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.

Installing SSD + Windows8 = Blank Primary Monitor (fixable!)

2012-10-28_12-44-51_691I could not find the solution to this easily, so I’m leaving a breadcrumb trail here… I did not keep the links so I cannot give proper attribution but will try to pay it forward.

Short version: Try HDMI/VGA output if your Win8 primary monitor is blank.  Then update the BIOS.

Long version:

I decided to update my wife’s Dell Inspiron N5110 laptop to an SSD and Windows 8.  Sadly, the machine’s factory config had a very slow HDD and that was impacting the system’s total performance.  Replacing the HDD with an SSD required major surgery to the laptop – it is not for the faint of heart.

After installing the SSD and installing Windows 8 (painless!) the system booted though the splash screen and turned off the display.  Yes, it simply went completely blank.

I stumbled upon a tip that suggested that the system was working but using the HDMI output.  That proved correct.  I was able to complete the configuration using HDMI and/or VGA monitors.

Even after completing and updating the monitor (still blank) was clearly working because the BIOS screens and splash screen worked on the monitor.  Deleting the Video Card from Devices did NOT work.

Ultimately, I found a site that recommended updating the BIOS (was A09, now A11 from 11/2012).  The BIOS update corrected the problem.

I should have known to update the BIOS and firmware before starting the upgrade.  I hope you learn from my experience.

Oh…. the SSD+Win8 made an AMAZING performance difference.  It’s like a brand new 10x faster laptop and an excellent investment.  I’ve become a bit of a Linux appologist; however, I was pleasantly surprised to find Windows 8 to be very usable once I learned the latest hot-key assignments (Search on Win key -> Win+F).

double Block Head with OpenStack+Equallogic & Crowbar+Ceph

Block Head

Whew….Yesterday, Dell announced TWO OpenStack block storage capabilities (Equallogic & Ceph) for our OpenStack Essex Solution (I’m on the Dell OpenStack/Crowbar team) and community edition.  The addition of block storage effectively fills the “persistent storage” gap in the solution.  I’m quadrupally excited because we now have:

  1. both open source (Ceph) and enterprise (Equallogic) choices
  2. both Nova drivers’ code is in the open at part of our open source Crowbar work

Frankly, I’ve been having trouble sitting on the news until Dell World because both features have been available in Github before the announcement (EQLX and Ceph-Barclamp).  Such is the emerging intersection of corporate marketing and open source.

As you may expect, we are delivering them through Crowbar; however, we’ve already had customers pickup the EQLX code and apply it without Crowbar.

The Equallogic+Nova Connector


If you are using Crowbar 1.5 (Essex 2) then you already have the code!  Of course, you still need to have the admin information for your SAN – we did not automate the configuration of the storage system, but the Nova Volume integration.

We have it under a split test so you need to do the following to enable the configuration options:

  1. Install OpenStack as normal
  2. Create the Nova proposal
  3. Enter “Raw” Attribute Mode
  4. Change the “volume_type” to “eqlx”
  5. Save
  6. The Equallogic options should be available in the custom attribute editor!  (of course, you can edit in raw mode too)

Want Docs?  Got them!  Check out these > EQLX Driver Install Addendum

Usage note: the integration uses SSH sessions.  It has been performance tested but not been tested at scale.

The Ceph+Nova Connector


The Ceph capability includes a Ceph barclamp!  That means that all the work to setup and configure Ceph is done automatically done by Crowbar.  Even better, their Nova barclamp (Ceph provides it from their site) will automatically find the Ceph proposal and link the components together!

Ceph has provided excellent directions and videos to support this install.

Interview Transcript about OpenStack, Foundation, Dell & Crowbar

Rafael Knuth, Dell Rafael Knuth (@RafaelKnuth with Dell as EMEA Social Media Community Manager) has set an ambitious objective to interview all 24 of the OpenStack Foundation Board members.  I have the privilege of being the first interview posted (Japanese version!).   Here’s the whole series.

This is not puff interview – We spent an hour together and Rafael did not shy away from asking hard questions like “Why did Dell jump into OpenStack?” and “is VMware a threat to OpenStack?”  Rather than posting the whole transcript (it’s posted here), I’m including the questions (as a teaser) below.   There is some real meat in these answers about OpenStack, Dell, Crowbar and challenges facing the project.

