Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Stacked for Business

Or, my impressions from the OpenStack Folsom Summit


OpenStack proved again that it's a community effort. The number of developers in design half and overall participants in the Conference part was amazing. Most design sessions (I focused on Quantum and a few Nova sessions) were standing room only. literally. The representation of big name vendors was palpable, though it was nice to see that big names didn't necessarily get undue influence on the conversation.
(For my part, the fun started on the way there, on an RV for 1800 miles...but that's a story told somewhere else)

My major takeaway is that Openstack is open for business, in multiple ways. The first is that Openstack is production ready. This was manifested even prior to the summit, with dueling announcements from HP and Rackspace about deploying the Essex release into their respective production public clouds. A second way in which business friendliness is achieved is by opportunities More supporting evidence to for this conclusion came from the design session, especially in Quantum and in the Nova-Volume discussions ( more below).

A common trend across sessions and projects is shrinkage (no, not like George) - which is a Good Thing. Like many software projects (especially opensource ones) many of the projects have accumulated features and adjuncts that deviate from their core mission. This bloats the code, adding complexity and occasionally requires specialized hardware to fully test the code. Even more importantly, it hinders innovation by newcomers - API's and semantics are complex, and providing alternative innovative implementations becomes much costlier. A mean'n lean API, focused on a core mission, can encourage vendors of specialized technologies to adapt their products to fit into Openstack.

Two good examples Quantum and Nova Volume. Quantum is being designed from the ground up to separate the API layer and the layer that manifests the virtualized networks into the environment. The focus at the 2 days of design sessions was on ensuring a quality open-source experience for common usecases, while ensuring that commercial offerings can be easily implemented (the fact that the 2 main vendors behind quantum are Nicira and Cisco helps...). Nova-Volume, or Cinder, is a spin-off into its own project of capabilities previously hidden within Nova (the Compute virtualization component). As the new API's are being defined, Storage vendors are early to the table, to represent their considerations in the API.
In both cases, a pure opensource solution will be available - this is part of the Openstack mission. However, having vendors provide differentiated solutions for more specialized usecases is a Good Thing.

One of the best proofs that the need for these differentiated solution is real, is the work done to support Tilera as compute resources. Tilera is not your run-of-the-mill type of a computing machine...with 100's of cores, it's currently a bit off the main stream. The folks at USC-ISI however, went ahead and built an extension to Nova to provision their TILEmpower boards. Just imagine  mapping RFC 2325 to Openstack ;)