Curious about SDN & OpenStack? We discuss at Open Networking Summit Panel (next Thursday)

Next Thursday (6/18), I’m on a panel at the SJC Open Networking Summit with John Zannos (Canonical), Mark Carroll (HP), Mark McClain (VMware).  Our topic is software defined networking (SDN) and OpenStack which could go anywhere in discussion.
OpenStack is clearly driving a lot of open innovation around SDN (and NFV).
I have no idea of what other’s want to bring in, but I was so excited about the questions that I suggested that I thought to just post them with my answers here as a teaser.

1) Does OpenStack require an SDN to be successful?

Historically, no.  There were two networking modes.  In the future, expect that some level of SDN will be required via the Neutron part of the project.

More broadly, SDN appears to be a critical component to broader OpenStack success.  Getting it right creates a lock-in for OpenStack.

2) If you have an SDN for OpenStack, does it need to integrate with your whole datacenter or can it be an island around OpenStack?

On the surface, you can create an Island and get away with it.  More broadly, I think that SDN is most interesting if it provides network isolation throughout your data center or your hosting provider’s data center.  You may not run everything on top of OpenStack but you will be connecting everything together with networking.

SDN has the potential to be the common glue.

3) Of the SDN approaches, which ones seem to be working?  Why?

Overall, the overlay networking approaches seem to be leading.  Anything that requires central control and administration will have to demonstrate it can scale.  Anything that actually requires re-configuring the underlay networking quickly is also going to have to make a lot of progress.

Networking is already distributed.  Anything that breaks that design pattern has an uphill battle.

4) Are SDN and NFV co-dependent?  Are they driving each other?

Yes.  The idea of spreading networking functions throughout your data center to manage east-west or individual tenant requirements (my definition of NFV) requires a way to have isolated traffic (one of the uses for SDN).

5) Is SDN relevant outside of OpenStack?  If so, in what?

Yes.  SDN on containers will become increasingly important.  Also, SDN termination to multi-user systems (like a big database) also make sense.

6) IPv6?  A threat or assistance to SDN?

IPv6 is coming, really.  I think that IPv6 has isolation and encryption capabilities that compete with SDN as an overlay.  Widespread IPv6 adoption could make SDN less relevant.  It also does a better job for multi-cloud networking since it’s neutral and you don’t have to worry about which SDN tech your host is using.

Ceph in an hour? Boring! How about Ceph hardware optimized with advanced topology networking & IPv6?

This is the most remarkable deployment that I’ve had the pleasure to post about.

The RackN team has refreshed the original OpenCrowbar Ceph deployment to take advantage of the latest capabilities of the platform.  The updated workload (APL2) requires first installing RackN Enterprise or OpenCrowbar.

The update provides five distinct capabilities:

1. Fast and Repeatable

You can go from nothing to a distributed Ceph cluster in an hour.  Need to rehearse on VMs?  That’s even faster.  Want to test and retune your configuration?  Make some changes, take a coffee break and retest.  Of course, with redeploy that fast, you can iterate until you’ve got it exactly right.

2. Automatically Optimized Disc Configuration

The RackN update optimizes the Ceph installation for disk performance by finding and flagging SSDs.  That means that our deploy just works(tm) without you having to reconfigure your OS provisioning scripts or vendor disk layout.

3. Cluster Building and Balancing

This update allows you to place which roles you want on which nodes before you commit to the deployment.  You can decide the right monitor to OSD/MON ratio for your needs.  If you expand your cluster, the system will automatically rebalance the cluster.

4. Advanced Networking Topology & IPv6

Using the network conduit abstraction, you can separate front and back end networks for the cluster.  We also take advantage of native IPv6 support and even use that as the preferred addressing.

5. Both Block and Object Services

Building up from Ready State Core, you can add the Ceph workload and be quickly installing Ceph for block and object storage.
That’s a lot of advanced capabilities included out-of-the-box made possible by having a ops orchestration platform that actually understands metal.
Of course, there’s always more to improve.  Before we take on further automated tuning, we want to hear from you and learn what use-cases are most important.

The Matrix & Surrogates as an analogies for VMs, Containers and Metal

010312_1546_2012CloudOu1.jpgTrench coats aside, I used The Matrix as a useful analogy to explain visualization and containers to a non-technical friend today.  I’m interested in hearing from others if this is a helpful analogy.

Why does anyone care about virtual servers?

Virtual servers (aka virtual machines or VMs) are important because data centers are just like the Matrix.  The real world of data centers is a ugly, messy place fraught with hidden dangers and unpleasant chores.  Most of us would rather take the blue pill and live in a safe computer generated artificial environment where we can ignore those details and live in the convenient abstraction of Mega City.

Do VMs really work to let you ignore the physical stuff?

Pretty much.  For most people, they can live their whole lives within the virtual world.  They can think they are eating the steak and never try bending the spoons.

So why are containers disruptive?  

Well, it’s like the Surrogates movie.  Right now, a lot of people living in the Cloud Matrix are setting up even smaller bubbles.  They are finding that they don’t need a whole city, they can just live inside a single room.  For them, it’s more like Surrogates where people never leave their single room.

But if they never leave the container, do they need the Matrix?

No.  And that’s the disruption.  If you’ve wrapped yourself in a smaller bubble then you really don’t need to larger wrapper.

What about that messy “real world”?

It’s still out there in both cases.  Just once you are inside the inner bubble, you can’t really tell the difference.

@NextCast chat about DefCore, Metal Ops and OpenStack evolution

In Vancouver, I sat down with Scott Sanchez (EMC) and Jeff Dickey (Redapt) for a NextCast discussion.   We covered a lot of my favorite subjects including DefCore and Ready State bare metal operations.

One of the things I liked about this discussion was that we were able to pull together the seemly disparate threads that I’m work on around OpenStack.

10 ways to make OpenStack more Start-up Friendly [even more critical in wake of recent consolidation]

The Josh McKenty comment that OpenStack is “aggressively anti-startup” for Business Insider got me thinking and today’s news about IBM & Cisco acquiring startups Blue Box & Piston made me decide to early release this post.

2013-03-11_20-01-50_458I think there’s a general confusion about start-ups in OpenStack.  Many of the early (and now acquired) start-ups were selling OpenStack the platform.  Since OpenStack is community infrastructure, that’s a really hard place to differentiate.  Unfortunately, there’s no material install base (yet) to create an ecosystem of start-ups on top of OpenStack.

The real question is not how to make OpenStack start-up friendly, but how to create a thriving system around OpenStack like Amazon and VMware have created.

That said, here’s my list of ten ways that OpenStack could be more start-up friendly:

  1. Accept companies will have some closed tech – Many investors believe that companies need proprietary IP. An “open all things” company will have more trouble with investors.
  2. Stop scoring commits as community currency – Small companies don’t show up in the OpenStack committer economy because they are 1) small and 2) working on their product upstream ahead of OpenStack upstream code.
  3. Have start-up travel assistance – OpenStack demands a lot of travel and start-ups don’t have the funds to chase the world-wide summits and mid-cycles.
  4. Embrace open projects outside of OpenStack governance – Not all companies want or need that type of governance for their start-up code base.  That does not make them less valuable, it just makes them not ready yet.
  5. Stop anointing ecosystem projects as OpenStack projects – Projects that are allowed into OpenStack get to grab to a megaphone even if they have minimal feature sets.
  6. Be language neutral – Python is not the only language and start-ups need to make practical choices based on their objectives, staff and architecture.
  7. Have a stable base – start-ups don’t have time to troubleshoot both their own product and OpenStack.  Without core stability, it’s risky to add OpenStack as a product requirement.
  8. Focus on interoperability – Start-ups don’t have time evangelize OpenStack.  They need OpenStack to have large base of public and private installs because that creates an addressable market.
  9. Limit big companies from making big pre-announcements – Start-ups primary advantage is being a first/fast mover.  When OpenStack members make announcements of intention (generally without substance) it damages the market for start-ups.  Normally corporate announcements are just noise but they are given credibility when they appear to come from the community.
  10. Reduce the contribution tax and patch backlog – Start-ups must seek the path of least friction.  If needed OpenStack code changes require a lot of work and time then they are unlikely to look for less expensive alternatives.

While I believe these items would help start-ups, they would have negative consequences for the large corporate contributors who have fashioned OpenStack into the type of project that supports their needs.

