Four OpenStack Trends from Summit: Practical, Friendly, Effective and Deployable

With the next OpenStack Austin meetup on Thursday (sponsored by Puppet), I felt like it was past time for me to post my thoughts and observations about the Spring 2012 OpenStack design conference.  This was my fifth OpenStack conference (my notes about Bexar, Cactus, Diablo & Essex).  Every conference has been unique, exciting, and bigger than the previous.

My interest lies in the trend lines of OpenStack.  For details about sessions, I recommend Stefano Maffulli‘s  excellent link aggregation post for the Summit.

1. Technology Trend: Practical with Potential.

OpenStack started with a BIG vision to become the common platform for cloud API and operations.  That vision is very much alive and on-track; however, our enthusiasm for what could be is tempered by the need to build a rock solid foundation.  The drive to stability over feature expansion has had a very positive impact.  I give a lot of credit for this effort to the leadership of the project technical leads (PTLs), Canonical‘s drive to include OpenStack in the 12.04 LTS and the Rackspace Cloud drive to deploy Essex.  My team at Dell has also been part of this trend by focusing so much effort on making OpenStack production deployable (via Crowbar).

Overall, I am seeing a broad-based drive to minimize disruption.

2. Culture Trend: Friendly but some tension.

Companies at both large and small ends of the spectrum are clearly jockeying for position.  I think the market is big enough for everyone; however, we are also bumping into each other.  Overall, we are putting aside these real and imagined differences to focus on enlarging the opportunity of having a true community cloud platform.  For example, the OpenStack Foundation investment formation has moneyed competitors jostling for position to partner together.

However, it’s not just about paying into the club; OpenStack’s history is clearly about execution.  Looking back to the original Austin Summit sponsors, we’ve clearly seen that intent and commitment are different.

3. Discussion Trend: Small Groups Effective

The depth & quality of discussions inside sessions was highly variable.  Generally, I saw that large group discussions stayed at a very high level.  The smaller sessions required deep knowledge of the code to participate and seemed more productive.  We continue to have a juggle between discussions that are conceptual or require detailed knowledge of the code.  If conceptual, it’s too far removed.  If code, it becomes inaccessible to many people.

This has happened at each Summit and I now accept that it is natural.  We are using vision sessions to ensure consensus and working sessions to coordinate deliverables for the release.

I cannot over emphasize importance of small groups and delivery driven execution interactions: I spent most of my time in small group discussions with partners aligning efforts.

4. Deployment Trend: Testing and Upstreams matter

Operations for deploying OpenStack is a substantial topic at the Summit.  I find that to be a significant benefit to the community because there are a large block of us who were vocal advocates for deployability at the very formation of the project.

From my perspective at Dell, we are proud to see that wide spread acknowledgement of our open source contribution, Crowbar, as the most prominent OpenStack deployer.   Our efforts at making OpenStack installable are recognized as a contribution; however, we’re also getting feedback that we need to streamline and simplify Crowbar.  We also surprised to hear that Crowbar is “opinionated.”   On reflection, I agree (and am proud) of this assessment because it matches best practice coding styles.  Since our opinions also drive our test matrix there is a significant value for our OpenStack deployment is that we spend a lot of time testing (automated and manual) our preferred install process.

There’s a push to reconcile the various Chef OpenStack cookbooks into a single upstream.  This seems like a very good idea because it will allow various parties to collaborate on open operations.  The community needs leadership from Opscode to make this happen.  It appears that Puppet Labs is interested in playing a similar role for Puppet modules but these are still emerging and have not had a chance to fragment.

No matter which path we take, the deployment scripts are only as good as their level of testing.   Unreliable deployment scripts have are less than worthless.

OpenStack Essex Deploy Day 3/8 – Get involved and install with us

My team at Dell has been avidly tracking the upsdowns, and breakthroughs of the OpenStack Essex release.  While we still have a few milestones before the release is cut, we felt like the E4 release was a good time to begin the work on Essex deployment.  Of course, the final deployment scripts will need substantial baking time after the final release on April 5th; however, getting deployments working will help influence the quality efforts and expand the base of possible testers.

To rally behind Essex Deployments, we are hosting a public work day on Thursday March 8th.

For this work day, we’ll be hosting all-day community events online and physically in Austin and Boston.  We are getting commitments from other Dell teams, partners and customers around the world to collaborate.  The day is promising to deliver some real Essex excitement.

The purpose of these events is to deliver the core of a working OpenStack Essex deployment.  While my team is primarily focused on deploys via Crowbar/Chef, we are encouraging anyone interested in laying down OpenStack Essex to participate.  We will be actively engaged on the OpenStack IRC and mailing lists too.

We have experts in OpenStack, Chef, Crowbar and Operating Systems (Canonical, SUSE, and RHEL) engaged in these activities.

This is a great time to start learning about OpenStack (or Crowbar) with hands-on work.  We are investing substantial upfront time (checkout out the Crowbar wiki for details) to ensure that there is a working base OpenStack Essex deploy on Ubuntu 12.04 beta.  This deploy includes the Crowbar 1.3 beta with some new features specifically designed to make testing faster and easier than ever before.

