Opscode Summit Recap – taking Chef & DevOps to a whole new level

Opscode Summit Agenda created by open space

I have to say that last week’s Opscode Community Summit was one of the most productive summits that I have attended. Their use of the open-space meeting format proved to be highly effective for a team of motivated people to self-organize and talk about critical topics. I especially like the agenda negations (see picture for an agenda snapshot) because everyone worked to adjust session times and locations based on what else other sessions being offered. Of course, is also helped to have an unbelievable level of Chef expertise on tap.


Overall, I found the summit to be a very valuable two days; consequently, I feel some need to pay it forward with some a good summary. Part of the goal was for the community to document their sessions on the event wiki (which I have done).

The roadmap sessions were of particular interest to me. In short, Chef is converging the code bases of their three products (hosted, private and open). The primary change on this will moving from CouchBD to a SQL based DB and moving away the API calls away from Merb/Ruby to Erlang. They are also improving search so that we can make more fine-tuned requests that perform better and return less extraneous data.

I had a lot of great conversations. Some of the companies represented included: Monster, Oracle, HP, DTO, Opscode (of course), InfoChimps, Reactor8, and Rackspace. There were many others – overall >100 people attended!

Crowbar & Chef

Greg Althaus and I attended for Dell with a Crowbar specific agenda so my notes reflect the fact that I spent 80% of my time on sessions related to features we need and explaining what we have done with Chef.

Observations related to Crowbar’s use of Chef

  1. There is a class of “orchestration” products that have similar objectives as Crowbar. Ones that I remember are Cluster Chef, Run Deck, Domino
  2. Crowbar uses Chef in a way that is different than users who have a single application to deploy. We use roles and databags to store configuration that other users inject into their recipes. This is dues to the fact that we are trying to create generic recipes that can be applied to many installations.
  3. Our heavy use of roles enables something of a cookbook service pattern. We found that this was confusing to many chef users who rely on the UI and knife. It works for us because all of these interactions are automated by Crowbar.
  4. We picked up some smart security ideas that we’ll incorporate into future versions.

Managed Nodes / External Entities

Our primary focus was creating an “External Entity” or “Managed Node” model. Matt Ray prefers the term “managed node” so I’ll defer to that name for now. This model is needed for Crowbar to manage system components that cannot run an agent such as a network switch, blade chassis, IP power distribution unit (PDU), and a SAN array. The concept for a managed node is that that there is an instance of the chef-client agent that can act as a delegate for the external entity. I had so much to say about that part of the session, I’m posting it as its own topic shortly.

Crowbar build, build, run notes on project Github Wiki

Now that Crowbar has a Dell sponsored listserv and Wiki, I’m encouraging people to use those resources.

We are still adding to the wiki, but it’s got the basics covered.

Here are the links to get started:

Crowbar source released, includes OpenStack Cloud install

I’m delighted to announce (official version) that my team at Dell has opened the Crowbar source under the Apache 2 license. This action is part of the broader Dell OpenStack Cloud Solution which includes OpenStack install packages, Crowbar, reference hardware architectures, and services/consulting to support deployments.

There are two important components to this news:

  1. Dell is officially offering our OpenStack Solution and helping advance the community’s ability to implement OpenStack quickly and consistently.
  2. Dell is releasing the Crowbar code (which is included in the solution) as open source.

Both are significant items; however, my focus here is on the Crowbar release.

Crowbar started as a Dell OpenStack installer project and then grew beyond that in scope.  Now it can be extended to work with other vendors’ kits and other solutions bits.

We are contributing Crowbar to the community because we believe that everyone benefits by sharing in the operational practices that Crowbar embodies. These are rooted in Opscsode Chef (which Crowbar tightly integrates with) and the cloud & hyper-scale proven DevOps practices that are reflected in our deployment model.

Where to get it?

What’s included?

  • A comprehensive set of barclamps to set up an OpenStack cloud.
  • Crowbar UI and Remote APIs to make it easy to set up your cloud
  • Automated testing scripts for community members doing continuous integration with OpenStack.
  • Build scripts so you can create your own Crowbar install ISO
  • Switch discovery so you can create Chef Cookbooks that are network aware.
  • Open source Chef server that powers much of Crowar’s functionality

What’s not included?

  • Non-open source license components (BIOS+RAID config) that we could not distribute under the Apache 2 license.  We are working to address this and include them in our release.  They are available in the Dell Licensed version of Crowbar.
  • Dell Branded Components (skin + overview page).   Crowbar has an OpenSource skin with identical functionality.
  • Pre-built ISOs with install images (you must download the open source components yourself, we cannot redistribute them to you as a package)

Important notes:

  • Crowbar uses Chef Server as its database and relies on cookbooks for node deployments.  It is installed (using Chef Solo) automatically as part of the Crowbar install.
  • Crowbar has a modular architecture so individual components can be removed, extended, and added. These components are known individually as barclamps.
  • Each barclamp has its own Chef configuration, UI sub-component, deployment configuration, and documentation.

On the project roadmap:

  • Hadoop support
  • Additional operating system support (specifically RHEL)
  • Barclamp version repository
  • Network configuration
  • We’d like suggestions!  Please comment!

Sites for more information: Joseph George, Barton George (launch day), Dell