WARNING: My job is engineering, not marketing.  You may find my answers (which are MY OWN ANSWERS) to be more direct that you are expecting.  If you find yourself needing additional circumlocution then simply close your browser and move on.

Some highlights…

Dell’s interest in OpenStack has been very pragmatic. OpenStack is something we really see a market need for.

Rackspace …  runs on OpenStack pretty much off trunk …  That’s exactly the type of vibrant community we want to see.  At the same time, there is a growing community that wants to use OpenStack distributions with support, certifications and they are fine with being 6 months behind OpenStack off trunk. That’s good, and we want that shadow, we want that combination of pure minded early adopters and less sophisticated OpenStack users both working together.

We are working with different partners to bring OpenStack to different customers in different ways. It is confusing. Your question about Dell Crowbar was right … it is targeted at a certain class of users, and I don’t want enterprise customers who expect a lot of shiny chrome and zero touch. That’s not the target by now for Dell Crowbar. We definitely need that sort of magic decoder page to help customers understand our commercial offering.

Questions from Interview:

  1. Dell is one of the very early contributors to OpenStack. Why is Dell engaging in this project?
  2. How does Dell contribute to OpenStack?
  3. Let’s talk a bit about Dell Crowbar, your team’s deployment mechanism for OpenStack.
  4. Let’s talk a bit about OpenStack raw vs. OpenStack distributions.
  5. What are the biggest barriers to OpenStack adoption as of now?
  6. What does a customer specifically need to do when moving from OpenStack Essex to Folsom for example?
  7. My next question is around proof of concept versus production, Rob. How are customers using OpenStack and can you give examples for both scenarios?
  8. I hear very often two different statements: “Open Stack is an alternative to Amazon.” The other is: “OpenStack is an alternative to VMware … maybe, hopefully in two or three years from now.”  Which of both statements is true?
  9. How do you view VMware joining OpenStack. Is it a threat to OpenStack or does VMware add value to the project?
  10. Let us speak about market adoption. Who are the early adopters of OpenStack? And when do you expect OpenStack to hit the tipping point for mass market adoption?
  11. Rob, for all those interested in Dell’s commercial offering around OpenStack … can you give a brief overview?
  12. Dell TechCenter that provides customers an overview over our OpenStack offering: Dell Crowbar as our DevOps tool in its various shapes and forms, OpenStack distros we support … cloud services we build around OpenStack … hardware capabilities optimized for OpenStack.
  13. What are the challenges for the OpenStack Board of Directors?

Big Data to tame Big Government? The answer is the Question.

Today my boss at Dell, John Igoe, is part of announcing of the report from the TechAmerica Federal Big Data Commission (direct pdf), I was fully expecting the report to be a real snoozer brimming with corporate synergies and win-win externalities. Instead, I found myself reading a practical guide to applying Big Data to government. Flipping past the short obligatory “what is…” section, the report drives right into a survey of practical applications for big data spanning nearly every governmental service. Over half of the report is dedicated to case studies with specific recommendations and buying criteria.

Ultimately, the report calls for agencies to treat data as an asset. An asset that can improve how government operates.

There are a few items that stand out in this report:

  1. Need for standards on privacy and governance. The report calls out a review and standardization of cross agency privacy policy (pg 35) and a Chief Data Officer position each agency (pg 37).
  2. Clear tables of case studies on page 16 and characteristics on page 11 that help pin point a path through the options.
  3. Definitive advice to focus on a single data vector (velocity, volume or variety) for initial success on page 28 (and elsewhere)

I strongly agree with one repeated point in the report: although there is more data available, our ability to comprehend this data is reduced. The sheer volume of examples the report cites is proof enough that agencies are, and will be continue to be, inundated with data.

One short coming of this report is that it does not flag the extreme storage of data scientists. Many of the cases discussed assume a ready army of engineers to implement these solutions; however, I’m uncertain how the government will fill positions in a very tight labor market. Ultimately, I think we will have to simply open the data for citizen & non-governmental analysis because, as the report clearly states, data is growing faster than capability to use it.

