“The first commit has a steep learning curve, especially if you haven’t had experience with Git, Gerrit, and the rest of the OpenStack tooling.” says HP developer Susanne Balle. “My experience has been that the community is very welcoming and always ready to help a newbie with his/her first commit.”


This post is part of the Women of OpenStack Open Mic Series to spotlight women in various roles within our community, who have helped make OpenStack successful. With each post, we will learn more about each woman’s involvement in the community and how they see the future of OpenStack taking shape. If you’d like to be featured, please email [email protected].

Susanne Balle is a distinguished technologist with HP Cloud working on platform services. She has been involved in OpenStack since the Essex OpenStack summit. Her current focus is on Neutron load-balancer-as-a-service (LBaas), Neutron Advanced Services, and Octavia.

Balle has more than 20 years of experience in the high tech industry including dealing with open source software. While working in high-performance computing, she contributed to SLURM – a scalable and high-performing open-source workload manager designed for Linux clusters of all sizes. Her areas of expertise include cloud computing, grid computing, high performance computing and distributed-memory matrix computations.

Balle lives in snowy Southern New Hampshire with her husband and two wonderful kids.

What’s your role in the OpenStack community?

In the past, I have been involved in the Content Distributed Network (CDN) and Swift, briefly in Sahara and have attended all the OpenStack Design Summits since Essex.

Currently I am focusing on Neutron LBaas V2, Neutron Advanced Services, andOctavia, an operator-grade open source scalable load balancer under development in Stackforge.

I spearheaded an ad hoc meeting at the 2014 Atlanta Summit to discuss splitting the Advanced Networking Services out of Neutron due to the lack of velocity in those services. The services were stuck and not in a good place. LBaaS was not production ready and it wasn’t clear that the current LBaaS implementation could get us there. The meeting was attended by more than 70 people, which was encouraging since that showed that people cared. We had representatives from Rackspace, BlueBox, eBay, F5, A10, and many more. It was clear that the developers working on the Advanced Networking Services were different than those working on the Neutron core, so separating the two made a lot of sense.

It took the full Juno release for us to convince the community, but in Kilo, the Advanced Networking Services’ repos are now split from the Neutron repo allowing Neutron to focus on layer 2 and 3 while the Advanced Networking Services focus on Layer 4 to 7. We are hoping that this will increase the velocity of the individual projects LBaaS, FW and VPC. We have seen a great increase in participation and velocity in the LBaaS project for Kilo.

Why do you think it’s important for women to get involved with OpenStack?

OpenStack is the driving force in open source cloud computing software and presents a huge opportunity for technologists at many levels. Having women participate in OpenStack will increase their ability to get interesting and challenging opportunities at a wide range of companies. Their participation brings more diverse thinking to the community and the resulting OpenStack platform. The benefit of participating in an open, community-driven developer community is huge. You have the sense of belonging and you work with a network of people across the globe.

What obstacles do you think women face when getting involved in the OpenStack community?

The first commit has a steep learning curve, especially if you haven’t had experience with git, gerrit, and the rest of the OpenStack tooling. My experience has been that the community is very welcoming and always ready to help a newbie with his/her first commit.

What do you think can help get women more involved with OpenStack?

I think we have to start at the root of the problem—namely that there are fewer women in engineering and computer science, which explains the smaller number of women involved in OpenStack. So getting involved at the primary and secondary education level with STEM-like activities and convincing women that technical careers are interesting and should be considered is important.

Efforts such as the Women of OpenStack group are important to help women get more involved in OpenStack.

In 2014, I was part of the committee at HP that awarded an HP OpenStack Scholarship to four very deserving women grad students. The scholarship also included some mentorship to help them through the OpenStack maze.

Of the Women of OpenStack events you have attended, which was your favorite and why?

My favorite was the breakfast event in Portland. I really enjoyed chatting with other women in OpenStack and had the opportunity to meet 70 women stackers at that event. It was a great networking opportunity.

What do you want to see out of the Women of OpenStack group in the near and distant future?

The Women of OpenStack group should be more involved at the college level and evangelize the benefits of computer science careers as well as participation in an open, community-driven developer community.

As a developer, where is your favorite place to code? How did you learn to code?

I usually write code in my office. In theory I learned how to code at university, but I really gained coding experience while writing the parallel Singular Value Decomposition (SVD) algorithm for the Connection Machine CM-5’s CMSSL math library while being a visiting scholar at Thinking Machines. That was fun!

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Cover Photo by Brian Yap // CC BY NC