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.

Crowbar 2 Status Update > I can feel the rumble of the engines


Crowbar Two

While I’ve been more muted on our Crowbar 2 progress since our pivot back to CB1 for Grizzly, it has been going strong and steady.  We took advantage of the extra time to do some real analysis about late-binding, simulated annealing, emergent services and functional operations that are directly reflected in Crowbar’s operational model (yes, I’m working on posted explaining each concept).

We’re planning Crowbar 2 hack-a-thon in Hong Kong before the OpenStack Ice House Summit (11/1-3).  We don’t expect a big crowd on site, but the results will be fun to watch remote and it should be possible to play along (watch the crowbar list for details).

In the mean time, I wanted to pass along this comprehensive status update by Crowbar’s leading committer, Victor Lowther:

It has been a little over a month since my last status report on
Crowbar 2.0, so now that we have hit the next major milestone
(installing the OS on a node and being able to manage it afterwards),
it is time for another status report.

Major changes since the initial status report:

* The Crowbar framework understands node aliveness and availability.
* The Network barclamp is operational, and can manage IPv4 and IPv6 in
  the same network.
* delayed_jobs + a stupidly thin queuing layer handle all our
  long-running tasks.
* We have migrated to postgresql 9.3 for all our database needs.
* DHCP and DNS now utilize the on_node_* role hooks to manage their
* We support a 2 layer deployment tree -- system on top, everything
  else in the second layer.
* The provisioner can install Ubuntu 12.04 on other nodes.
* The crowbar framework can manage other nodes that are not in
* We have a shiny installation wizard now.

In more detail:

Aliveness and availability:

Nodes in the Crowbar framework have two related flags that control
whether the annealer can operate on them.

Aliveness is under the control of the Crowbar framework and
encapsulates the framework's idea of whether any given node is
manageable or not.  If a node is pingable and can be SSH'ed into as
root without a password using the credentials of the root user on
the admin node, then the node is alive, otherwise it is dead.
Aliveness is tested everytime a jig tries to do something on a node
-- if a node cannot be pinged and SSH'ed into from at least one of
its addresses on the admin network, it will be marked as
dead.  When a node is marked as dead, all of the noderoles on that
node will be set to either blocked or todo (depending on the state of
their parent noderoles), and those changes will ripple down the
noderole dependency graph to any child noderoles.

Nodes will also mark themselves as alive and dead in the course of
their startup and shutdown routines.

Availability is under the control of the Crowbar cluster
administrators, and should be used by them to tell Crowbar that it
should stop managing noderoles on the node.  When a node is not
available, the annealer will not try to perform any jig runs on a
node, but it will leave the state of the noderoles alone.

A node must be both alive and available for the annealer to perform
operations on it.

The Network Barclamp:

The network barclamp is operational, with the following list of

* Everything mentioned in Architecture for the Network Barclamp in
  Crowbar 2.0
* IPv6 support.  You can create ranges and routers for IPv6 addresses
  as well as IPv4 addresses, and you can tell a network that it should
  automatically assign IPv6 addresses to every node on that network by
  setting the v6prefix setting for that network to either:
  * a /64 network prefix, or
  * "auto", which will create a globally unique RFC4193 IPv6 network
    prefix from a randomly-chosen 40 bit number (unique per cluster
    installation) followed by a subnet ID based on the ID of the
    Crowbar network.
  Either way, nodes in a Crowbar network that has a v6prefix will get
  an interface ID that maps back to their FQDN via the last 64 bits of
  the md5sum of that FQDN. For now, the admin network will
  automatically create an RFC4193 IPv6 network if it is not passed a
  v6prefix so that we can easily test all the core Crowbar components
  with IPv6 as well as IPv4.  The DNS barclamp has been updated to
  create the appropriate AAAA records for any IPv6 addresses in the
  admin network.

Delayed Jobs and Queuing:

The Crowbar framework runs all jig actions in the background using
delayed_jobs + a thin queuing layer that ensures that only one task is
running on a node at any given time.  For now, we limit ourselves to
having up to 10 tasks running in the background at any given time,
which should be enough for the immediate future until we come up with
proper tuning guidelines or auto-tuning code for significantly larger

Postgresql 9.3:

Migrating to delayed_jobs for all our background processing made it
immediatly obvious that sqlite is not at all suited to handling real
concurrency once we started doing multiple jig runs on different nodes
at a time. Postgresql is more than capable of handling our forseeable
concurrency and HA use cases, and gives us lots of scope for future
optimizations and scalability.


The roles for DHCP and DNS have been refactored to have seperate
database roles, which are resposible for keeping their respective
server roles up to date.  Theys use the on_node_* roles mentioned in
"Roles, nodes, noderoles, lifeycles, and events, oh my!" along with a
new on_node_change event hook create and destroy DNS and DHCP database
entries, and (in the case of DHCP) to control what enviroment a node
will PXE/UEFI boot into.  This gives us back the abiliy to boot into
something besides Sledgehammer.

Deployment tree:

Until now, the only deployment that Crowbar 2.0 knew about was the
system deployment.  The system deployment, however, cannot be placed
into proposed and therefore cannot be used for anything other than
initial bootstrap and discovery.  To do anything besides
bootstrap the admin node and discover other nodes, we need to create
another deployment to host the additional noderoles needed to allow
other workloads to exist on the cluster.  Right now, you can only
create deployments as shildren of the system deployment, limiting the
deployment tree to being 2 layers deep.

