Which groups in OpenStack do User Experience designers influence today?

Before I jump into blog posts about OpenStack user experience requirements, designs, and user testing, I wanted to start with some level setting and explain some of the groups that have been a focus in the user experience space.


–User Experience–

To start, let me give a quick introduction to the way user experience design currently works within OpenStack. How do we as user experience professionals work within the OpenStack community? Today, we work very closely with the Horizon and TripleO/Tuskar teams. We attend the weekly IRC meetings, participate in feature requirement discussions, register blueprints, report bugs, design wireframes for new features, and test existing features with users.

User experience isn’t an official program in OpenStack, but a few of us have started to form a team around the efforts in the UX space. We now have an Ask OpenStack UX site where we house design discussions. Weekly, we send out an update to the mailing list on the current topics that are being discussed. As a group we are continuously improving our processes. We are discussing the option of moving to and using the StoryBoard tool that Thierry Carrez proposed at the Hong Kong summit.

How could you contribute to the user experience effort in OpenStack? Join us in discussions on Ask OpenStack UX, share your wireframes, give your feedback as an OpenStack user, or simply give your thoughts on how we could improve our way of working. You can find us in #openstack-ux on Freenode if you’d like to chat.



As I mentioned in my first blog post, Horizon is where I jumped into the OpenStack world. This is the only user interface that is currently shipped with the core OpenStack product and it seems obvious to me that others will have the same experience. The Horizon Dashboard gives the user a visual way to perform basic OpenStack tasks like spinning up an Instance and assigning that instance a floating IP. Of course, the user can do these things from the command line interface (CLI), but the UI is where most of the user experience work that has been done so far has been focused.

The Horizon development team is a great bunch to work with and are extremely supportive of making sure this component has great user experience design. Currently, Horizon only supports the other core components, but develoeprs are welcomed to add plugins to Horizon for components they are working on outside of the core.

There are a few options that I know about for quickly getting access to a running version of Horizon if you’d like to poke around and test things out.

1. trystack.org – You can get a free account by joining their Facebook group. Once you’ve been added to the group, simply use your Facebook credentials for authentication and you’ll be able to view the Horizon UI.

2. stacklab.org – This is another quick way to get access to Horizon to poke around.

3. If you are feeling brave and would like to get your own environment up and running — Spin up a RHEL-based Linux distro in a VM and run through the RDO Quick Start guide.

4. Another way to get a development environment up and running would be to use DevStack.

If you are interested in jumping into the development or review side of Horizon, feel free to come to one of our weekly meetings on IRC to get a feel for what we are working on today. Also, getting started with Horizon can be done by following the quick start instructions.



In my introductory post, I mentioned that I quickly realized that installation and deployment are big areas in which the usability of OpenStack could be improved. TripleO and Tuskar work together to tackle just this.

TripleO is a program aimed at installing, upgrading and operating OpenStack clouds using OpenStack’s own cloud facilities as the foundations – building on nova, neutron and heat to automate fleet management at data center scale. (https://wiki.openstack.org/wiki/TripleO)

It’s a bit of a mind bending concept, but I highly recommend watching Robert Collins’ talk from the Portland OpenStack Summit. Although TripleO continues to evolve with each release, I found this talk to be a great introduction.



We haven’t worked on any user experience designs specifically for TripleO, but this is where Tuskar comes into play.

Tuskar gives administrators the ability to control how and where OpenStack services are deployed across the data center. Using Tuskar, administrators divide hardware into “resource classes” that allow predictable elastic scaling as cloud demands grow. This resource orchestration allows Tuskar users to ensure SLAs, improve performance, and maximize utilization across the data center. (https://wiki.openstack.org/wiki/TripleO/Tuskar)

Tuskar has recently combined efforts with the TripleO program and is bringing a user interface into the mix. Although there are huge discussions currently taking place about the requirements for the Icehouse release of Tuskar working with TripleO, a demo of the initial concepts shown at the Hong Kong Summit can be seen here.

Ultimately, TripleO and Tuskar will work together to provide a community solution for installing and deploying an OpenStack environment solving a huge need for the end users of OpenStack!




Categories: Introduction, OpenStack, User Experience


  • Everett Toews

    When you say “…installing and deploying an OpenStack environment solving a huge need for the end users of OpenStack!” you seem to imply that the operators deploying OpenStack are the end users of OpenStack. I’d say that the true end users of OpenStack are the application developers building solutions on top of OpenStack and the operators who are deploying those applications. The operators installing, deploying, and maintaining an OpenStack environment are intermediaries.

    It’s the application developers and operators that need to be at the forefront when considering user experience.

  • Everett Toews

    I’d also like to ask why you started your own Ask OpenStack UX site?

    Why not just use a particular tag on https://ask.openstack.org/ ?

    It’s always much better to work within the OpenStack community and support the initiatives going on there. I’d encourage you to move towards using ask.openstack.org instead.

  • lizsurette@yahoo.com

    Hi Everett,

    Thanks very much for taking the time to read through this post and for giving your thoughts.

    First off, I should have been a bit clearer in my statement, “…installing and deploying an OpenStack environment solving a huge need for the end users of OpenStack!” There are a lot of different users of the OpenStack product and in this case I was referring to the OpenStack administrator. I do agree with you that the application developers and operators are a main set of users that we need to focus on while designing the OpenStack product. You will find that a lot of the work we do in the Horizon space has a focus on this type of user. A post that I’d like to tackle soon is around the continuing work that we’re doing in the OpenStack space on identifying our users and creating Personas, so be on the look out for more information and discussion in that space.

    As for starting our own Ask OpenStack UX site…we were trying to figure out the best tool to use to have design discussion threads. We started with a G+ community which ended up being difficult for following some of the lengthy discussions. We definitely wanted to work within the community on all of the topics we were discussing, but we were a bit afraid that using the [UX] tag on ask.openstack.org wouldn’t be enough for these discussions to stay at the top of the list for designers. These design discussions seem to last a bit longer and have a different focus from what I’ve seen on the overall Ask site. With this being said, we are continuously evolving and improving to use what is best for the UX group and the community. We’ve been talking a lot lately about being one of the first teams to try out the StoryBoard tool that was discussed during the Summit in Hong Kong. Hopefully we can help drive some requirements as this tool evolves for everyone in the community.

    Again, thanks for the discussion on these items.


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