In the next few days, I’ll cut a 12.04 ISO and OpenStack Barclamp TARs as the basis for the deploy day event.  I’ll also be creating videos that help you quickly get a test lab up and running.  Visit the wiki or meetup sites to register and stay tuned for details!

Austin OpenStack Meetup: Keystone & Knife (2/20 notes via Greg Althaus)

I could not make it to the recent Austin OpenStack Meetup, but Greg Althaus generously let me post his notes from the event.

Background

Matt Ray talks about Chef

Matt Ray from Opscode presented some of the work with Chef and OpenStack. He talked about the three main chef repos floating around. He called out Anso’s original cookbook set that is the basis for the Crowbar cookbooks (his second set), and his final set is the emerging set of cookbooks in OpenStack proper. The third one is interesting and what he plans to continue working on to make into his public openstack cookbooks. These are an amalgamation of smokestack, RCB, Anso improvements, and his (Crowbar’s).

He then demoed his knife plugin (slideshare) to build openstack virtual servers using the Openstack API. This is nice and works against TryStack.org (previously “Free Cloud”) and RCB’s demo cloud. All of that is on his github repo with instructions how to build and use. Matt and I talked about trying to get that into our Crowbar distro.

There were some questions about flow and choice of OpenStack API versus Amazon EC2 API because there was already an EC2 knife set of plugins.

Ziad Sawalha talks about Keystone

Ziad Sawalha is the PLT (Project Technical Lead) for Keystone. He works for Rackspace out of San Antonio. He drove up for the meeting.

He split his talk into two pieces, Incubation Process and Keystone Overview. He asked who was interested in what and focused his talk more towards overview than incubation.

Some key take-aways:

  • Keystone comes from Rackspace’s strong, flexible, and scalable API. It started as a known quantity from his perspective.
  • Community trusted nothing his team produced from an API perspective
  • Community is python or nothing
    • His team was ignored until they had a python prototype implementing the API
    • At this point, comments on API came in.
  • Churn in API caused problems with implementation and expectations around the close of Diablo.
    • Because comments were late, changes occurred.
    • Official implementation lagged and stalled into arriving.
  • API has been stable since Diablo final, but code is changing. that is good and shows strength of API.
  • Side note from Greg, Keystone represents to me the power of API over Code. You can have innovation around the implementation as long all the implementations have a fair ground work to plan under which is an API specification. The replacement of Keystone with the Keystone Light code base is an example of this. The only reason this is possible is that the API was sound and documented.  (Rob’s post on this)

Ziad spent the rest of his time talking about the work flow of Keystone and the API points. He covered the API points.

  • Client to Keystone, Keystone to Client for initial auth token
  • Client to Middleware API for the services to have a front.
  • Middleware to Keystone to verify and establish identity.
  • Middleware to Service to pass identity

Not many details other then flow and flexibility. He stressed the API design separated protocol from actions and data at all the layers. This allows for future variations and innovations while maintaining the APIs.

Ziad talked about the state of Essex.

  • Planned
    • RBAC (aka Role Based Access Control)
    • Stability
    • Many backends
  • Actual
    • Code replacement Keystone Light
    • Stability
    • LDAP backend
    • SQL backend

Folsum work:

  • RBAC
  • Stability
  • AD backend
  • Another backend
  • Federation was planned but will most likely be pushed to G
    • Federation is the ability for multiple independent Keystones to operate (bursting use case)
    • Dependent upon two other federation components (networking and billing/metering)

OpenStack Bexar Design Summit Day 1

Yesterday, Dell sent me to be part of our OpenStack vanguard for the design summit.  The conference is fascinating and productive for the content of the sessions and even more interesting for the hallway meetings.

It’s obvious looking at the board composition that RackSpace and NASA Nova are driving  most of the development; however, the is palpable community interest and enthusiasm.  Participants and contributors showed up in force at this event.

RackSpace and NASA leadership provides critical momentum for the community.  Code is the smallest part of their contribution, their commitment to run the code at scale in production is the magic rocket fuel powering OpenStack. I’ve had many conversations with partners and prospects planning to follow RackSpace into production with a 3-6 month lag.

Beyond that primary conference arc, my impressions:

  • Core vendors like Citrix, Dell, Canonical are signing up to do primary work for the code base.  They are taking ownership for their own components in the stack.
  • Universally, people comment about the speed of progress and amount of code being generated.  Did I mention that there is a lot of code being written.
  • Networking is still a major challenge.  OpenStack (with Citrix’s Xen support) is driving Open vSwitchas a replacement for iptables management.
  • IPv6 gets lackadaisical treatment in the US, but is urgent in Japan/Asia where their core infrastructure is ALREADY IPv6.  Their frustration to get attention here should be a canary in the cloud mine (but is not).  They proposed a gateway model where VMs have dual addresses: IPv4 gets NATed while IPv6 is a pass-through. Seems to me that the going IPv6 internal is the real solution.
  • Cloud bursting is still too fuzzy a thing to talk about in a big group.  The session about it covered so many use-cases that we did not accomplish anything.  Some people wanted to talk about cloud API proxy while others (myself included) wanted to talk about managing apps between clouds.  My $0.02 is that vendors like RightScale solve the API proxy issue so it’s the networking issues that need focus.  We need to get back to the use-cases!

Executive Tweet: #openstack: Partners & Code = great progress.  Networking = needs more love

Other notes: