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Alan Renouf
We sat down with Alan Renouf, VMware Senior Product Line Manager, to discuss his involvement in the evolving open source community at VMware. As part of the VMware vSphere and, more recently, VMware Cloud on Amazon Web Services (AWS) teams, Alan focuses on:

  • Application programmable interfaces (APIs)
  • Software development kits (SDKs)
  • Command line interfaces (CLIs)

Alan shares his perspective on the past, present and future of open source within VMware and VMware project

1. From your perspective, what is open source, and what are its benefits?

In open source, everyone contributes to make code better, because we all work on the same things trying to solve the same problems, but have different experiences. People come together to commit to projects that others are working on and to make software better as a whole, without money necessarily being the objective.

Working at VMware, this kind of culture is enabled and encouraged as part of our EPIC2 values. These core values align nicely with the execution of open source repositories, making it possible to empower our customers to better work with VMware products.

[Related: What It Means to Be a Good Open Source Citizen]

2. What does open source mean for VMware customers?

First of all, it’s important for the visibility of our product code. From the security side of things, our customers can look through the code and scan for vulnerabilities, adding that extra layer of required compliance. Secondly, it is important for our customers to understand how our software works and why our software makes certain decisions. This is absolutely key to troubleshooting in a production environment. Thirdly, everyone contributing to open source makes VMware’s software and customer implementations better. By working directly with our teams, customers give us their direct feedback and contribute back to the project.

3. What are your accomplishments with open source?

We have always had SDKs that enable developers and automation engineers to work with our APIs and programmatic interfaces of our products. Those SDKs, however, have always been behind a gated system, where one must sign in to download and use them. Giving feedback was difficult. The samples were written by VMware and only VMware, so there was no contribution by anyone else and released on a cadence with vSphere major releases. Even if the feedback did make it back to us, the customer had to wait a long time to gain the enhancements.

My role in open sourcing the SDKs was all about making the kits available to VMware’s customers and partners. Customers should be able to go to the GitHub site, clone the project or download it and be up and running with our APIs and samples within five minutes. That was a big change from what we had before, where customers would tell me it would take two months to get to that point. Providing feedback and seeing the changes go straight back into the samples—often within days—is a huge benefit for our customers and us.

4. What was so significant about open sourcing the SDKs?

There is the aspect of being able to download VMware SDKs and run it faster, but now customers are able to contribute. They are the ones coming up with samples. We already have some contributors from our customer base that have said, “I like what you’ve done here and I’ve written something similar. I’m going to add it to your repository, so now everybody else has access to that code as well.” It is great for us to enable everybody and work on the same problems together.

Internally, open sourcing our SDKs was important, because it gives our teams a better understanding of open source and how to work with modern-day development and contribution tools. It is completely different from the old model that was mostly closed and difficult to get feedback.

[Related: Integration with vSphere Using the New Open Sourced SDKs]


Alan Renouf VR

5. Since open sourcing VMware’s SDKs, what are some things that
surprised you?

Personally, I have been surprised the effort contributors make to provide their work back with the rest of the community. Take this pull request as an example. It added a number of different Postman samples to work with the new VCSA Appliance API, which was released in 6.5 and now enables people to easily understand and view samples on working with this API in REST. Awesome work!

6. How does VMware’s commitment to open source effect VMware’s products?

Open source dramatically increases the relevance of VMware’s products. I believe open source products get much closer to a product that people want to consume, as the contributors have a hand in making the software. If they don’t like the way things work or find that it doesn’t quite fulfill their use case, customers can easily adjust the open source project to enhance it and add features or code that enable the project to meet that extra use case. VMware products can only get better for the users and more relevant to their day to day jobs because of open source.

7. Any pointers for someone trying to get involved with VMware’s open source projects?

I would say look at the VMware GitHub repositories. Become a community member. Start committing, adding and giving back to these repositories. VMware employees and customer
often have great knowledge about how our products work. If you see some code or documentation on a site that looks incorrect or could be done more efficiently, submit a change and educate the community on why you are making that change. Dip your toe in the water. Believe me, it’s warm and leads to a beautiful ocean!

Make the code better for you and the entire VMware community of people like you.


Follow Alan Renouf on Twitter @AlanRenouf

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More VMware Open Source blogs by Alan Renouf: