More Signal & Less Noise: my OpenStack Tokyo Restrospective

We’re building real business on OpenStack. This seems especially true in Asia where the focus is on using the core not expanding it. At the same time, we’ve entered the “big tent” era where non-core projects are proliferating.

Let’s explore what’s signal and what’s noise … but before we start, here are quick links to my summit videos:


OpenStack summits are really family reunions. While aunt and uncles (Vendors) are busying showing off, all the cousins (Projects) are getting re-acquainted. Like any family it’s fun, competitive, friendly and sometimes dysfunctional.

Signal: Global Users and Providers

There are real deployments of OpenStack and real companies building businesses around the code base. I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the number of people quietly making OpenStack work. Why quietly? It’s still more of a struggle than it should be.

Signal: Demand for Heterogeneous and Interop Environments

There’s no such thing as a mono-lithic cloud. Even within the community, Monty’s Shade API normalizer, is drawing attention. More broadly, everyone is using multiple cloud platforms and the trend accelerates due to container portability.

Signal: Container Workloads

Containers are dominating the cloud discussion for good reasons. They are pushing into OpenStack at the top (Platform), bottom (Deployment) and side (Scheduler). While OpenStack must respond architecturally, it’s not clear yet if it can pivot from virtualization focused to something broader fast enough (Mesos?).

Signal: Ansible

The lightweight DevOps tool seems to be winning the popularity contest. It may not be the answer to all problems, but it’s clearly part of helping solve a lot of them. Warning: Ansible complexity explodes on multi-tiered, scale and upgrade orchestration.

Signal: DefCore and Product Working Group (PWG)

Both efforts have crossed from a concept into decision-making bodies within the community. The work is far from over. DefCore needs users to demand compliance from vendors. Product WG needs developers to demand their management sign on to PWG roadmaps.

Noise: Distro vs Service Argument

There are a lot of ways to consume OpenStack. None of them are wrong but some are more aligned with individual vendor strategies than others. Saying one way to run OpenStack is more right is undermining our overall operability and usability objectives.

Noise: Contributor Metrics

We’ve created a very commit economy and summits are vendors favorite time to brag about their dedication to community via upstreaming. These metrics are incomplete at best and potentially destructive to the health of the project as vendors compete to win the commit race instead of the quality and ecosystem race.

Noise: Big Tent

We’ve officially entered the “big tent” era of OpenStack. This governance change was lead by the Technical Committee to address how we manage projects; however, there are broader user, operator, vendor and ecosystem implications. Unfortunately, even within the community, the platform implications of a loosely governed, highly inclusive community not completely understood.

Overall, I left Tokyo enthusiastic about OpenStack’s future as a platform and community; however, I also see that we have not structured how we mingle platform, community and ecosystem. This is especially true because OpenStack is just a part in the much broader cloud market and work outside OpenStack is continue to disrupt our plans. As a Board member, I’ll hoping to start a discussion about this and want to hear your opinions.

To avoid echo chamber, OpenStack must embrace competitive cloud ecosystem

Japanese Bullet Train View

I was in Japan before the Tokyo summit on a bullet train to Kyoto watching the mix of heavy industry and bucolic mountains pass by. That scene reflects an OpenStack duality: we want to be both a dominant platform delivering core cloud services and an open source values driven collective.

First, I fundamentally believe in the success of OpenStack as the open virtual infrastructure management platform.

I believe that we have solved the virtual compute/storage/network problem sufficiently to become the de facto open IaaS platform. While not perfect, the technologies are sufficient assuming we continue to improve ease of use and operational hardening. Pursing that base capability is my primary motivation for DefCore work.

I don’t believe that the OpenStack community is, or should try to become, the authority on “all things cloud.”

In the presence of Amazon, VMware, Microsoft and Google, we cannot make that claim with any degree of self-respect. Even newcomers like DigitalOcean have an undeniable footprint and influence. Those vendor platforms drive cloud ecosystems and technologies which foster fast innovation because there is no friction to joining their ecosystems and they are sufficiently large and stable enough to represent a target market. We’ve seen clear signs from Rackspace, HP and others that platform diversity improves cloud strength.

I continue to think we (OpenStack) spend too much time evaluating what is “in” or “out” of the project and too little time talking about what’s “on,” “under” and “with” the project like Kubernetes, Mesos, Docker, SDN, Hadoop and Ceph. That type of thinking creates distance between OpenStack efforts and the majority of the market.

What motivates the drive to an all open captive community? It’s the reasonable concern that critical parts of the infrastructure will become pay-to-play. For example, what if a non-OpenStack alternative to Heat Orchestration gained popularity for OpenStack implementers. Perhaps something that ran on Amazon also. That would create external pressure that would drive internal priorities. These “non-OpenStack” products would then have influence without having to contribute back to upstream.

Can we afford to have external entities driving internal priorities? Hell yes, that’s what customer adoption looks like.

OpenStack does not own the market sufficiently to create cloud echo chamber. The next wave of cloud innovation (my money is on container platforms) will follow the path of least resistance and widest adoption. We need to embrace that these innovations will not all be inside our community so that we can welcome them as part of our ecosystem. The community needs to find peace with that.

OpenStack Vancouver six observations: partners, metal, tents, defore, brands & breakage

As always, OpenStack conferences/summits are packed with talks and discussions.  Any one of these six points could be a full post; however, I would rather post now and start discussions.  Let me know what you think!

1. Partnering Everywhere – it’s froth, not milk

Everyone is partnering with everyone! It’s a good way to appear to cover more around and appear more open. Right now, I believe these partnerships are for show and very shallow. There will be blood when money is flowing and both partners want the lion’s share.

2. Metal is Hot! attention on Ironic & MaaS

Metal is very hot topic. No surprise, but I do not think that either MaaS or Ironic have the right architecture to deal with the real complexity of automating metal in a generalized way. The consequence is that they are limited and hard to operate.

Container talks were also very hot and I believe are ultimately disruptive.  The very fact that all the container talks were overflowing is an indication of the challenges facing virtualization.

3. DefCore – Just in the Nick of Time

I think that the press and analysts were ready to proclaim that OpenStack was fragmenting and being unable to deliver the “one cloud, multiple vendors” vision. DefCore (presented as Interopability by Jonathan Bryce, DefCore shout out!) came in on the buzzer to buy us more time.

4. Big Tent Concerns – what is ecosystem & release?

Big Tent is shorthand for project governance changes that make it easier for new projects to become OpenStack projects and removes the concept of integrated releases.  The exact definition is still a work in progress.

The top concerns I have are:

  1. We cannot tell difference between community & ecosystem. We’re back to anointed projects because we’re now telling projects they have to join OpenStack to work with OpenStack.
  2. We’re changing the definition of the release but have not defined how it will change. I acknowledge that continuous release is ideal but we’re confusing people again.

5. Brands are battling – will they destroy the city?

OpenStack is hard for startups – read the full post here.  The short version is that big companies are taking up all the air.

While some are leading, others they are learning how to collaborate.  Those new to open source are slow to trust and uncertain about where to invest.  Unfortunately, we’ve created a visible contributions economy that does not reward doing the scut work so it’s no surprise that there are concerns that some of the bigger companies are free riding.

6. OpenStack is broken talks – could we reboot?  no.

It’s a sign of OpenStack’s age that Bias, Termie and others suggested we need clean slate.  Frankly, I think that OpenStack would be irrelevant by the time a rewrite was completed and it not helpful to suggest it.

What would I suggest?  I’d promote a strong core (doing!), ensure big companies collaborate on roadmap (doing!) and stop having a single node install as gate and dev reference (I’d happily help use OCB for this with partners)

PS: Apparently Neutron is not broken.

I’m very excited about the “just give me a network” work to make Neutron duplicate Nova-Net functionality.  Finally. Interview on DefCore, project management, and the future of OpenStack

Reposted from My Interview with RedHat’s Jason Baker

Rob Hirschfeld has been involved with OpenStack since before the project was even officially formed, and so he brings a rich perspective as to the project’s history, its organization, and where it may be headed next. Recently, he has focused primarily on the physical infrastructure automation space, working with an an enterprise version of OpenCrowbar, an “API-driven metal” project which started as an OpenStack installer and moved to a generic workload underlay.

Rob is speaking on two panels at the upcoming OpenStack Summit in Vancouver, including DefCore 2015 and the State of OpenStack Project Management. We caught up with Rob to get updates about these two topics and what else lies ahead for OpenStack.

We asked you to help walk us through DefCore as it was being developed last year; just as a reminder, what is DefCore and why should people care about it?

DefCore creates a minimal definition for OpenStack vendors to help ensure interoperability and stability for the user community. While DefCore definitions apply only to vendors asking to use the OpenStack trademark, there are technical impacts on the tests and APIs that we select as required. We’ve worked hard to make sure the that selection process for picking “core” is transparent and fair.

What did the changes approved by the OpenStack Foundation membership earlier this year mean for DefCore?

The by-laws changes approved by the community were important to allow us to use DefCore more granular definition of Core. The previous by-laws were much more project focused. The changes allow us to select specific APIs and code components from a project as required instead of picking everything blindly. That allows projects to have both stable and new innovative components.

What can we expect from OpenStack’s structure and organization as we move forward towards the next release?

There are a lot of changes still to come. The technical leadership is making it easier to become part of the OpenStack code base. I’ve written about this change having potentially both positive and negative impacts on OpenStack to make it appear more like a suite of projects than a tightly integrate product. In many ways, DefCore helps vendors define OpenStack as a product as the community is expanding to include more capabilities. In my discussions, this is a good balance.

Switching gears a bit, you’ve also been heavily involved in the OpenStack project management working group. How has that group been progressing since they convened at the Paris Summit?

This group has made a lot of progress. We’ve seen non-board leadership step in and lead the group. That leadership is more organic and based in the companies that are directly contributing. I think that’s resulted in a lot of good ideas and documentation from the group. We’ll see some excellent results in Vancouver from them. It’s going to come back to the community and technical leadership to leverage that work. I think that’s the real test: we have to share ownership of direction between multiple perspectives. The first step in doing that is writing it down (which is what they have been doing).

Aside from the organization, let’s talk about the software itself. What are you hoping to see from the Liberty release?

I’m hoping to see adoption of Neutron accelerate. Having two network approaches makes it impossible to really have an interoperability story. That means Neutron has to be working technically, but also for operators and users. To be brutally honest, it also has to overcome its own reputation. If Neutron does not become the dominate choice, we are going to effectively have two major flavors of OpenStack. From the DefCore, vendor, or user perspective, that’s a very challenging position.

Anything else you’d like to add?

We’ve accomplished a lot together. In some ways, chasing too many targets is our biggest threat. I think that container workloads and orchestration are already being very disruptive for OpenStack. I’m hoping that we focus on delivering a stable core infrastructure. That’s why I’ve been working so hard on DefCore. Looking forward, there’s an increasing risk of trying to chase too many targets and losing the core of what users want.

This article is part of the Speaker Interview Series for OpenStack Summit Vancouver, a five-day conference for developers, users, and administrators of OpenStack Cloud Software.

My OpenStack Super User Interview [cross-post]

This post of my interview for the OpenStack Super User site originally appeared there on 3/23 under the title “OpenStack at 10: different code, same collaboration?”

With over 15 years of cloud experience, Rob Hirschfeld also goes way back with OpenStack. His involvement dates to before it was officially founded and he was also one of the initial Board Members. In addition to his role as Individual Director, Hirschfeld currently chairs the DefCore committee. He’ll be speaking about DefCore at the upcoming Vancouver Summit with Alan Clark, Egle Sigler and Sean Roberts.

He talks to Superuser about the importance of patches, priorities for 2015 and why you should care about OpenStack vendors making money.

Superuser: You’ve been with the project since before it started, where do you hope it will be in five years?

In five years, I expect that nearly every line of code will have been replaced. The thing that will endure is the community governance and interaction models that we’re working out to ensure commercial collaboration.

[3/24 Added Clarification Note: I find humbled watching traditionally open-unfriendly corporations using OpenStack to learn how to become open source collaborations.  Our governance choices will have long lasting ramifications in the industry.] 

What is something that a lot of people don’t know about OpenStack?

It was essentially a “rewrite fork” of Eucalyptus created because they would not accept patches.  That’s a cautionary tale about why accepting patches is essential that should not get lost from the history books.

Any thoughts on your first steps to the priorities you laid out in your candidacy profile?

I’ve already started to get DefCore into an execution phase with additional Board and Foundation leadership joining into the effort.  We’ve set a very active schedule of meetings with two sub-committees running in parallel…It’s going to be a busy spring.

You say that the company you founded, RackN, is not creating an OpenStack product. How are you connected to the community?

RackN supports OpenCrowbar which provides a physical ready state infrastructure for scale platforms like OpenStack. We are very engaged in the community from below by helping make other distributions, vendors and operators successful.

What are the next steps to creating the “commercially successful ecosystem” you mentioned in your candidacy profile? What are the biggest obstacles to this?

We have to make stability and scale a critical feature. This will mean slowing features and new projects; however, I hear a lot of frustration that OpenStack is not focused on delivering a solid base.

