Open Operations [4/4 series on Operating Open Source Infrastructure]

This post is the final in a 4 part series about Success factors for Operating Open Source Infrastructure.

tl;dr Note: This is really TWO tightly related posts: 
  part 1 is OpenOps background. 
  part 2 is about OpenStack, Tempest and DefCore.

2012-01-11_17-42-11_374One of the substantial challenges of large-scale deployments of open source software is that it is very difficult to come up with a best practice, or a reference implementation that can be widely explained or described by the community.

Having a best practice deployment is essential for the growth of the community because it enables multiple people to deploy the software in a repeatable, stable way. This, in turn, fosters community growth so that more people can adopt software in a consistent way. It does little good if operators have no consistent pattern for deployment, because that undermines the developers’ abilities to extend, the testers’ abilities to ensure quality, and users’ ability to repeat the success of others.

Fundamentally, the goal of an open source project, from a user’s perspective, is that they can quickly achieve and repeat the success of other people in the community.

When we look at these large-scale projects we really try to create a pattern of success that can be repeated over and over again. This ensures growth of the user base, and it also helps the developer reduce time spent troubleshooting problems.

That does not mean that every single deployment should be identical, but there is substantial value in having a limited number of success patterns. Customers can then be assured not only of quick time to value with these projects., They can also get help without having everybody else in the community attempt to untangle how one person created a site-specific. This is especially problematic if someone created an unnecessarily unique scenario. That simply creates noise and confusion in the environment., Noise is a huge cost for the community, and needs to be eliminated nor an open source project to flourish.

This isn’t any different from in proprietary software but most of these activities are hidden. A proprietary project vendor can make much stronger recommendations and install guidance because they are the only source of truth in that project. In an open source project, there are multiple sources of truth, and there are very few people who are willing to publish their exact reference implementation or test patterns. Consequently, my team has taken a strong position on creating a repeatable reference implementation for Openstack deployments, based on extensive testing. We have found that our test patterns and practices are grounded in successful customer deployments and actual, physical infrastructure deployments. So, they are very pragmatic, repeatable, and sustained.

We found that this type of testing, while expensive, is also a significant value to our customers, and something that they appreciate and have been willing to pay for.

OpenStack as an Example: Tempest for Reference Validation

The Crowbar project incorporated OpenStack Tempest project as an essential part of every OpenStack deployment. From the earliest introduction of the Tempest suite, we have understood the value of a baselining test suite for OpenStack. We believe that using the same tests the developers use for a single node test is a gate for code acceptance against a multi-node deployment, and creates significant value both for our customers and the OpenStack project as a whole.  This was part of my why I embraced the suggestion of basing DefCore on tests.

While it is important to have developer tests that gate code check-ins, the ultimate goal for OpenStack is to create scale-out multi-node deployments. This is a fundamental design objective for OpenStack.

With developers and operators using the same test suite, we are able to proactively measure the success of the code in the scale deployments in a way that provides quick feedback for the developers. If Tempest tests do not pass a multi-node environment, they are not providing significant value for developers to ensure that their code is operating against best practice scenarios. Our objective is to continue to extend the Tempest suite of tests so that they are an accurate reflection of the use cases that are encountered in a best practice, referenced deployment.

Along these lines, we expect that the community will continue to expand the Tempest test suite to match actual deployment scenarios reflected in scale and multi-node configurations. Having developers be responsible for passing these tests as part of their day-to-day activities ensures that development activities do not disrupt scale operations. Ultimately, making proactive gating tests ensures that we are creating scenarios in which code quality is continually increasing, as is our ability to respond and deploy the OpenStack infrastructure.

I am very excited and optimistic that the expanding the Tempest suite holds the key to making OpenStack the most stable, reliable, performance cloud implementation available in the market. The fact that this test suite can be extended in the community, and contributed to by a broad range of implementations, only makes that test suite more valuable and more likely to fully encompass all use cases necessary for reference implementations.

OpenStack steps toward Interopability with Temptest, RAs &

Pipes are interoperableI’m a cautious supporter of OpenStack leading with implementation (over API specification); however, it clearly has risks. OpenStack has the benefit of many live sites operating at significant scale. The short term cost is that those sites were not fully interoperable (progress is being made!). Even if they were, we are lack the means to validate that they are.

The interoperability challenge was a major theme of the Havana Summit in Portland last week (panel I moderated) .  Solving it creates significant benefits for the OpenStack community.  These benefits have significant financial opportunities for the OpenStack ecosystem.

This is a journey that we are on together – it’s not a deliverable from a single company or a release that we will complete and move on.

There were several themes that Monty and I presented during Heat for Reference Architectures (slides).  It’s pretty obvious that interop is valuable (I discuss why you should care in this earlier post) and running a cloud means dealing with hardware, software and ops in equal measures.  We also identified lots of important items like Open OperationsUpstreamingReference Architecture/Implementation and Testing.

During the session, I think we did a good job stating how we can use Heat for an RA to make incremental steps.   and I had a session about upgrade (slides).

Even with all this progress, Testing for interoperability was one of the largest gaps.

The challenge is not if we should test, but how to create a set of tests that everyone will accept as adequate.  Approach that goal with standardization or specification objective is likely an impossible challenge.

Joshua McKenty & Monty Taylor found a starting point for interoperability FITS testing: “let’s use the Tempest tests we’ve got.”

We should question the assumption that faithful implementation test specifications (FITS) for interoperability are only useful with a matching specification and significant API coverage.  Any level of coverage provides useful information and, more importantly, visibility accelerates contributions to the test base.

I can speak from experience that this approach has merit.  The Crowbar team at Dell has been including OpenStack Tempest as part of our reference deployment since Essex and it runs as part of our automated test infrastructure against every build.  This process does not catch every issue, but passing Tempest is a very good indication that you’ve got the a workable OpenStack deployment.