I’d love to what items you think I’ve overlooked or incorrectly added.

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.

Management free falling! Why The Zappos & Valve Model is Terrifying [Post 4 of 8]

Forth IN AN 8 POST SERIESBRAD SZOLLOSE AND ROB HIRSCHFELD INVITE YOU TO SHARE IN OUR DISCUSSION ABOUT FAILURES, FIGHTS AND FRIGHTENING TRANSFORMATIONS GOING ON AROUND US AS DIGITAL WORK CHANGES WORKPLACE DELIVERABLES, PLANNING AND CULTURE.

It doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and tell them what to do; we hire smart people so they can tell us what to do.  Steve Jobs, cofounder of Apple Computers

Trust, not stability, is the new management contract. Digital workers interpret “strong” management as a lack of trust. Megaphone!

Before we can talk about how to manage digital workers, we have to talk about trusting them to do their jobs. Why? Digital workers largely adopt Millennials’ unwillingness to follow directed leadership.  If we want to succeed in managing them then we need to foster mutual respect that is built on bi-directional trust.

20th Century business models were based on “if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it” thinking that went along with mass manufacturing control, discipline and predictability. Physical goods were sold to a passive marketplace with minimal feedback from markets and internal workers; consequently, decisions could be made by a few leaders as long as workers did what they were told. All out-of-the-box decision had to go through a leader. The bigger the decision, the higher up that decision needs to go for approval. Like in our symphony analogy, control and discipline is the main ideology.

In 21st Century business, there is no script just as there is no score for a Jazz concert. That does not mean it’s a worker free-for-all! We still need to deliver products. But instead of top-down control, we talk about collaboration, shared mission and team work. This change is critical because digital work as so much situational content that it is impossible to proscribe it’s exact results in advance. Like Jazz, you can create a general framework and guidelines but the exact composition has a degree of improvisation because it must reflect the players’ situation in the moment.

Since you have to trust people to make decisions, you’d better create an environment where they want to make the best decisions for your business!

Glassdoor’s multiyear study discovered that the “Best Places to Work” from 2009 to 2014 outperformed the S&P 500 by 115.6% while a similar portfolio named Fortune’s “Best Companies to Work For,” outperformed the S&P 500 by 84.2%! That is impressive.

What does trust look like? Leading gaming software maker Valve has thrown out the traditional employee handbook and replaced it with a 37 page breakdown of what they expect from an employee. The manual tells people their desk is on wheels so they can just roll over to a new team if they want to change jobs. The trust implied in that type of follow-your-passion enablement is unheard of in most workplaces.

Zappos, recognized 6 years in a row by FORTUNE’s 100 Best Companies to Work For®, pays employees $4,500 to quit if not satisfied with the culture. Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh is advocates for a no management whatsoever model called Holacracy. Like Valve, Zappos counts of their hiring process to find workers who thrive in a self-led model where leadership is fluid and people organize themselves to solve problems and deliver value.

If our undirected Jazz model scares you, Holacracy will terrify you.

However, it’s critical to understand that neither Zappos nor Value are “wild west” work environments. Like a top Jazz ensemble they provide trained performers, concrete structure, appropriate tools and clear expectations. By giving your teams the right tools to know what to do when they are working on their own, you will see a different workforce, striving to make your company better than even you thought possible.

Why does this work? In digital work, we have to give up the idea that the knighted leaders make the best decisions.

It’s not just a question of good decisions, we also need to improve quality and speed of action. Check out Navy Submarine Captain David Marquet’s talk on Greatness, based on his book, Turn The Ship Around! He explains quite well why people should be allowed to think and take responsibility for their work. 

In the end, it’s simply physics. Without trust, all decisions must flow downward and the entire organization is limited by the leadership. Our information economy makes it simply impossible for leaders to sufficiently learn and react. When people are trusted to think for themselves and take control for the products they create there is a psychological shift. They take ownership in their work. That means quality and output go through the roof as they get competitive with creating a wow product.

So, how can you create a company culture that taps into the skills sets of a new digital worker yet engages everyone for the long haul? Let’s dig in and instead of giving you rules or regulations, let’s start with a few principles to create the right environment.

Tune it for our next post: Setting direction – how too much freedom is bad too.