platforms bring along with it several risks. The hosting provider may go out of business or exit that particular space. The terms of use may change so it is no longer a good location for the project. The project team may build workflow and project artifacts in to the proprietary system, thereby making it harder or impossible for others to 100% completely reproduce the project from source. If a project has a parting-of-the-ways, it may be
harder to fork the codebase if the project uses tooling and artifacts built in to the proprietary system.

Even if your project is far up the stack from the base infrastructure components, there are still many good reasons to own/control your own project infrastructure. If you build your infrastructure from common components such as WordPress, git/Gerrit, MediaWiki, etc., it gives you the freedom to move at-will to a new hosting situation. In some cases, there are vendors providing managed hosting of open source components, for example WordPress and wordpress.com. If your project grows enough, it can off-load non-essential infrastructure management and scalability this way at an affordable cost. The new wave of platform-as-a-service (PaaS) providers offer another way to off-load management without compromising on freedom.

One of the great reasons for an open community infrastructure is that it increases the ways people can participate in your project. When the only thing you care about is code, and it’s all hosted on Someone-Else’s-Problem closed infrastructure, you say effectively to people, “You may have sysadmin or devops experience, but we’re not interested. Just test and file some bugs.” Just like how a MediaWiki instance invites people to participate by making content editing easy, an open infrastructure invites people interested in tinkering with systems by making it easy to help.

Finally, there have been cases where people have lost actual access to their project code and content. An open infrastructure protects your project from vendors who change license or usage terms, or even exit the business all-together, shutting down your site along with it.

Photo of Karsten Wade

Karsten Wade

Red Hat/Fedora Project

Since 2000 Karsten has been teaching and living the open source way. As a member of Red Hat’s Open Source and Standards team, he helps with community activities in projects Red Hat is involved in. As a 19 year IT industry veteran, Karsten has worked most sides of common business equations as an IS manager, professional services consultant, technical writer, and developer advocate. As of 2013, Karsten has been working on the CentOS Project as a new Board member, Red Hat liaison on the Board, and engineering team manager. You’ll see him getting involved in infrastructure, documentation, and distro building. He blogs at http://iquaid.org , microblogs at http://twitter.com/quaid , and is found on IRC as ‘quaid’.

Karsten lives in his hometown of Santa Cruz, CA with his wife and two daughters on their small urban farm, Fairy-Tale Farm, where they focus on growing their own food and nurturing sustainable community living. Most recently, Karsten has been a partner in a collectively-run business of people-powered transportation, Santa Cruz Pedicab, and some weekends you’ll find him taking tourists and late-nighters around downtown.