Manage Hardware like a BOSS – latest OpenCrowbar brings API to Physical Gear

A few weeks ago, I posted about VMs being squeezed between containers and metal.   That observation comes from our experience fielding the latest metal provisioning feature sets for OpenCrowbar; consequently, so it’s exciting to see the team has cut the next quarterly release:  OpenCrowbar v2.2 (aka Camshaft).  Even better, you can top it off with official software support.

Camshaft coordinates activity

Dual overhead camshaft housing by Neodarkshadow from Wikimedia Commons

The Camshaft release had two primary objectives: Integrations and Services.  Both build on the unique functional operations and ready state approach in Crowbar v2.

1) For Integrations, we’ve been busy leveraging our ready state API to make physical servers work like a cloud.  It gets especially interesting with the RackN burn-in/tear-down workflows added in.  Our prototype Chef Provisioning driver showed how you can use the Crowbar API to spin servers up and down.  We’re now expanding this cloud-like capability for Saltstack, Docker Machine and Pivotal BOSH.

2) For Services, we’ve taken ops decomposition to a new level.  The “secret sauce” for Crowbar is our ability to interweave ops activity between components in the system.  For example, building a cluster requires setting up pieces on different systems in a very specific sequence.  In Camshaft, we’ve added externally registered services (using Consul) into the orchestration.  That means that Crowbar will either use existing DNS, Database, or NTP services or set it’s own.  Basically, Crowbar can now work FIT YOUR EXISTING OPS ENVIRONMENT without forcing a dedicated Crowbar only services like DHCP or DNS.

In addition to all these features, you can now purchase support for OpenCrowbar from RackN (my company).  The Enterprise version includes additional server life-cycle workflow elements and features like HA and Upgrade as they are available.

There are AMAZING features coming in the next release (“Drill”) including a message bus to broadcast events from the system, more operating systems (ESXi, Xenserver, Debian and Mirantis’ Fuel) and increased integration/flexibility with existing operational environments.  Several of these have already been added to the develop branch.

It’s easy to setup and test OpenCrowbar using containers, VMs or metal.  Want to learn more?  Join our community in Gitteremail list or weekly interactive community meetings (Wednesdays @ 9am PT).

Talking Functional Ops & Bare Metal DevOps with vBrownBag [video]

Last Wednesday (3/11/15), I had the privilege of talking with the vBrownBag crowd about Functional Ops and bare metal deployment.  In this hour, I talk about how functional operations (FuncOps) works as an extension of ready state.  FuncOps is a critical concept for providing abstractions to scale heterogeneous physical operations.

Timing for this was fantastic since we’d just worked out ESXi install capability for OpenCrowbar (it will exposed for work starting on Drill, the next Crowbar release cycle).

Here’s the brown bag:

If you’d like to see a demo, I’ve got hours of them posted:

Video Progression

Crowbar v2.1 demo: Visual Table of Contents [click for playlist]

too easy to bare metal? Ansible just works with OpenCrowbar

2012-01-15_10-21-12_716I’ve talked before about how OpenCrowbar distributes SSH keys automatically as part of its deployment process.  Now, it’s time to unleash some of the subsequent magic!

If you provision servers with your keys in place, then Ansible will just work with truly minimal configuration (one line in a file!).

Video Demo (steps bellow):

Here are my steps:

  1. Install OpenCrowbar and run some nodes to ready state [videos]
  2. Install Ansible [simple steps]
  3. Add hosts range “192.168.124.[81:83]  ansible_ssh_user=root” to the
    “/etc/ansible/hosts” file
  4. If you are really lazy, add “[Default] // host_key_checking = False” to your “~/.ansible.cfg” file
  5. now ping the hosts, “ansible all -m ping”
  6. pat yourself on the back, you’re done.
  7. to show off:
    1. touch all machines “ansible all -a “/bin/echo hello”
    2. look at types of Linux “ansible all -a “uname -a”

Further integration work can make this even more powerful.  

I’d like to see OpenCrowbar generate the Ansible inventory file from the discovery data and to map Ansible groups from deployments.  Crowbar could also call Ansible directly to use playbooks or even do a direct hand-off to Tower to complete an install without user intervention.

Wow, that would be pretty handy!   If you think so too, please join us in the OpenCrowbar community.

Online Meetup Today (1/13): Build a rock-solid foundation under your OpenStack cloud

Reminder: Online meetup w/ Crowbar + OpenStack DEMO TODAY

HFoundation Rawere’s the notice from the site (with my added Picture)

Building cloud infrastructure requires a rock-solid foundation. 

In this hour, Rob Hirschfeld will demo automated tooling, specifically OpenCrowbar, to prepare and integrate physical infrastructure to ready state and then use PackStack to install OpenStack.

 

The OpenCrowbar project started in 2011 as an OpenStack installer and had grown into a general purpose provisioning and infrastructure orchestration framework that works in parallel with multiple hardware vendors, operating systems and devops tools.  These tools create a fast, durable and repeatable environment to install OpenStack, Ceph, Kubernetes, Hadoop or other scale platforms.

 

Rob will show off the latest features and discuss key concepts from the Crowbar operational model including Ready State, Functional Operations and Late Binding. These concepts, built into Crowbar, can be applied generally to make your operations more robust and scalable.

OpenCrowbar v2.1 Video Tour from Metal to OpenStack and beyond

With the OpenCrowbar v2.1 out, I’ve been asked to update the video library of Crowbar demos.  Since a complete tour is about 3 hours, I decided to cut it down into focused demos that would allow you to start at an area of interest and work backwards.

I’ve linked all the videos below by title.  Here’s a visual table on contents:

Video Progression

Crowbar v2.1 demo: Visual Table of Contents [click for playlist]

The heart of the demo series is the Annealer and Ready State (video #3).

  1. Prepare Environment
  2. Bootstrap Crowbar
  3. Add Nodes ♥ Ready State (good starting point)
  4. Boot Hardware
  5. Install OpenStack (Juno using PackStack on CentOS 7)
  6. Integrate with Chef & Chef Provisioning
  7. Integrate with SaltStack

I’ve tried to do some post-production so limit dead air and focus on key areas.  As always, I value content over production values so feedback is very welcome!

Nextcast #14 Transcription on OpenStack & Crowbar > “we can’t hand out trophies to everyone”

Last week, I was a guest on the NextCast OpenStack podcast hosted by Niki Acosta (EMC) [Jeff Dickey could not join].   I’ve taken some time to transcribe highlights.

We had a great discussion nextcastabout OpenStack, Ops and Crowbar.  I appreciate Niki’s insightful questions and an opportunity to share my opinions.  I feel that we covered years of material in just 1 hour and I appreciate the opportunity to appear on the podcast.

Video from full post (youtube) and the audio for download.

Plus, a FULL TRANSCRIPT!  Here’s my Next Cast #14 Short Transcripton

The objective of this transcription is to help navigate the recording, not replace it.  I did not provide complete context for remarks.