Provisioner Installing Ubuntu 12.04:

Now, we get to the first of tqo big things that were added in the last
week -- the provisioner being able to install Ubuntu 12.04 and bring
the resulting node under management by the rest of the CB 2.0
framework.  This bulds on top of the deployment tree and DHCP/DNS
database role work.  To install Ubuntu 12.04 on a node from the web UI:

1: Create a new deployment, and add the provisioner-os-install role to
that deployment.  In the future you will be able to edit the
deployment role information to change what the default OS for a
deployment should be.
2: Drag one of the non-admin nodes onto the provisioner-os-install
role.  This will create a proposed noderole binding the
provisioner-os-install role to that node, and in the future you would
be able to change what OS would be installed on that node by editing
that noderole before committing the deployment.
3: Commit the snapshot.  This will cause several things to happen:
  * The freshly-bound noderoles will transition to TODO, which will
    trigger an annealer pass on the noderoles.
  * The annealer will grab all the provisioner-os-install roles that
    are in TODO, set them in TRANSITION, and hand them off to
    delayed_jobs via the queuing system.
  * The delayed_jobs handlers will use the script jig to schedule a
    reboot of the nodes for 60 seconds in the future and then return,
    which will transition the noderole to ACTIVE.
  * In the crowbar framework, the provisioner-os-install role has an
    on_active hook which will change the boot environment of the node
    passed to it via the noderole to the appropriate os install state
    for the OS we want to install, and mark the node as not alive so
    that the annealer will ignore the node while it is being
  * The provisioner-dhcp-database role has an on_node_change handler
    that watches for changes in the boot environment of a node.  It
    will see the bootenv change, update the provisioner-dhcp-database
    noderoles with the new bootenv for the node, and then enqueue a
    run of all of the provisioner-dhcp-database roles.
  * delayed_jobs will see the enqueued runs, and run them in the order
    they were submitted.  All the runs sholuld happen before the 60
    seconds has elapsed.
  * When the nodes finally reboot, the DHCP databases should have been
    updated and the nodes will boot into the Uubntu OS installer,
    install, and then set their bootenv to local, which will tell the
    provisioner (via the provisioner-dhcp-database on_node_change
    hook) to not PXE boot the node anymore.
  * When the nodes reboot off their freshly-installed hard drive, they
    will mark themselves as alive, and the annealer will rerun all of
    the usual discovery roles.
The semi-astute observer will have noticed some obvious bugs and race
conditions in the above sequence of steps.  These have been left in
place in the interest of expediency and as learning oppourtunities for
others who need to get familiar with the Crowbar codebase.

Installation Wizard:

We have a shiny installation that you can use to finish bootstrapping
your admin node.  To use it, pass the --wizard flag after your FQDN to
/opt/dell/bin/install-crowbar when setting up the admin node, and the
install script will not automatically create an admin network or an
entry for the admin node, and logging into the web UI will let you
customize things before creating the initial admin node entry and
committing the system deployment.  

Once we get closer to releasing CB 2.0, --wizard will become the default.

OpenStack Design Conference Observations (plus IPv6 thread)

I’m not going to post OpenStack full conference summary because I spent more time talking 1 on 1 with partners and customers than participating in sessions.  Other members of the Dell team (@galthaus) did spend more time (I’ll see if he’ll post his notes).

I did lead an IPv6 unconference and those notes are below.

Overall, my observations from the conference are:

  • A constantly level of healthy debate.  For OpenStack to thrive, the community must be able to disagree, discuss and reach consensus.   I saw that going in nearly every session and hallway.  There were some pitched battles with forks and branches but no injuries.
  • Lots of adopters.  For a project that’s months old, there were lots of companies that were making plans to use OpenStack in some way.
  • Everyone was in a rush.  There’s been something of a log jam for decision making because the market is changing so fast companies seem to delay committing waiting for the “next big thing.”
  • Service Providers and implementers were out in force.
  • IPv6 is interesting to a limited audience, but consistently injected.

While IPv6 deserves more coverage here, I thought it would be worthwhile to at least preserve my notes/tweets from the IPv6 unconference discussion (To IP or not to IPv6? That will be the question.) at the OpenStack Design Summit.

NOTE: My tweets for this topic are notes, not my own experience/opinions

  • RT @opnstk_com_mgr #openstack unconference in camino real today < #IPv6 session going now – good size crowd
  • #NTT has IPv6 for VMs and tests for IPv6. If you set the mac, then you will know what the address will be.
  • it will be helpful to break out VMs to multiple networks – could have a VM on both IPv6 & IPv4
  • @zehicle @sjensen1850 (Dell) if IPv6 100% then may break infrastructure products – inside, easier to stay v4
    • you don’t want to paint yourself into a corner – IPv6 should not become your major feature requirement
  • typing IPv6 address not that hard to remember. DNS helps, but not required if you want to get to machines.
  • using IPv6 not hard – issue is the policy to do it. Until it’s forced. We need to find a path for DUAL operation.
  • chicken/egg problem. Our primary job is to make sure it works and is easy to adopt.
    • we are missing information on what options we have for transforms
  • where is the responsibility to do the translation? floating IP scheme needs to be worked out. IPv6 can make this easier.
  • idea, IPv6 should be the default. Fill gap with IPv4 as a Service? Floating needs NAT – v4aaS is LB/Proxy
  • unconference session was great! Good participation and ideas. Lots of opinions.

We had a hallway conversation after the unconference about what would force the switch.  In a character, it’s $.

Votes for IPv6 during the keynote (tweet: I’d like to hear from audience here if that’s important to them. RT to vote).  Retweeters:

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: