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Great team!

Hey there, this is Suresh Kumar Anaparti, from Hyderabad, India. I was born and brought up in the “City of Destiny” (Visakhapatnam) and moved to the “City of Pearls” (Hyderabad) to start my IT career. My personal interests are playing video games, watching movies (mainly crime and thrillers), bike rides, long drives, travel, gardening and playing with my kid! I have been a tea lover since I was a teenager, and I enjoy spending time with friends and sharing a cup of tea with them. I joined ShapeBlue some months ago and wanted to share my initial thoughts on the work and culture here.

I graduated in Computer Science and started my Software Engineering career in my early twenties. My first job assignment was on a defence warfare system and mainly in geospatial technology – work I am proud of and enjoyed a lot at the beginning of my career. Here, I was recognized by the Scientists at Defence Laboratory for my solo efforts towards the advanced GIS (Geographic Information Systems) features integration in the system, thereafter tagged “GIS” to my name and started calling myself “GIS Suresh”. After a few years, when the development work in the project was completed, I transitioned to a new role at Verizon, where I learnt about VoIP (Voice over IP) technology in the telecommunications sector. Here, I gained extensive knowledge on VoIP protocols, worked on the underlying server-side products and developed patented functionality in one of the protocols. Later, I moved to Avaya to continue working with VoIP, this time on the client-side and security products. I gained some experience in the applications development using the desktop clouds and VMware products while working in the telecommunications industry, both at Verizon and Avaya, for a decade.

As I was keen to know more about cloud technology and its evolution as a next-gen platform, I choose to step into the cloud world and joined Citrix. it was here I started working on Citrix CloudPlatform, and joined and started contributing to the Apache CloudStack community. Whilst working with Apache CloudStack, I got know the community and culture, and interacted on various issues through mailing lists, PRs (Pull Requests), etc. I was part of the ApacheCon event in 2018 and 2019, and presented some talks for improving CloudStack. This was my first open-source experience and I really enjoyed working in the community. I contributed some PRs on VMware hypervisor related improvements, volumes, snapshots, etc., and also addressed user and developer queries in the mailing lists, for which I was recently honoured by being made a committer to the project. I didn’t have much time for community participation or contribution in my last role, and one of the reasons I liked ShapeBlue is that they actively encourage their team to engage with the CloudStack community and increase contributions towards Apache CloudStack.

Beginning at ShapeBlue

My onboarding here at ShapeBlue was very smooth. On the very first day, Rohit (who I had known for some time in the community) took me through the onboarding process, introduced the team, shared development procedures, and spoke about the culture here. For the first week I was busy setting up accounts, looking into onboarding documents, acquainting myself with the process, etc., but then I was immediately able to start work on new feature scoping and development work as I already had good knowledge of CloudStack. The team has been there to help me whenever necessary on process and to answer any questions.

I was trained in the support process after a few weeks, and when ready I was able to start dealing with support tickets and resolving customer issues. I have also taken up some in-house assignments (other than participating in the community activities and PR reviews), such as working on the Primate UI, (which meant some quick learning on VueJS), and I’m very glad to have worked on the PowerFlex / ScaleIO project integrating a new storage plugin for CloudStack.

Initially I was a bit worried about remote working. It was for the first time in my career – would it be too challenging to work from home all the time? However, the team here is very open, cooperative and vibrant, which helped me acclimatize to the remote working culture quickly (and of course the world is working remotely now due to COVID-19).

The team structure is flat, and although the hours are flexible, it is better to maintain some core hours so as to interact and collaborate with other team members who are working from other parts of the globe. We generally communicate through the Slack channel and we have regular sync up calls with colleagues, mentors and the wider team. The weekly ‘all staff’ video call provides a chance to see everyone face-to-face in MS Teams (with smiling faces in ‘together mode’!) and share official and personal updates. Every month there is a one-to-one meeting with the CEO (Giles Sirett) to discuss ongoing work, issues or concerns being faced with anything / anyone professionally and personally. One thing I noticed here is that the feedback resolution turnaround time is very quick. This is one of the best teams I have worked with in my career.

Even though the team couldn’t meet in person this year to celebrate its annual event (ShapeBlueCon) due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the knowledge sharing sessions were still continued through ‘Virtual ShapeBlueCon’, which helped me and everyone in the company to gain more insights into CloudStack and to hear about company policies and business. The tools, technologies and processes followed in-house are on a par with top-notch global companies, and the way the company works is the way it should be.

Overall, I’m very happy to be part of ShapeBlue, and I’m looking forward to other in-house assignments and more contribution to Apache CloudStack.

Take care, and stay safe!

Hello all, I’m Harikrishna, and I’m based in Hyderabad, India. I joined ShapeBlue few months ago and I’m very happy to be part of this amazing team.

I started my career with CloudStack as a fresher when it was just incubating to Apache from version 3.x to 4.0, and it was very exciting to be part of a project which had only just been open-sourced. I initially worked on features like VM access reset, dynamic scaling resources of a running VM, and Citrix XenDesktop integration with CloudStack, and it has now been over 7 years since I started working on Apache CloudStack. I was made a committer in March 2015 which made me responsible for my technical contributions and helping users and developers on the CloudStack mailing lists.

On the personal side I love the most to go hiking and camping which I’m missing pretty badly due to the COVID-19 pandemic situation. I also love to do some basic cooking and gardening, at least which makes my life lovable.

Joining ShapeBlue and coming back to the community

I’ve worked with CloudStack since the start of my career, and I have always loved working in an open source project, being an active member of the community, helping users, and being part of discussions. I enjoy the release process and contributing features and fixes to the project.

This process and culture got diluted a bit for me after moving between companies and working on private versions of CloudStack, but after joining ShapeBlue I was happy to return to the community. I must say I’m excited and impressed with my colleagues vast knowledge, and also the processes and procedures in ShapeBlue which are very well structured. The best part of the company is the open-source, community driven process of development and the complete team here works towards that.

In the early days I worked on existing issues and PRs (pull requests) and later jumped into a large and very interesting project developing VMware vSphere advanced features for CloudStack. With this I’ve got an opportunity to touch every workflow involved with VMware vSphere in CloudStack, and I was delighted to be given this opportunity as it gave me more scope to learn and exciting challenges to enjoy my work here even more. Also, it is always fun to learn new technologies with respect to different storage types and new features in vSphere. Needless to say I do get all the helping hands whenever I’m blocked or need some guidance.

After a while I joined the support team, providing 24/7 support for our customers on their issues or questions which is another interesting task. I started getting to know real production issues, and solving them gives me immense pleasure. This makes me more conscious when working on features or bug fixes which is a good in terms of producing quality work.

The challenge here is remote working, and I wondered how a whole, distributed team could work remotely and deliver such a quality work in the community and to our customers. To be frank, that was a concern to me, but I quickly realized this works very well and can be more productive, and I started enjoying working this way. We use various different tools to stay in touch, and the Slack channel is always busy with people discussing various aspects of their work and personal lives. I feel like people are always around! The team is spread across the world in different time zones, and this makes the Slack channel active all the time. People here are very open and helpful, and one can ping anyone directly or in the general channel, at any time and on any topic. Our bespoke lab infrastructure is a great resource with respect to building new environments, packaging, etc., and helps me to focus on actual work instead of worrying about process.

It has been fantastic time so far with ShapeBlue and I’m enjoying the job, be it technical or social with my amazing colleagues. Working with a flatly structured team and an open-source project gives special advantages like getting genuine feedback from real users and developers, which helps in viewing the code from everyone’s angle making it a lot better, and getting the necessary help required. Overall, it is a new way to work for me, and I am looking forward to my next challenge.

Hi, my name is Vladimir Petrov and I am a Software Test Engineer at ShapeBlue. I started 10 months ago and have now been here long enough to share my ‘first impressions’ with you.

Let me start with some background. I have been involved with computers since I was 10 years old, and I started my professional career as a system administrator 20 years ago, switching to Quality Assurance (QA) 3 years later. I worked for several different companies (big ones like SAP and small startups); tried different industries (finance, e-commerce, communications) and different roles (manual and automation QA, team lead and Quality Manager). What I really like in my job is that it has so many different aspects: functional, security, performance, stress, usability, and other types of testing. It also requires knowledge of many different technologies and tools – you constantly need to learn new things.

Not everything is work though – I have many hobbies for my free time: reading, guitar playing, video gaming, photography, electronics and sports. My family is the most important thing in my life – I have two boys and we really love spending time together.

I am a big fan of open source software and the communities that surround it (I’ve been using Linux since before Windows was even a thing). Therefore, I was really interested when one day a friend of mine told me that the company he works for is hiring, and that they are major contributors to an open source project. This is how I found ShapeBlue. I did not have enough experience in cloud technologies, so I saw it as a nice opportunity to expand my knowledge in the area, and after several talks and interviews with the management I joined the company. This was a real game-changer for me having never worked remotely before, and I wondered if it would work for me. I knew I’d miss the conversations, the office atmosphere, working together in a team with colleagues and the friendships you develop during the process. It turned out the benefits of working from wherever you want far outweigh the drawbacks. Having full control of your working environment is priceless – less distractions from others’ conversations and usual office noises, no more negotiations about the A/C temperature settings, avoiding viruses during the flu season, listening to your kind of music while working… and many more positives. If the weather is fine, you can work from a coffee shop, park or even the seashore. Flexible working time is also very convenient – you can run some errands or even take a break when needed and then continue with your work later in the evening.

The first six months in a new company is always very challenging – but also the most interesting. You meet many new people, learn a lot, and even make new friendships. It was a pleasant surprise that all my colleagues are very friendly and ready to help. ShapeBlue also offers dedicated in-house initial training which makes learning faster. Sometimes, there are decisions to be made and you feel like a part of a big family when you initiate a discussion with your colleagues and reach a final agreement together. It is very easy to forget the physical distances and cultural differences when you work together to reach a common goal. It’s being a part of an international team of different people working from all around the globe makes this experience so unique.

My first testing project was the new Apache CloudStack UI (Primate) and it was a great experience to compare with the old one and realize how much it was being improved and then to see the reactions of the community when the first demo was presented. This is the thing I find the most motivating – everything you do stays forever in the open source community. Some of the projects I have worked on in my previous jobs were dropped because the market did not accept them, and some of the companies even went out of business – meaning all the time you invested working on a project turns out to be useless. This is not the case when contributing to the community – and you really feel like you have left a small trace in the world of the software technologies.

Stay tuned for more insights and choose open source solutions wherever you can!

Why Alex Mattioli, former Director of Architecture for a global telecoms giant, chose to join ShapeBlue

Hello, I’m Alexandre Mattioli – a Cloud Architect at ShapeBlue. After a few months working here I’d like to share some views.

Originally from Rio De Janeiro, Brazil, I moved to Europe in my mid-twenties in order to pursue a PhD at Imperial College, London. With that done I worked for quite a few years in software development in London, Belgrade and remotely throughout the continent. After a few years I decided to move to infrastructure, so I quit my job, got myself a bunch of routers and switches and started studying networking and infrastructure. Once I had (or thought I had) enough knowledge I started my next journey, working in all kinds of companies. These included property management portals, trading, news and media, finally “settling” in a large telecoms business (GTT Communications), where I worked as a Cloud Architect, Chief Architect and finally Director of Architecture, leading a team responsible for the design and implementation of its cloud and edge products.

In my early days working as a cloud architect I was given the task of finding a suitable replacement for GTT’s cloud orchestration software, and after some investigation and testing, we decided on Apache CloudStack. During that process I ran into ShapeBlue, who we engaged with to provide consultancy on this new platform, and later technical support and development of new features. During that period, I worked extensively with ShapeBlue on new features, bug fixes and upgrades. We also collaborated in many meetups and conferences, during which I had the opportunity and pleasure to meet many ShapeBlue staff.

After all those years of collaboration, changes of focus in my role, acquisition of my previous employer by another company and my subsequent departure, I got a message from Giles Sirret, Shapeblue’s CEO and a friend from all those years. During that time I was always very impressed with ShapeBlue’s capability and professionalism, having never regretted the decision to choose them as the development and support partner for CloudStack. So, when I met Giles for a coffee and a chat, which quickly morphed into a job offer I definitely couldn’t pass on, I joined my old partners and friends at ShapeBlue.

The transition into ShapeBlue was relatively smooth, surely helped by already knowing many people well in the company. Nevertheless, I was also made very welcome by those I had not met before. The completely distributed nature of the company, with home-based working and with most communication done online was something to get used to, and moving from a more traditional, office-based company with more than 3,000 people to one a little smaller took some adjustment! With that said, most of the adjustment has been positive, with way less red tape to get through in order to get things done.

Over the years my roles had become increasingly about product development and team management, and a bit less hands-on the technology, especially in the past couple of years. For a while I have been missing more and more the hands-on aspect of being a technologist. Joining ShapeBlue has given me the opportunity to be more “spread in the stack”, quickly getting involved in customer projects, strategy, and trouble-shooting.

CloudStack provides quite a lot of flexibility on how networks are deployed and managed, and in my previous job we were able to leverage this ability and create a software defined MPLS core, allowing IAAS customers to create and manage their own global IPVPN VRFs. This would have been incredibly difficult and time consuming were it not for CloudStack’s networking capabilities. Now at ShapeBlue I have the very exciting opportunity to take this a few steps further, leveraging Cloudstack in the deployment of SD-WANs and other types of software defined networks. This also opens up the possibility of expanding CloudStack into more distributed and varied network topologies, allowing it to enable the orchestration and management of not only Cloud infrastructure, but also remote infrastructure at the Edge.

It’s great to be more involved with the technology again, and great to have the opportunity to getting my hands back on it!

Hi – David Jumani here, maybe just a typical software engineer so far…

I studied Computer Science and Engineering, and after graduation I worked at some of the biggest virtualization and networking companies (such as Vmware, Cisco and General Electric) developing cloud and on-premise applications, such as an incident co-relation engine (from which relationships can be drawn from monitoring events); breaking monoliths into microservices, and creating an entirely new Object Relationship Mapping in Go. I also had some exposure on the infrastructure side – creating resilient, self-healing systems, as well as self-aware, self-balancing mechanisms for applications across datacenters. I have always been interested in Machine Learning, and during a hackathon I developed an analytic engine to identify potential at-risk students based on their search history, as well as a program that learns to write programs (cue the ‘Inception’ theme music).

Well that’s the technical side – so a little about me. Everyone has that thing that makes them think that they’re special, and mine is that I’m a national level Rugby player. I live in Bangalore, dislike coffee and I tend to show affection through insults! I also enjoy trekking and going on long rides – I guess you could say I love adventure. However – if you think that adventure is dangerous, try routine. Having worked for most of my career so far on application development, I thought it was time for a change, and that’s when a friend of mine suggested ShapeBlue.

Starting at the interview stage things were quite different from what I had been used to. Rather than asking about the solution to a problem ShapeBlue were more interested in my approach to solving a problem, and listening, either to my thinking aloud or my early feedback, and then kept pushing me for even better solutions. This turned out to be a great introduction as that’s how we work now that I’m in.

After a painful wait for the offer, the training was intuitive, hands-on and challenging, learning about the technology that ShapeBlue focuses on – Apache Cloudstack – by working on mock features. This gave me a pretty solid understanding of CloudStack by getting straight into the code rather than just a month of more typical, theoretical training. I also had a mentor (that’s you Rohit), who would guide but not spoon-feed me, since the point was for me to learn and understand for myself.

So that’s how I got in, but that was just the beginning. To me, the most important thing about enjoying a job is the environment, and ShapeBlue has that spot on. You can disturb anyone, even Giles (the CEO – also a rugby fan), to ask them the simplest of questions, or ask for feedback. Now you might be thinking “Yeah, that sounds great, but this interaction is all via computer! You don’t get to see them or meet them! Isn’t working remotely kinda lonely?” I might have agreed, but we have methods to combat this, such as live chat (we use Slack), which is not only a great resource for technical conversation, but also a source of entertainment and occasional banter, and our weekly all staff video call, where we get to see each other and talk about what we’ve been up to the past week (not your usual stand-up). These diversions and regular contact with colleagues is especially welcome during the lockdown. The atmosphere is just like a start-up and neither age nor seniority creates any barriers.

With all that hype you might think that it’s perfect, but it’s not all easy! Taking on an entirely new feature and starting development from the ground up can be quite challenging but calm seas never made skilled sailors… and it has truly been challenging. I’ve learned about stuff I’ve never heard of before and moved from implementing small bug fixes to developing entirely new features for customers and the community. The development process is very thorough – we scope the entire feature before even a single line of code has been written, and start with an internal kick-off where we go into deep detail about the feature, as well as planned calls for code review, updates, to get better clarity, and feedback so that what we develop is exactly what is required. We also have a good review system and can ping anyone to help us or review our work.

In the past few months, I’ve learned a lot about hypervisors, their internal workings, strengthened my understanding of networking, and come up with creative ways to solve problems. I’ve worked on creating an entirely new way to remotely access a guest console, tweaking Linux networking to support new customer requirements, tried my hand at dynamic resource scheduling, and even dabbled in the new Cloudstack UI (Primate).

It’s been a rush the past few months, but I wouldn’t have it any other way… and I hope that it keeps getting better! I’m looking forward to pushing my limits even further, taking on greater challenges, and becoming a better engineer.

Hey there, my name is Pearl d’Silva, and I have recently joined ShapeBlue as a Software Engineer. I’d like to share my ‘two-cents’ and tell you about my experience at ShapeBlue so far…

Having graduated with a degree in Electronics and Communication, I developed a professional inclination towards communication and networking on distributed systems, and I was quite fortunate to work in these fields as a campus recruit. I then worked in various areas that spanned across cloud computing, software defined networking, Network Management and Cloud automation and orchestration, before taking up a role as an Automation Engineer in my next company. However, after 3 years in the industry, I realised that there was something missing, and eventually began looking for an opportunity that was challenging and provided larger scope to learn. That’s when I came across ShapeBlue! At first, I was apprehensive about working in a ‘distributed office’ environment, but the job turned out to be a perfect match. As unfamiliar as this concept (distributed office) seemed to me, the hiring process was also unique, and as I was introduced to the various stages of the hiring process I realized that this place was different – in a GOOD way! The year 2019 ended on a high note when I was offered a job at the company.

ShapeBlue spend all their time working on an opensource project: Apache Cloudstack. Delving into the CloudStack world was pretty smooth – the initial weeks of training with my ShapeBlue mentor easing me into the whole process. These first few weeks were also all about getting my hands dirty and understanding how to develop features in CloudStack, whilst gaining an understanding of how it works as both a user and a developer. This process of getting the feel of CloudStack and understanding the various concepts is nicely put together in “The Hackerbook” – a structured training guide specifically for developers new to CloudStack, and tailored for ShapeBlue. I also sat in on a CloudStack Bootcamp training course to understand the various use-cases of CloudStack, and one couldn’t ask for any better way to get introduced to a project that so vast and elaborate! All aspects of the technology are covered, but it’s definitely an ongoing learning experience – making it all the more fun. Apart from being introduced to the technical aspects, this training period gave me a chance to understand the various company processes in place. It’s amazing to see the team collaborate and help each other out, and it doesn’t for a minute feel like we are dispersed across the globe.

Having worked here for a few months and interacted with the team every day, I am truly astounded not only by their level of knowledge but also by their level of patience with ‘newbies’! Being new to this technology, everything seems to be a mammoth task, but they just make it seem so simple, and are never too busy to answer questions and provide guidance. Every day brings a new opportunity to learn.

Having completed the training, I have officially started working on CloudStack with customer and in-house projects, and every task unveils a new dimension of CloudStack. So much learnt, so much more to learn… ShapeBlue is truly a place for an individual who yearns to learn and get out of their comfort zone. It’s rare to have the opportunity to work in areas that interest you when part of a large organization, but here at Shapeblue we get to work on every aspect of the lifecycle of a product. I’ve only been here a short time, but it has given me a lot of perspective and insight into being a better engineer.

And to top it all, there’s no dearth of fun; Slack is our medium to connect for day to day chat and stay in touch, and apart from the usual “intellectual” talk, there’s a lot of other fun stuff that happens here. People pulling each other’s legs, sharing stuff they’ve been up to, talking about their pets… and our weekly ‘all staff’ video call to get a little bit of face time. You don’t feel like you are in a different city, let alone country, or even better, continent!

All in all, it has been a challenging (but what’s fun without a wee bit of challenge every day) and fun experience, and I hope to continue to learn more every day, and continue to contribute to the team and the community.

Hello all, this is Abhishek Kumar, currently the newest member of the ShapeBlue family. It’s been over a month since I started working as a Software Engineer on Apache CloudStack at ShapeBlue, and I’m here to tell you about how it’s gone.

2019 has been an exciting year for me as I moved from the application development domain to infrastructure development. I always knew it will be a challenging task but also a rewarding one.

The beginning

It was last year that I moved to Gurugram, India, to work for a major med-tech company dealing with navigated intra-operative products. Prior to that, I’d been freelancing as a desktop and mobile application developer. Moving to Gurugram meant getting back in touch with some of the friends and batchmates from college who were already living and working in the city. Late last year one of these friends suggested to me the idea of applying to ShapeBlue, the company he had been working at for a number of years. I had previously heard about ShapeBlue and Apache Cloudstack from him, and I was interested in how the company works with a distributed team and how they contribute to open-source while delivering for their customers – they are community leaders in a sense. Initially I was quite unsure as I had never worked on something like this but after some deliberation, I decided to go through the compact yet effective hiring process of ShapeBlue. It involved two interviews, a coding challenge and a knowledge test on a subject that was chosen because they KNEW it was new to me (they were testing my ability to pick up new concepts very quickly). The whole process only took a week or so before I was hired as a Software Engineer at ShapeBlue!