I commend the TechAmerica commission for their Big Data clarity: success comes from starting with a narrow scope. So the answer, ironically, is in knowing which questions we want to ask.

Crowbar’s early twins: Cloudera Hadoop & OpenStack Essex

I’m proud to see my team announce the twin arrival of the Dell | Cloudera Apache Hadoop (Manager v4) and Dell OpenStack-Powered Cloud (Essex) solutions.

Not only are we simultaneously releasing both of these solutions, they reflect a significant acceleration in pace of delivery.  Both solutions had beta support for their core technologies (Cloudera 4 & OpenStack Essex) when the components were released and we have dramatically reduced the lag from component RC to solution release compared to past (3.7 & Diablo) milestones.

As before, the core deployment logic of these open source based solutions was developed in the open on Crowbar’s github.  You are invited to download and try these solutions yourself.   For Dell solutions, we include validated reference architectures, hardware configuration extensions for Crowbar, services and support.

The latest versions of Hadoop and OpenStack represent great strides for both solutions.   It’s great to be able have made them more deployable and faster to evaluate and manage.

Crowbar Celebrates 1st Anniversary

Nearly a year ago at OSCON 2011, my team at Dell opened sourced “Crowbar, an OpenStack installer.” That first Github commit was a much more limited project than Crowbar today: there was no separation into barclamps, no distinct network configuration, one operating system option and the default passwords were all “openstack.” We simply did not know if our effort would create any interest.

The response to Crowbar has been exciting and humbling. I most appreciate those who looked at Crowbar and saw more than a bare metal installer. They are the ones who recognized that we are trying to solve a bigger problem: it has been too difficult to cope with change in IT operations.

During this year, we have made many changes. Many have been driven by customer, user and partner feedback while others support Dell product delivery needs. Happily, these inputs are well aligned in intent if not always in timing.

  • Introduction of barclamps as modular components
  • Expansion into multiple applications (most notably OpenStack and Apache Hadoop)
  • Multi-Operating System
  • Working in the open (with public commits)
  • Collaborative License Agreements

Dell‘s understanding of open source and open development has made a similar transformation. Crowbar was originally Apache 2 open sourced because we imagined it becoming part of the OpenStack project. While that ambition has faded, the practical benefits of open collaboration have proven to be substantial.

The results from this first year are compelling:

  • For OpenStack Diablo, coordination with the Rackspace Cloud Builder team enabled Crowbar to include the Keystone and Dashboard projects into Dell’s solution
  • For OpenStack Essex, the community focused work we did for the March Essex Hackday are directly linked to our ability to deliver Dell’s OpenStack-Powered Essex solution over two months earlier than originally planned.
  • For Apache Hadoop distributions for 3.x and 4.x with implementation of Cloudera Manager and eco system components.
  • We’ve amassed hundreds of mail subscribers and Github followers
  • Support for multiple releases of RHEL, Centos & Ubuntu including Ubuntu 12.04 while it was still in beta.
  • SuSE does their own port of Crowbar to SuSE with important advances in Crowbar’s install model (from ISO to package).

We stand on the edge of many exciting transformations for Crowbar’s second year. Based on the amount of change from this year, I’m hesitant to make long term predictions. Yet, just within next few months there are significant plans based on Crowbar 2.0 refactor. We have line of site to changes that expand our tool choices, improve networking, add operating systems and become more even production ops capable.

That’s quite a busy year!

With Dell ARM-based “Copper” servers, Crowbar footprint grows

One of my team at Dell’s most critical lessons from hyperscale cloud deployments was the DevOps tooling and operations processes are key to success.  Our crowbar project was born out of this realization.

I have been tracking the progress the Copper ARM-based server from design to implementation internally.  Now, I’m excited to see it getting some deserved attention.

The Copper platform is really cool because the cost, power, and density ratios of the nodes are unparalleled.  This makes it an ideal platform for distributed mixed compute/store workloads like Hadoop.  The nodes in the platform have excellent RAM/CPU/Spindle ratios.

While Copper is driving huge density, it also drives forward the same hyperscale challenges that we’ve been trying to address with Crowbar; consequently, we’re already working to ensure that we can deploy and manage Copper with Crowbar at scale.

