Born in sunny Valencia (Spain) in 1981—just in time to call himself a millennial—Alberto has developed his career in Spain and the United Kingdom, both in the IT sector and in Higher Education. He has joined OpenNebula’s new HQ office at La Finca Business Park in Madrid.
Tell us how you ended up in the FLOSS world?
It all started back in the day, when I was studying Computer Engineering at the University of Valencia. Things in the early 2000s were a bit different, and the environment was much more hostile to everything that had to do with Free Software and Linux. And it was not just the large technological vendors: people used to react with a lot of skepticism to the whole idea of programmers and some private companies sharing their source code and their knowledge without a clear ‘return on investment’.
Luckily for some of my fellow students and myself, many of our teachers at the time were really enthusiastic about FLOSS, and that really helped when we decided to set up a student-run GNU/Linux Users Group at the University of Valencia. The staff from the IT Services were really supportive, and in a few months we were able to launch the first of a series of annual install-fests. We designed those events for people willing to migrate to Free Software, but maybe a bit afraid of taking that path completely on their own. Don’t forget that the process of installing a GNU/Linux distribution could be quite a challenge some years ago!
Those weekend-long events were absolutely amazing, with hundreds of participants coming with their PCs – and I’m talking about desktop computers here! – to stay on campus overnight, and to learn and help each other. There were workshops, round tables and also incredibly interesting talks by guest speakers like Marcelo Tosatti and others. I really enjoyed those years, and I feel really proud of having done my bit in helping others become part of the FLOSS community… even if that didn’t always pay off from an academic perspective!
What kind of projects have you been involved in?
After university, I moved to Madrid, where I started to work for a consulting company whose business model was 100% based on FLOSS. I worked as Presales Engineer and Project Manager for some of their customers in the IT sector and also in Healthcare & Pharma. After one year and a half, I assumed a more general role as Business Development Manager and, later on, as Open Source Community & Partners Manager. One of the most rewarding challenges at the time was to set up the company’s local office back in my hometown, Valencia, where we had an increasing number of clients in both Higher Education and the Public Sector.
That was the time when things were actually starting to take a turn for the better, and people in IT management positions were gradually starting to consider FLOSS as a real alternative, even in critical production environments that had traditionally been dominated by proprietary software. Apart from collaborating with emerging projects like gvSIG (an open source GIS developed originally by the Valencian regional government), I was really lucky because part of my job involved working shoulder to shoulder with early adopters in large organisations and public institutions.
Our customers used to have a technical profile and were perfectly aware of the many benefits behind the FLOSS model. What they needed were realistic viability studies and solid arguments in order to convince their bosses that GNU/Linux and open source were reliable alternatives. Corporate clients need trustworthy technological partners providing long-term professional support to them, no matter what. That has become the cornerstone of the relationship that successful open source companies have established with their customers.
What do you think is the role that a Community Manager plays nowadays in an open source project?
With open source becoming mainstream, and the explosion of projects supported by large technological companies and public institutions, it’s evident now that the FLOSS model and the philosophy that fostered the emergence of the Free Software Movement are facing a whole new set of challenges. I think the role of the Open Source Community Manager has become more necessary than ever, but also much more transversal and, therefore, more difficult to define.
The commitment of many companies with open source is not just technical, and the challenges appear precisely when trying to expand that same sense of ‘openness’ to other dimensions of the organisation. What open source brings along is a huge cultural change, and a Community Manager has to be aware of the implications of putting in place and maintaining a business and organisational structure that really turns around your community.
The community in an open source project can become quite a complex living organism, bringing together users, developers, customers, sponsors and partners, all under the same roof. They come with very different priorities and from different backgrounds, from large and small organisations, local and global, some are volunteers, some others are employees. An Open Source Community Manager has to be able to embrace that diversity, nurture it, and make sure that everyone’s expectations and levels of commitment with the project find a common ground… I know, sounds easier on paper, right?
What attracted you the most about the OpenNebula project?
If I had to pick one reason, I think it would be the story behind the project: I find it incredibly inspiring and much more realistic than the famous myth of the startup garage promoted by Silicon Valley. OpenNebula was initially developed between 2005 and 2008 by members of the Distributed Systems Architecture Research Group at the Complutense University of Madrid. What began as a publicly-funded research venture to create a prototype turned into the first open source Cloud Management Platform available in the market. From these humble origins, OpenNebula has been bootstrapped all the way long, increasing significantly its community and user base, step by step and with no fuss. I think that’s an amazing accomplishment!
At the time of writing, some of the largest cloud infrastructures in the world use OpenNebula as their Cloud Management Platform, including organisations such as the European Space Agency, Telefónica, CA Technologies, Hitachi, Blackberry, Booking.com and TransUnion. OpenNebula is now a mature and well-respected open source project—about to release its stable version of 5.10 “Boomerang”—with exciting challenges ahead, including a new EU-funded initiative to build and bring to market the first fully-functional private edge computing environment. My job, as the new Open Source Community Manager at OpenNebula, will be to make sure that its vibrant community keeps shining brightly, right at the center of the project.