The learning

This was my first experience of being a developer with infrastructure software and working as part of a large, open-source project. To be honest, to start with, everything was a bit overwhelming as it was mostly new to me – and the people I’m working with are probably the champions of the field. Within this first month, I’ve transitioned from C++ to Java, and have learned complex concepts of networking topologies, hypervisors and many other new subjects. I’ve not only been learning the fundamentals of the Apache Cloudstack project and working on customer projects but I’m also starting to contribute to the open-source community. A large part of this learning can be credited to the awesome training program that ShapeBlue provides for a new joinee. It is a very well-structured training course (called the “hackerbook”) that constitutes several chapters that explain a particular topic and then require the trainee to do some coding exercises to test the acquired knowledge. During the training period, a mentor is assigned to the trainee to clear any doubts, review progress and even have 1-2-1 sessions on complex topics. This contrasts with what I’ve experienced with previous employers and most programmers experience as well, where they are given access to a codebase and some limited documentation and left to figure things out on their own.

The challenges

As expected there have been a number of challenges. Moving from developing consumer-centric small applications to working on massive, complex infrastructure orchestration software would never have been easy. Then there are always those regular things one faces when moving to a new job: onboarding on company infra, learning new services and technologies to do daily tasks, following new practices & policies, etc. With Apache Cloudstack being an open-source project, it adds another dimension as it is not just your own organization but the larger community that you are dealing with.

Apart from the technical aspect I also find the social aspect of onboarding with a new organization a bit testing personally. Being a reserved, quiet, person, gelling with new people isn’t always easy for me. However, over the last month at ShapeBlue I can safely say that all these have been exciting challenges. While the technical aspects were taken care of with well-structured training, the social aspect took care of itself due the intrinsic flat organizational structure at ShapeBlue where everyone has equal say and has the freedom to communicate with anybody else in the company irrespective of their position.

The joy

I have liked being able to jump between my training course and real-world customer facing development. I was able to use the concepts I learned, during this period, in the customer project I’m working on. Within this short span of time, even though I don’t have the expertise that my team has, I still feel like I can make a contribution to the project we are working on. I can still participate in the development of new features for customers and contribute to open-source community to some extent.

Conclusions

My time so far at ShapeBlue has been nothing less than amazing! I could not wish for a better mix of challenges and rewards. Most days I do have to work hard to make sense of a very large codebase or some complex network concepts, but with enough effort, I can work my way through and go home satisfied. Being a software developer in the infrastructure domain can be challenging and learning to become a better and more efficient one might be even harder, but so far, I’m enjoying this job and loving this journey with my new work family: ShapeBlue!

Anurag Awasthi shares his experiences after one month in the ShapeBlue Engineering team

Let me start by briefly introducing myself. I hold a bachelors and master’s in computer science and engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur. I have been working in technology for more than 5 years now and have had the privilege of working with some world class scientists and engineers at various organizations. Some of my past employers are Microsoft Research Redmond, Pocketgems Inc, and Twitter Inc. During this time, I have strived to be a generalist and explore full stack development in a consumer-focused product development. In my free time I enjoy going on hikes, camping, painting and I experiment cooking different cuisines.

In late 2017, after spending 5 years in a heavy consumer focused product development, I wanted to expand my horizons, so I worked on my own startup to explore the world of cloud computing. It worked with moderate success for some time before I ran into an old friend of mine who had now become a PMC member in Apache CloudStack. That’s when I first heard of ShapeBlue – a company which was working very actively and contributing directly to the open source community of Apache CloudStack. The company works in distributed teams and is working with some big names in the industry as its customers. It sounded a little too good to be true. I had an interview with the company, and it became obvious that the subtitle of the company “the Cloud Specialists” wasn’t just a sales pitch but accurately reflected the true horsepower of expertise that the company carried. I saw incredible opportunities to grow technically and peers to learn from, and I joined within 4 days of the interview!

Having spent a little more than a month at the company I think I have reached a place where I can provide a comparison between a company focusing on opensource community development vs. a big name private company focusing on proprietary software. I will also try to highlight some of the pros and cons of working full time in a distributed company such as ShapeBlue. Two primary things that any engineering focused person would be concerned about are the development process (challenges, rewards, etc) and team environment (interactions with peers, support and expectations, etc).