  • 04:30 Birth of Crowbar (to address Ops battle scars)
  • 08:00 The need for repeatable Ready State baseline to help community work together
  • 10:30 Should hardware matter in OpenStack? It has to, details and topology matters not vendor.
  • 11:20 OpenCompute – people are trying to open source hardware design
  • 11:50 When you are dealing with hardware, it matters. You have to get it right.
  • 12:40 Customers are hardware heterogeneous by design (and for ops tooling). Crowbar is neutral territory
  • 14:50 It’s not worth telling people they are wrong, because they are not. There are a lot of right ways to install OpenStack
  • 16:10 Sometimes people make expensive choices because it’s what they are comfortable with and it’s not helpful for me to them they a wrong – they are not.
  • 16:30 You get into a weird corner if you don’t tell anyone no. And an equally weird corner if you tell everyone yes.
  • 18:00 Aspirations of having an interoperable cloud was much harder than the actual work to build it
  • 18:30 Community want to say yes, “bring your code” but to operators that’s very frustrating because they want to be able to make substitutions
  • 19:30 Thinking that if something is included then it’s required – that’s not clear
  • 19:50 Interlock Dilemma [see my back reference]
  • 20:10 Orwell Animal Farm reference – “all animals equal but pigs are more equal”
  • 22:20 Rob defines DefCore, it’s not big and scary
  • 22:35 DefCore is about commercial use, not running the technical project
  • 23:35 OpenStack had to make money for the companies are paying for the developers who participate… they need to see ROI
  • 24:00 OpenStack is an infrastructure project, stability is the #1 feature
  • 24:40 You have to give a reason why you are saying no and a path to yes
  • 25:00 DefCore is test driven: quantitative results
  • 26:15 Balance between whole project and parts – examples are Swiftstack (wants Object only) and Dreamhost (wants Compute only)
  • 27:00 DefCore created core components vs platform levels
  • 27:30 No vendor has said they can implement DefCore without some effort
  • 28:10 We have outlets for vendors who do not want to implement the process
  • 28:30 The Board is not in a position to make technical call about what’s in, we had to build a process for community input
  • 29:10 We had to define something that could say, “this is it and we have to move on”
  • 29:50 What we want is for people to start with the core and then bring in the other projects. We want to know what people are adding so we can make that core in time
  • 30:10 This is not a recommendation is a base.
  • 30:35 OpenStack is a bubble – does not help if we just get together to pad each other on the back, we want to have a thriving ecosystem
  • 31:15 Question: “have vendors been selfish”
  • 31:35 Rob rephrased as “does OpenStack have a tragedy of the commons” problem
  • 32:30 We need to make sure that everyone is contributing back upstream
  • 32:50 Benefit of a Benevolent Dictator is that they can block features unless community needs are met
  • 33:10 We have NOT made it clear where companies should be contributing to the community. We are not doing a good job directing community efforts
  • 33:45 Hidden Influencers becomes OpenStack Product group
  • 34:55 Hidden Influencers were not connecting at the summit in a public way (like developers were)
  • 35:20 Developers could not really make big commitments of their time without the buy in from their managers (product and line)
  • 35:50 Subtle selfishness – focusing on your own features can disrupt the whole release where things would flow better if they helped others
  • 37:40 Rob was concerned that there was a lot of drift between developers and company’s product descriptions
  • 38:20 BYLAWS CHANGES – vote! here’s why we need to change
  • 38:50 Having whole projects designated as core sucks – code in core should be slower and less changing. Innovation at the core will break interoperability
  • 39:40 Hoping that core will help product managers understand where they are using the standard and adding values
  • 41:10 All babies are ugly > with core, that’s good. We are looking for the grown ups who can do work and deliver value. Babies are things you nurture and help grow because they have potential.
  • 42:00 We undermine our credibility in the community when we talk about projects that are babies as if they were ready.
  • 43:15 DefCore’s job was to help pick projects. If everyone is core then we look like a youth soccer team where everyone is getting a trophy
  • 44:30 Question: “What do you tell to users to instill confidence in OpenStack”
  • 44:50 first thing: focus on operations and automation. Table stakes (for any cloud) is getting your deployments automated. Puppies vs Cattle.
  • 45:25 People who were successful with early OpenStack were using automated deployments against the APIs.
  • 46:00 DevOps is a fundamental part of cloud computing – if you’re hand-built and not automated then you are old school IT.
  • 46:40 Niki references Gartner “Bimodal IT” [excellent reference, go read it!]
  • 47:20 VMWare is a great crutch for OpenStack. We can use VMWare for the puppies.
  • 47:45 OpenStack is not going to run on every servers (perhaps that’s heresy) but it does not make sense in every workload
  • 48:15 One size does not fit all – we need to be good at what we’re good at
  • 48:30 OpenStack needs to focus on doing something really well. That means helping people who want to bring automated workloads into the cloud
  • 49:20 Core was about sending a signal about what’s ready and people can rely on
  • 49:45 Back in 2011, I was saying OpenStack was ready for people who would make the operational investment
  • 50:30 We use Crowbar because it makes it easier to do automated deployments for infrastructure like Hadoop and Ceph where you want access to the physical media
  • 51:00 We should be encouraging people to use OpenStack for its use cases
  • 51:30 Existential question for OpenStack: are we a suite or product. The community is split here
  • 51:30 In comparing with Amazon, does OpenStack have to implement it or build an ecosystem to compete
  • 53:00 As soon as you make something THE OpenStack project (like Heat) you are sending a message that the alternates are not welcome
  • 54:30 OpenStack ends up in a trap if we pick a single project and make it the way that we are going do something. New implementations are going to surface from WITHIN the projects and we need to ready for that.
  • 55:15 new implementations are coming, we have to be ready for that. We can make ourselves vulnerable to splitting if we do not prepare.
  • 56:00 API vs Implementation? This is something that splits the community. Ultimately we to be an API spec but we are not ready for that. We have a lot of work to do first using the same code base.
  • 56:50 DefCore has taken a balanced approach using our diversity as a strength
  • 57:20 Bylaws did not allow for enough flexibility for what is core
  • 59:00 We need voters for the quorum!
  • 59:30 Rob recommended Rocky Grober (Huawei) and Shamail Tahir (EMC) for future shows

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!]