JavaScript on the Trailing Edge


The public opinion of the JavaScript community is that it’s fast. We break things, we’re hungry for the latest features, and none of us want to return to the days of slow innovation that ended with the death of IE6. This really isn’t true; there are several core JavaScript projects, such as Angular, JQuery, and React, which have solid governance, and measured release cycles, that would mesh well with OpenStack. It just happens that those projects are surrounded by thousands of smaller ones, run by handfuls of engineers who are volunteering their time.

However, the JavaScript community offers many benefits, from layout frameworks to new user interface paradigms, and OpenStack could easily take advantage of all these. As I’ve pointed out, the user interface needs of a cloud platform vary by user, not by deployment, and it is high time that OpenStack catered to more than just the Operator mind set. There remain some obstacles to this, however they are easily solved:

Backwards Compatibility

The first challenge we face is backwards compatibility. We must balance the rapid adoption of new developments like ES6, with downstream LTS support commitments that can last several years. We must do all this, while also not losing ourselves in a morass of hacks, special cases, shortcuts, and workarounds. This requires common dependency management for all our JavaScript libraries, and we can easily draw on the lessons learned in OpenStack’s requirements project to lead the way.

Complacency

Furthermore, we face a social challenge, that of complacency. The counterargument I most frequently get is “Why not use Horizon”. As my previous post on composable cloud interfaces highlights, Horizon is too narrowly focused. While it does an admirable job at supporting the Operator use case, and provides many ways to extend itself, a brief survey I performed last year revealed that two thirds of downstream Horizon users either maintain full forks of horizon’s source, or are building entirely custom user interfaces. To me, this is stark evidence that horizon falls short of meeting the use cases of all of our OpenStack operators.

Funding

Lastly, we face the rather pedestrian challenge of funding. While I’ve come across broad support for a greater role of JavaScript in OpenStack’s UI development – to the level of squeefun bouncing in a hallway when I mentioned ES6 – it remains a fact of life that those corporate members with the most to gain by the strategic evolution of OpenStack are usually content to let ‘someone else’ do the work, while dedicating their own employees towards more immediate revenue sources.

 

It’s a Catch-22 situation: We cannot prove the viability of JavaScript thick-client UI’s without a functional alternative to horizon, but we cannot get to that alternative without engineers willing – and able – to contribute. Personally, I feel very privileged to be one of a very small number of fully dedicated upstream engineers. To the best of my knowledge, Elizabeth Elwell and I are the only two entirely dedicated towards strategically advancing User Interface development in OpenStack. We are making good progress, however we do not anticipate adoption in the next cycle.

With help, Newton will contain the last pieces we need.

1 Comments

  • […] it during the Newton cycle. Overall themes for this cycle are Consistency, Interoperability, and engaging with the JavaScript community at large, all topics which I’ve written about at length. Our end goal is to build the […]

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