John Dickinson is one of the longest-running OpenStack project team leads. He talks about what’s next for Swift and how he keeps going.


John Dickinson has been a project team lead  (PTL) for Swift, OpenStack’s object storage service, pretty much since it took off in 2011. At the time he was working at Rackspace, since 2012 he’s been director of technology at San Francisco-based startup SwiftStack.

A frequent speaker at OpenStack Summits and meetups, you can also find him at the upcoming Boston Summit giving an update on Swift.

Dickinson offers Superuser advice for approaching PTLs and talks about how he’s lasted this long without getting winded. Spoiler alert: modesty appears to be the secret to his longevity.

You’re an example of a marathoner PTL – how do you do it?

The Swift community is great. I’ve never worked with such a talented and dedicated group of people and their support and passion is what keeps me going.

What are some of the biggest changes/advancements you’ve seen with Swift since you started?

Swift has grown from being a storage engine custom-built for a public cloud service provider into a more complete storage system that can be used for public cloud and private cloud at all scales. Swift is the best open-source object storage system available. I’m tremendously proud of what the community has produced over the last seven years.

My vision for Swift has always been for it to be used by everyone, every day. As more companies use Swift for more things, we get closer to that goal.

Significant features that we’ve written include global cluster support, storage policies, erasure coding and at-rest encryption. These are user-driven features not developed in a vacuum, but with actual use cases attached to them. That’s how we succeed in the vision. We prioritize work that users are asking for, making changes based on data, without compromising on the stability and reliability Swift is known for.

What advice do you have for new contributors approaching a PTL or project?

Being a PTL requires a different skill set than being a developer contributor. You won’t be great without practice, and you need great people around you to help out. So have a clear vision of what you want to see happen and surround yourself with good people.

How does the PTG affect your work with Swift?

Now that the PTG is over, I can reflect on the good things that happened. The best part of the PTG was spending time with my fellow Swift contributors. Not only did we get to spend time together discussing code changes, in-person gatherings are a great time to spend together as friends.

From a feature/design perspective, we made great progress at the PTG discussing some exciting features and optimizations that have been in-progress for quite some time. Some of the biggest upcoming changes in Swift are focused on optimization for larger scale deployments and features for data migration.

The PTG/Forum split is a big change to how things have been organized in the past. The PTG was successful, from my perspective and I hope the upcoming Summit in Boston will similarly be productive. I’m looking forward from hearing from the ops teams that run Swift clusters and learning from them.

Get involved!
Use Ask OpenStack for general questions about Swift or OpenStack
For Swift road map or development issues, subscribe to the OpenStack development mailing list  and use the tag [swift]
Participate in the weekly Swift meetings: Wednesdays at 21:00UTC in #openstack-meeting on freenode IRC

Get involved!
Use Ask OpenStack for general questions
For roadmap or development issues, subscribe to the OpenStack development mailing list, and use the tag [kuryr]

Participate in the meetings:

  • Every two weeks (on odd weeks) on Tuesday at 0300 UTC in #openstack-meeting-4 (IRC webclient)
  • Every two weeks (on even weeks) on Monday at 1500 UTC in #openstack-meeting-4 (IRC webclient)