Without a base, the vendors cannot build profitable products.  Without profits, they cannot keep funding the project. This may be radical for an open project, but I think everyone needs to care more if vendors are making money.

What are some more persistent myths about the cloud?

That the word cloud really means anything.  Everyone has their own definition.  Mine is “infrastructure with an API” but I’d happily tell you it’s also about process and ops.

Who are your real-life heroes?

FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) founders Dean Kamen and Woodie Flowers. They executed a real vision about how to train for both competition and collaboration in the next generation of engineers.  Their efforts in building the next generation of leaders really impact how we will should open source collaboration. That’s real innovation.

What do you hope to get out of the next summit?

First, I want to see vendors passing DefCore requirements.  After that, I’d like to see the operators get more equal treatment and I’m hoping to spend more time working with them so they can create places to share knowledge.

What’s your favorite/most important OpenStack debate?

There are two.  First, I think the API vs. implementation is a critical growth curve for OpenStack.  We need to mature past being so implementation driven so we can have stand alone APIs.

Second, I think the “benevolent dictator” discussion is useful. Since we are never going to have one, we need a real discussion about how to define and defend project wide priorities in a meaningful way.  Resolving both items is essential to our long-term viability.

My OpenStack Vancouver Session Promotion Dilemma – please, vote outside your block

We need people to promote their OpenStack Sessions, but how much is too much?

Megaphone!Semi-annually, I choose to be part of the growing dog pile of OpenStack summit submissions.  Looking at the list, I see some truly amazing sessions by committed and smart community members.  There are also a fair share of vendor promotions.

The nature of the crowded OpenStack vendor community is that everyone needs to pick up their social media megaphones (and encourage some internal block voting) to promote their talks.   Consequently, please I need to ask you to consider voting for my list:

  1. DefCore 2015 
  2. The DefCore Show: “is it core or not” feud episode
  3. Mayflies: Improve Cloud Utilization by Forcing Rapid Server Death [Research Analysis] (xref)
  4. It’s all about the Base. If you want stability, start with the underlay [Crowbar] 
  5. State of OpenStack Product Management

Why am I so reluctant to promote these excellent talks?  Because I’m concerned about fanning the “PROMOTE MY TALKS” inferno.

For the community to function, we need for users and operators to be heard.  The challenge is that the twin Conference/Summit venue serves a lot of different audiences.

In my experience, that leads to a lot of contributor navel gazing and vendor-on-vendor celebrations.  That in turn drowns out voices from the critical, but non-block-enabled users and operators.

Yes, please vote those sessions of mine that interest you; however, please take time to vote more broadly too.  The system randomized which talks you see to help distribute voting too.


OpenStack DefCore Enters Execution Phase. Help!

OpenStack DefCore Committee has established the principles and first artifacts required for vendors using the OpenStack trademark.  Over the next release cycle, we will be applying these to the Ice House and Juno releases.

Like a rockLearn more?  Hear about it LIVE!  Rob will be doing two sessions about DefCore next week (will be recorded):

  1. Tues Dec 16 at 9:45 am PST- OpenStack Podcast #14 with Jeff Dickey
  2. Thurs Dec 18 at 9:00 am PST – Online Meetup about DefCore with Rafael Knuth (optional RSVP)

At the December 2014 OpenStack Board meeting, we completed laying the foundations for the DefCore process that we started April 2013 in Portland. These are a set of principles explaining how OpenStack will select capabilities and code required for vendors using the name OpenStack. We also published the application of these governance principles for the Havana release.

  1. The OpenStack Board approved DefCore principles to explain
    the landscape of core including test driven capabilities and designated code (approved Nov 2013)
  2. the twelve criteria used to select capabilities (approved April 2014)
  3. the creation of component and framework layers for core (approved Oct 2014)
  4. the ten principles used to select designated sections (approved Dec 2014)

To test these principles, we’ve applied them to Havana and expressed the results in JSON format: Havana Capabilities and Havana Designated Sections. We’ve attempted to keep the process transparent and community focused by keeping these files as text and using the standard OpenStack review process.

DefCore’s work is not done and we need your help!  What’s next?

  1. Vote about bylaws changes to fully enable DefCore (change from projects defining core to capabilities)
  2. Work out going forward process for updating capabilities and sections for each release (once authorized by the bylaws, must be approved by Board and TC)
  3. Bring Havana work forward to Ice House and Juno.
  4. Help drive Refstack process to collect data from the field