Turnover of Companies in OpenStack: Prevalence and Rationale

This paper examines the withdrawal behaviour of corporate contributors to OpenStack, which seems particularly relevant given most contributions in OpenStack are corporately supported, and corporate engagement is declining over time. Its also directly relevant to my own experiences contributing to the project, so seemed like a thing I should read.

One interesting aspect of the study is how they define withdrawal from contributions. For each company, they calculate an individual frequency of contribution, and then use that to determine if the company is still making contributions. That is, of a company only ever contributed once a year, we must wait at least a year to know that they have indeed stopped contributing.

The paper finds that in more recent OpenStack releases, more companies are leaving contributions than joining. The authors assert that in general engaged developers are now less experienced than previously, which presents risks in terms of developer effectiveness as well as code quality. However, the paper does note that companies with smaller contributions are more likely to disengage than “sustaining companies”, however that’s largely because there are a huge number of companies contributing only one developer who makes a small number of commits.

Unsurprisingly, the paper notes that companies which contribute more are more likely remain as contributors — both because of momentum, but also because they’re more likely to have a say in the roadmap direction of the project and therefore whether it fits their needs or priorities. They use some loaded words like “dominated by a small number of contributors”, but I don’t think that’s really helpful given that other companies could choose to contribute if they wanted to. I think some of this behaviour is what I would call “rent seeking” — players who contribute little but think that the project somehow owes them changes to make their commercialisation successful. The researchers also note an additional factor here — OpenStack isn’t well suited to small environments, so larger organizations are more likely to have a successful deployment and therefore stay as contributors.

Overall I’d describe this paper as not particularly groundbreaking, but perhaps useful when trying to decide what behaviour to encourage in an Open Source community in order to make a project sustainable.

On-demand Container Loading in AWS Lambda

My team at work now has a daily personal learning time called “egg time” — its a slightly silly story involving a manager who was good at taking some time to learn things each day, and an egg shaped chair.

Today I decided that I should read this paper about container image loading in AWS lambda, as recommended by Robert Collins on LinkedIn. The paper details the work they had to do to transition from all Lambda functions being packaged as relatively small zip files (250mb), to relatively large Docker containers (10gb+) while maintaining their aggressive target cold-start time of 50ms.

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The Accidental Time Machine

Joe Haldeman does good work, and in general I have really liked his books. They’re easy to read, fun, and interesting. Better than that, they’re all quite different in the topics they cover, so he’s not in a rut. The only exceptions have been There Is No Darkness, which wasn’t very good and Forever Free, which I thought was lazily plotted. This book is no exception to the rule, and I really enjoyed it. One theme to Joe’s work that I am noticing is that the “sex scenes” are always anti-climatic, which is interesting to note.

I’d like to have heard more about the One Year War, but there is scope for that to be another separate book. I don’t think this book suffers from the lack of coverage, and its mostly tangentially interesting because I’d like to see how a society transforms itself in that way.

The Accidental Time Machine Book Cover The Accidental Time Machine
Joe Haldeman
July 29, 2008

NOW IN PAPERBACK-FROM THE AUTHOR OF MARSBOUND Grad- school dropout Matt Fuller is toiling as a lowly research assistant at MIT when he inadvertently creates a time machine. With a dead-end job and a girlfriend who left him for another man, Matt has nothing to lose in taking a time-machine trip himself-or so he thinks.

Nerd link of the day

If you’re an ACM member, or read ACM transactions on computer systems, or have a corporate membership to the ACM portal, then you really should checkout Inferring Internet denial-of-service activity. It’s a surprisingly simple method of determining how common denial of service attacks really are on the Internet. Like all good ideas, it’s also really obvious once it’s been pointed out.

     author = {David Moore and Colleen Shannon and Douglas J. Brown and Geoffrey M. Voelker and Stefan Savage},
     title = {Inferring Internet denial-of-service activity},
     journal = {ACM Trans. Comput. Syst.},
     volume = {24},
     number = {2},
     year = {2006},
     issn = {0734-2071},
     pages = {115--139},
     doi = {http://doi.acm.org/10.1145/1132026.1132027},
     publisher = {ACM Press},
     address = {New York, NY, USA},