Copper and Crowbar make a natural team and we’re excited to be part of today’s announcement:

Dell is staging clusters of the Dell “Copper” ARM server within the Dell Solution Centers and with TACC so developers may book time on the platforms. Dell also will deliver an ARM-supported version of Crowbar, Dell’s open-source management infrastructure software, to the industry in the future.

Congratulations to the Copper team!

We need an OpenStack Reference Deployment (My objectives for Deploy Day)

I’m overwhelmed and humbled by the enthusiasm my team at Dell is seeing for the OpenStack Essex Deploy day on 5/31 (or 6/1 for Asia). What started as a day for our engineers to hack on Essex Cookbooks with a few fellow Crowbarians has morphed into an international OpenStack event spanning Europe, Americas & Asia.

If you want to read more about the event, check out my event logistics post (link pending).

I do not apologize for my promotion of the Dell-lead open source Crowbar as the deployment tool for the OpenStack Essex Deploy. For a community to focus on improving deployment tooling, there must be a stable reference infrastructure. Crowbar provides a fast and repeatable multi-node environment with scriptable networking and packaging.

I believe that OpenStack benefits from a repeatable multi-node reference deployment. I’ll go further and state that this requires DevOps tooling to ensure consistency both within and between deployments.

DevStack makes trunk development more canonical between different developers. I hope that Crowbar will help provide a similar experience for operators so that we can truly share deployment experience and troubleshooting. I think it’s already realistic for Crowbar deployments to a repeatable enough deployment that they provide a reference for defect documentation and reproduction.

Said more plainly, it’s a good thing if a lot of us use OpenStack in the same way so that we can help each out.

My team’s choice to accelerate releasing the Crowbar barclamps for OpenStack Essex makes perfect sense if you accept our rationale for creating a community baseline deployment.

Crowbar is Dell-lead, not Dell specific.

One of the reasons that Crowbar is open source and we do our work in the open (yes, you can see our daily development in github) is make it safe for everyone to invest in a shared deployment strategy. We encourage and welcome community participation.

PS: I believe the same is true for any large scale software project. Watch out for similar activity around Apache Hadoop as part of our collaboration with Cloudera!

Join us 5/31 for a OpenStack Deploy Hack-a-thon (all-day, world-wide online & multi-city)

An OpenStack Deploy Hack-a-thon is like 3-liter bottle of distilled open source community love.  Do you want direct access to my Dell team of OpenStack/Crowbar/Hadoop engineers?  Are you just getting started and want training about OpenStack and DevOps?  This is the event for you!

Here’s the official overview:

The OpenStack Deploy hack-a-thon focuses on automation for deploying OpenStack Essex with Dell Crowbar and Opscode Chef. This is a day-long, world-wide event bringing together developers, operators, users, ecosystem vendors and the open source cloud curious. (read below: We are looking for global sites and leaders to extend the event hours!)

OpenStack is the fastest growing open source cloud infrastructure project with broad market adoption from major hardware and software vendors. Crowbar is an Apache 2 licensed, open infrastructure deployment tool and is one of the leading multi-node deployers for OpenStack and Hadoop.

Learn first-hand how OpenStack and Crowbar can make it easy to deploy and operate your own cloud environments.

The Deploy day will offer two individual parallel tracks with something for both experts and beginners:

  • Newbies n00bs will learn the basics of OpenStack, Crowbar and DevOps and how they can benefit your organization. We’ll also have time for ecosystem vendors to discuss how they are leveraging OpenStack.
  • Experts l33ts will take a deep dive into new features of OpenStack Essex and Crowbar, and learn how Crowbar works under the hood, which will enable them to extend the product using Crowbar Barclamps.
Note: If you’re a n00b but want l33t content, we’ll be offering online training materials and videos to help get you up to speed.

Why now? We’ve validated our OpenStack Essex deployment against the latest release bits from Ubuntu. Now it’s time to reach out to the OpenStack and Crowbar communities for training, testing and collaborative development.

Join the event!  We’re organizing information on the Crowbar wiki.  (I highly recommend you join the Crowbar list to get access to support for prep materials).  You can also reach out to me via the @DellCrowbar handle.

We’d love to get you up to speed on the basics and dive deep into the core.