OpenCrowbar 2.1 Released Last Week with new integrations and support

Crowbar 2.1 Release brings commercial support, hardware configs, chef and saltstack

OpenCrowbarLast week, the Crowbar community completed the OpenCrowbar “Broom” release and officially designed it as v2.1.  This release represents 8 months of hardening of the core orchestration engine (including automated testing), the addition of true hardware support (in the optional hardware workload) and preliminary advanced integration with Chef and Saltstack.

Core Features:

  • RAID – Automatically set RAID configuration parameters depending on how the system will be used.
    • Support for LSI controllers
    • Single and Dual RAID configuration
  • BIOS – Automatically set BIOS settings depending on how the system will be used.
    • Configuration setting for Dell PE series systems
  • Out of Band Support-  Configure and manage systems via their OOB interface
    • Support for IPMI and WSMan
  • RPM Installation (it riseth again!) – Install OpenCrowbar via a standard RPM instead of a Docker container

Integrations:

  • Salt integration – OpenCrowbar can install Salt as a configuration tool to take over after “Ready State”
  • Chief Provisioning (was Chef Metal) – OpenCrowbar driver allows Chef to build clusters on bare metal using the Crowbar API.

Infrastructure:

  • Automated smoke test and code coverage analysis for all pull requests.

And…v2.1 is the first release with commercial support!

RackN (rackn.com) offers consulting and support for the OpenCrowbar v2.1 release.  The company was started by Crowbar founders Greg Althaus, Scott Jensen, Dan Choquette, and myself specifically to productize and extend Crowbar.

Want to try it out?

unBIOSed? Is Redfish an IPMI retread or can vendors find unification?

Server management interfaces stink.  They are inconsistent both between vendors and within their own product suites.  Ideally, Vendors would agree on a single API; however, it’s not clear if the diversity is a product of competition or actual platform variation.  Likely, it’s both.

From RedFish SiteWhat is Redfish?  It’s a REST API for server configuration that aims to replace both IPMI and vendor specific server interfaces (like WSMAN).  Here’s the official text from RedfishSpecification.org.

Redfish is a modern intelligent [server] manageability interface and lightweight data model specification that is scalable, discoverable and extensible.  Redfish is suitable for a multitude of end-users, from the datacenter operator to an enterprise management console.

I think that it’s great to see vendors trying to get on the same page and I’m optimistic that we could get something better than IPMI (that’s a very low bar).  However, I don’t expect that vendors can converge to a single API; it’s just not practical due to release times and pressures to expose special features.  I think the divergence in APIs is due both to competitive pressures and to real variance between platforms.

Even if we manage to a grand server management unification; the problem of interface heterogeneity has a long legacy tail.

In the best case reality, we’re going from N versions to N+1 (and likely N*2) versions because the legacy gear is still around for a long time.  Adding Redfish means API sprawl is going to get worse until it gets back to being about the same as it is now.

Putting pessimism aside, the sprawl problem is severe enough that it’s worth supporting Redfish on the hope that it makes things better.

That’s easy to say, but expensive to do.  If I was making hardware (I left Dell in Oct 2014), I’d consider it an expensive investment for an uncertain return.  Even so, several major hardware players are stepping forward to help standardize.  I think Redfish would have good ROI for smaller vendors looking to displace a major player can ride on the standard.

Redfish is GREAT NEWS for me since RackN/Crowbar provides hardware abstraction and heterogeneous interface support.  More API variation makes my work more valuable.

One final note: if Redfish improves hardware security in a real way then it could be a game changer; however, embedded firmware web servers can be tricky to secure and patch compared to larger application focused software stacks.  This is one area what I’m hoping to see a lot of vendor collaboration!  [note: this should be it’s own subject – the security issue is more than API, it’s about system wide configuration.  stay tuned!]

Ironic + Crowbar: United in Vision, Complementary in Approach

This post is co-authored by Devanda van der Veen, OpenStack Ironic PTL, and Rob Hirschfeld, OpenCrowbar Founder.  We discuss how Ironic and Crowbar work together today and into the future.

Normalizing the APIs for hardware configuration is a noble and long-term goal.  While the end result, a configured server, is very easy to describe; the differences between vendors’ hardware configuration tools are substantial.  These differences make it impossible challenging to create repeatable operations automation (DevOps) on heterogeneous infrastructure.

Illustration to show potential changes in provisioning control flow over time.

Illustration to show potential changes in provisioning control flow over time.

The OpenStack Ironic project is a multi-vendor community solution to this problem at the server level.  By providing a common API for server provisioning, Ironic encourages vendors to write drivers for their individual tooling such as iDRAC for Dell or iLO for HP.

Ironic abstracts configuration and expects to be driven by an orchestration system that makes the decisions of how to configure each server. That type of orchestration is the heart of Crowbar physical ops magic [side node: 5 ways that physical ops is different from cloud]

The OpenCrowbar project created extensible orchestration to solve this problem at the system level.  By decomposing system configuration into isolated functional actions, Crowbar can coordinate disparate configuration actions for servers, switches and between systems.

Today, the Provisioner component of Crowbar performs similar functions as Ironic for operating system installation and image lay down.  Since configuration activity is tightly coupled with other Crowbar configuration, discovery and networking setup, it is difficult to isolate in the current code base.  As Ironic progresses, it should be possible to shift these activities from the Provisioner to Ironic and take advantage of the community-based configuration drivers.

The immediate synergy between Crowbar and Ironic comes from accepting two modes of operation for OpenStack: bootstrapping infrastructure and multi-tenant server allocation.

Crowbar was designed as an operational platform that seeds an OpenStack ready environment.  Once that environment is configured, OpenStack can take over ownership of the resources and allow Ironic to manage and deliver “hypervisor-free” servers for each tenant.  In that way, we can accelerate the adoption of OpenStack for self-service metal.

Physical operations is messy and challenging, but we’re committed to working together to make it suck less.  Operators of the world unite!

OpenStack Board Elections: What I’ll do in 2014: DefCore, Ops, & Community

Rob HirschfeldOpenStack Community,

The time has come for you to choose who will fill the eight community seats on the Board (ballot links went out Sunday evening CST).  I’ve had the privilege to serve you in that capacity for 16 months and would like to continue.  I have leadership role in Core Definition and want to continue that work.

Here are some of the reasons that I am a strong board member:

  • Proven & Active Leadership on Board - I have been very active and vocal representing the community on the Board.  In addition to my committed leadership in Core Definition, I have played important roles shaping the Gold Member grooming process and trying to adjust our election process.  I am an outspoken yet pragmatic voice for the community in board meetings.
  • Technical Leader but not on the TC – The Board needs members who are technical yet detached from the individual projects enough to represent outside and contrasting views.
  • Strong User Voice – As the senior OpenStack technologist at Dell, I have broad reach in Dell and RedHat partnership with exposure to a truly broad and deep part of the community.  This makes me highly accessible to a lot of people both in and entering the community.
  • Operations Leadership – Dell was an early leader in OpenStack Operations (via OpenCrowbar) and continues to advocate strongly for key readiness activities like upgrade and high availability.  In addition, I’ve led the effort to converge advanced cookbooks from the OpenCrowbar project into the OpenStack StackForge upstreams.  This is not a trivial effort but the right investment to make for our community.
  • And there’s more… you can read about my previous Board history in my 2012 and 2013 “why vote for me” posts or my general OpenStack comments.

And now a plea to vote for other candidates too!

I had hoped that we could change the election process to limit blind corporate affinity voting; however, the board was not able to make this change without a more complex set of bylaws changes.  Based on the diversity and size of OpenStack community, I hope that this issue may no longer be a concern.  Even so, I strongly believe that the best outcome for the OpenStack Board is to have voters look beyond corporate affiliation and consider a range of factors including business vs. technical balance, open source experience, community exposure, and ability to dedicate time to OpenStack.

Looking to Leverage OpenStack Havana? Crowbar delivers 3xL!

openstack_havanaThe Crowbar community has a tradition of “day zero ops” community support for the latest OpenStack release at the summit using our pull-from-source capability.  This release we’ve really gone the extra mile by doing it one THREE Linux distros (Ubuntu, RHEL & SLES) in parallel with a significant number of projects and new capabilities included.

I’m especially excited about Crowbar implementation of Havana Docker support which required advanced configuration with Nova and Glance.  The community also added Heat and Celiometer in the last release cycle plus High Availability (“Titanium”) deployment work is in active development.  Did I mention that Crowbar is rocking OpenStack deployments?  No, because it’s redundant to mention that.  We’ll upload ISOs of this work for easy access later in the week.

While my team at Dell remains a significant contributor to this work, I’m proud to point out to SUSE Cloud leadership and contributions also (including the new Ceph barclamp & integration).  Crowbar has become a true multi-party framework!

 

Want to learn more?  If you’re in Hong Kong, we are hosting a Crowbar Developer Community Meetup on Monday, November 4, 2013, 9:00 AM to 12:00 PM (HKT) in the SkyCity Marriott SkyZone Meeting Room.  Dell, dotCloud/Docker, SUSE and others will lead a lively technical session to review and discuss the latest updates, advantages and future plans for the Crowbar Operations Platform. You can expect to see some live code demos, and participate in a review of the results of a recent Crowbar 2 hackathon.  Confirm your seat here – space is limited!  (I expect that we’ll also stream this event using Google Hangout, watch Twitter #Crowbar for the feed)

My team at Dell has a significant presence at the OpenStack Summit in Hong Kong (details about activities including sponsored parties).  Be sure to seek out my fellow OpenStack Board Member Joseph George, Dell OpenStack Product Manager Kamesh Pemmaraju and Enstratius/Dell Multi-Cloud Manager Founder George Reese.

Note: The work referenced in this post is about Crowbar v1.  We’ve also reached critical milestones with Crowbar v2 and will begin implementing Havana on that platform shortly.

Crowbar lays it all out: RAID & BIOS configs officially open sourced

MediaToday, Dell (my employer) announced a plethora of updates to our open source derived solutions (OpenStack and Hadoop). These solutions include the latest bits (Grizzly and Cloudera) for each project. And there’s another important notice for people tracking the Crowbar project: we’ve opened the remainder of its provisioning capability.

Yes, you can now build the open version of Crowbar and it has the code to configure a bare metal server.

Let me be very specific about this… my team at Dell tests Crowbar on a limited set of hardware configurations. Specifically, Dell server versions R720 + R720XD (using WSMAN and iIDRAC) and C6220 + C8000 (using open tools). Even on those servers, we have a limited RAID and NIC matrix; consequently, we are not positioned to duplicate other field configurations in our lab. So, while we’re excited to work with the community, caveat emptor open source.

Another thing about RAID and BIOS is that it’s REALLY HARD to get right. I know this because our team spends a lot of time testing and tweaking these, now open, parts of Crowbar. I’ve learned that doing hard things creates value; however, it’s also means that contributors to these barclamps need to be prepared to get some silicon under their fingernails.

I’m proud that we’ve reached this critical milestone and I hope that it encourages you to play along.

PS: It’s worth noting is that community activity on Crowbar has really increased. I’m excited to see all the excitement.

Connecting the dots: Dell stays course on OpenStack private

rob pdx drivingWhen it comes to OpenStack, I don’t just work for Dell: I’m the technical lead for our OpenStack-powered private Cloud Solution and an elected director to the OpenStack Foundation board.

Frankly, the announcement of our change in public cloud strategy overshadowed our increasing level of investment in OpenStack-powered private cloud solutions (we are hiring!).  Sam Greenblatt, Dell Product Group VP and Chief Architect, is very specific that the recent announcements are about increasing investment where Dell is already successful plus accelerating with new features (such as leadership in HyperV enablement).

The fact that we focused on our decision to pivot away from Dell hosted public cloud distracted from the strategic choices that we’ve been making.  In the lean process that we use, pivots are a positive sign of listening and self-honesty.  Sadly, that distraction led to confusion, misleading comments, and implications that Dell was dropping OpenStack or questioning OpenStack sustainability and market success.

For the record, Dell was one of the first companies to support OpenStack with supporting quotes from Forrest Norrod (Dell GM for Servers and my direct boss) way back  in July 2010.  Our private OpenStack based cloud, built on open source Crowbar, was the first to market 2 years ago (deploying Cactus!).  We’ve been investing steadily in both fundamental improvements to OpenStack deployment and being early supporting the Grizzly release.

I am not implying that OpenStack’s future is certain (we have a lot of work to do) or that Dell OpenStack strategy will not change again; however, I know first-hand that both are on much firmer footing than some reports have implied.