Development Process

Overall, there are many similarities between the development process in an open source project and a traditional organization. A feature begins with a feature request that needs to be presented in a specific format, followed by discussions on proposed solutions, implementation, code reviewer approval and merge. The difference lies in the challenges that arise due to challenges with communication between collaborating parties, and time consumed because of a globally distributed team.

Technologies involved in an open source project are truly diverse, and multiple choices are available at each stage of a feature’s development. Naturally, each choice comes with its own challenges as one is responsible for the due-diligence work. ShapeBlue has its own CI test environment and test engineers, but the community as a whole does not have a fixed approach to testing. As one is directly contributing to the community project, the necessity of one’s own due diligence and initiative cannot be emphasized enough. Even for a simple task such as machine setup, one needs to explore options and wisely set up a preferred system for development. This is unlike a larger organization, which mostly would have a pre-tested and often pre-configured system ready for development, and managed by a separate IT department. This becomes a fun experience on its own when one jumps into development of an open source project that touches a multitude of system components like CloudStack. I started on a MacBook, but very soon switched to ThinkPad / Ubuntu because of the better community support available on the latter platform and the limit of RAM on Macbooks.

The Apache Way

Each Apache project community has its own set of principles and are determined by the Apache way! Since it’s not just managers controlling the flow of a project, feature development is usually slower than private development too. Each discussion requires genuine intentions and effort to be heard, and the necessary feedback from the community. This can be frustrating for the impatient ones, but following the discussions in turn brings in new learnings. It also means that any feature gets reviewed by a broad set of people. So, it has its advantages.

From Consumer to Infra

The true challenge lies when one transitions from a consumer product to an infra product, such as CloudStack. As one can imagine, orchestrating a truly scalable cloud deployment is a massive task that CloudStack does. Clearly, it is expected to be more challenging to be a true cloud specialist as compared to being a mobile engineering specialist, or a web specialist, and so on. In just my first month I have had to revisit most of my university learning and learn many new network concepts, linux administration and refer to some new design patterns in code architecture. Such large exposure is rare to most developers in larger, private organizations because they are abstracted in modern, product focused development. Now whether this is good or bad is a difficult call to make as it narrows down to one’s preferences. Personally, it’s been a rewarding experience, but I’ve had mentorship support from within ShapeBlue. It would definitely be a slightly harder and much slower transition otherwise, and would require patience.

Team Environment

An open source project is determined by its contributors and does not have a specific team that regularly goes on outings or hangs out at office parties. Most contributors don’t share an office location and often work in different time zones. Given most of us actively participate socially as well as professionally with our team members in larger organizations, I suppose that’s a disadvantage as it means social life with colleagues after work is negligible. ShapeBlue similar in structure and we have team members distributed across many time zones. The communication happens primarily over Slack, but is not a hurdle as much as in wider community as team members are one ping away. So that solves most of the problems of working in a distributed team. There is also a unique culture in the company that leaves the responsibility for being productive on the employee and provides good support to do so. If someone has worked in a controlled environment with a vertical hierarchy, it’s a little difficult to get accustomed to a flat structure in the beginning. But new perspectives open up in this environment which include thinking more creatively, independently, and having a better work life balance.

Hopefully this would help anyone thinking of transitioning from a monotonous iOS / Android / Web / Backend development in a larger company to a more technically enriching project such as CloudStack. On personal level, the move has been full of several new delightful experiences with some new challenges that don’t really pay back directly in skills in the short run but pile up benefits in the long run.

Andrija Panic shares some thoughts on joining the ShapeBlue team

Hi there, this is Andrija from… well, ShapeBlue! I’ve been working here for a month now and I thought that I’d share my views of working for the company.

Before I move to the actual topic, let me share just a little bit of background about myself.

Before joining ShapeBlue, I was working as a Cloud System Engineer for two different Swiss-based Public Cloud providers, both utilizing CloudStack to provide IaaS services for local (Swiss) and international customers – many of which (as you can probably guess) were serious financial institutions (Switzerland being considered a big privacy and security center). We even had customers connecting all the way from South America to their infrastructure for daily business, all managed by CloudStack – and it just worked flawlessly!

During my time with the Swiss guys, I had the pleasure (with my colleagues) to lead and build their CloudStack infrastructure from scratch. Here I gained some serious knowledge and experience on this topic. I also had the opportunity to work with some nice storage solutions, from NetApp SolidFire distributed All-Flash Storage (providing block-level storage to CloudStack VMs), to Cloudian Hyperstore S3 Object Storage solution providing (you can guess by its name…) S3 object storage with 100% Native S3 API compatibility. Both solutions had their challenges of integration into existing environment and I was lucky enough to pull the strings here and lead the thing myself. Really fun time! Did I mention CloudStack? Yes, we did quite a decent job here, we made a lot of tweaks and improvements, migrations and decent customer support.

But after 5 years with CloudStack in a service provider environment , it was time for me to move on and improve my cloud building skills even more, so my next logical step was to pull Giles Sirett, ShapeBlue CEO, for a quick coffee on the last CloudStack Conference (I even didn’t have to pay for the coffee – it was a free one!). The rest is pretty much history – I’m now paving my way into consultancy as a  Cloud Architect at ShapeBlue.

After spending a month here at ShapeBlue, I can honestly say that I’m nothing short of being impressed with both the people (colleagues) and the processes inside ShapeBlue. I was already used to Swiss guys being strict and very well organized, but my feeling is that ShapeBlue has moved this to a whole new level. When I joined the company, besides having a dedicated colleague as a mentor (hi there Dag – thanks for all your help!) helping me to find my way around the company, I also got proper training on many different tools and processes used in company, from some internal infrastructure stuff, to customer support tools, processes and SLAs, to many different things in general. In fact , this was a revelation when compared to the  old RTFM-it-yourself way (stands for Read The [Insert asterisks ***] Manual), in case you were wondering) that I’d experienced at previous companies. The people at ShapeBlue are supportive, the working atmosphere is just great, with tons of seriousness across the board but with a healthy dose of (mainly) British humor in the middle of hard work – to make you wake up and warm up during these cold winter days. From time to time we even get cats jumping from our Slack channel.

After being mostly in a technical leadership position in my previous jobs, I’m now, for the first time in my professional carrier, part of the team with a more experienced guys than me – and I’m really happy about that – it’s always nice to be able to get some help in case you need advice – but individual initiative and engagement is something that is strongly respected in ShapeBlue. One of the interesting things is, that the guys in the ShapeBlue Leadership Team do actually listen to engineers and take their advice / opinion – something you don’t necessarily find in every company. It’s a very collaborative and not authoritative environment – a thing that everybody respects here.

So far, I have been tasked with quite a few interesting things to work on: from  delivering the famous ShapeBlue Bootcamp to one of our new colleagues, playing around with some more interesting CloudStack setups (with different hypervisors) and been included in some customer projects and support stuff – all in all a good start!

In case you are still following me, here come a few personal things about me:

I’m based in Belgrade, Serbia (for all you techies, that is 44.0165° N, 21.0059° E ) – a country known for good cuisine, but mostly for ćevapi and šljivovica (national drink). Serbia is also home to Novak Djokovic, the world No. 1 in men’s singles tennis (this is the guy who regularly beats Roger Federer, for the record!).

In my free time I’m hanging around with my 3 princesses and sometimes I manage to squeeze some time for gym, music or very light electronic projects.

Talk to you later, Andrija.

ShapeBlue SA are pleased to announce the extension of their distribution partner agreement for NetApp in South Africa, building out a successful relationship that started in 2014.

‘ShapeBlue has built a strong partnership with NetApp in this region. Expanding our capabilities to represent the full NetApp portfolio presents a strategic opportunity for us and our partners.’ Says Dan Crowe, Managing Director, ShapeBlue SA.

‘NetApp’s vision, depth of solutions and cloud-centric approach continues to differentiate them. We are seeing a fantastic response, in particular to the Cloud Infrastructure portfolio with HCI and the Cloud Data Services portfolio.’

ShapeBlue, as expert builders of clouds bring a unique insight to both service provider and integrator partners as they develop services, and work with customers on transformation projects.

ShapeBlue believe a new generation of NetApp partners can accelerate strategic initiatives across sectors and harness the true value of data insights.

ShapeBlue will offer SA based partners access to the full NetApp range of solutions, professional services and sales and marketing collaborations.

ShapeBlue have recently expanded office premises in both Cape Town and Johannesburg, with worldwide software engineering now based here in SA. “We’re excited about our newly expanded partnership with NetApp and looking forward to the next step in our evolution.” Concludes Crowe.

About ShapeBlue

ShapeBlue are the leading worldwide independent CloudStack integrator, with offices in London, Bangalore, Rio De Janerio, Mountain View CA, Cape Town and Johannesburg.
Services include consulting, integration, training and infrastructure support