OpenStack 2012 Summit Day #1

This week I’m at the OpenStack 2012 Summit. It’s by far the biggest conference I’ve been to. Usually I go to conferences on security, such as H.O.P.E or CanSec or even smaller library related conferences. Given that OpenStack is one of the fastest growing open source projects of all time, it’s no surprise to find out that the conference has grown from 75 people a couple years ago, to about 1300 this year, up from 700 only a year ago. It’s massive and it’s growing.


Opening “keynote”

Not much to say here, some summit housekeeping with trippy techno rave music to wake me up. :)

Open Compute

The first session I attended was by Cole Crawford of the Open Compute Foundation. Basically this was an overview of the history of things like the 19” rack (it came from waaaaay back from the train system) and how we need to change our standards to allow things like interoperability and other good stuff.

I was hoping to find out how a small organization–like the one that I work for–could be involved in Open Compute, specifically how we could access similar hardware as Facebook and others are using. I didn’t quite get that out of the presentation, but hopefully in the future I will be able to get us into Open Compute hardware in some fashion or another.

At the very least I signed up for the mailing list. :)

Intercloud Object Storage: Colony

The Colony session was lead by Shigetoshi Yokoyama of the Japan National Institute of Informatics and there is a copy of the slides online. Colony is described as “federated swifts” for intercloud object storage services.

Having worked in a world class library that was interested in running petabytes of storage, I’m enthralled with object storage. It’s an important storage paradigm, and surprisingly, for reasons unknown, one that doesn’t seem to get a lot of attention in Canada. Perhaps it’s because startups and other organizations just use S3 and haven’t run into any privacy issues as of yet. Speaking of Amazon S3: it has a trillion+ objects stored now.

I think that in situations where we need to store a lot of replicated data–such as what a library or researcher would like to, or rather should like to store–object storage such as swift is a great way to go. (Though that said, perhaps systems like Amazon’s Glacier make more sense for those use cases, but maybe not.) I was at a presentation by the then CIO of the University of Alberta who figured there was three to five petabytes of research data on campus that needs to be preserved. That’s a lot of storage, especially when factoring in replication, and it really needs to happen at some point–and it can’t just be a huge tape system.

Further, considering that libraries and researchers (ie. their respective Universities and organizations), are supposed to work together it would make sense to be able to have some kind of interoperability between object storage clouds, private or otherwise, even if it’s just for some geographic separation.

Certainly Colonly is going to be a project to keep an eye on as object storage evolves and we try to do it across data centers and organizations.

Operating your OpenStack Private Cloud

The next session I attended was Operating your OpenStack Private Cloud, which is good because that is one of the things that I do. I manage a small, eight node, OpenStack cluster that will eventually backend a Apache VCL setup for virtual classrooms. So a very small private cloud, but I’ve still hit a few “pain points” that larger installations do.

A few points the speaker made:


Lunch was Ok. There are so many people here it’s tough to move around. And given OpenStack gave out giant bags, everyone (like me) has their own personal giant bag, plus the one they got from OpenStack (though I gave mine back). Giant bags galore!

Then I had a beer at the bar downstairs:

Database as a Service

This session is specifically about RedDwarf. RedDwarf is taking MySQL and treating it like a “first class citizen” in OpenStack. It’s a managed MySQL database service.

I believe that SQL databases should be separated out from compute. That said, there are many people that would disagree with me. There’s a theory out there that storage and compute should be together on the same nodes, and if that’s the case then I assume so would database. Right now I would prefer to separate out storage, compute, and database. Maybe it doesn’t fit perfectly with the cloud paradigm, but sometimes you have to apply technology not just theorize about it. SQL isn’t going anywhere, and neither is its unique workload.

HP and Rackspace have slightly different implementations of RedDwarf, and both of their services are in production. Each are trying to keep their system compatible with OpenStack, and have committed themselves to using the same CLI: python-reddwarfclient. Further, they are both using OpenStack-common and Swift for securely storing database snapshots.

The team has a desire to bring RedDwarf forward, and they want to involve more community usage and get it into incubation in OpenStack and at that point a lot of doors open, such as a GUI in Horizon.

You can get a test install using the below commands, and it will “fake” a nova backend.

$ git clone https://github.com/hub-cap/reddwarf_lite
$ ./reddwarf_lite/bin/start_server.sh

There was also a lot of discussion as to the fact that RedDwarf could be used to build Other Things as a Service and also the fact that they are running it on top of OpenVZ versus another virtualization hypervisor and did so for performance reasons (up to 30% better was a number mentioned).

Extending OpenStack for Fun and Profit: Creating New Functionality with the Enhancements API

This session is about having two sides–one side is OpenStack, and the other side is “your innovation”. It’s about getting OpenStack and your innovation to talk to one another; about getting your innovation to market and make money.

The speaker, Tim Smith, is the co-founder of GridCentric which has essentially implemented fork() for virtual machines. The main idea is spin up replica instances quickly and efficiently. They are reinventing boot, and in order to do that they need to extend Nova. GridCentric’s code for their extension is up on github and would be a good example to work from. (I’ve looked at GridCentric’s offerings before in relation to virtual classrooms–ie. not having a bootstorm when a bunch of students startup instances for a class. With something like GridCentric’s technology you don’t have to boot the instance.)

Nova is a framework providing:

Nova can be extended by:

Tim suggests that there are a few business challenges such as the fast evolution of OpenStack but generally seems positive about extending OpenStack. Certainly GridCentric has based some of their business on OpenStack.

A commenter noted that there are actually pre-action and post-action boot hooks in Folsom which may help to extend Nova.

Storing VMs with Cinder and Ceph RBD

Considering how interested I am in storage, this project, Ceph, is one of the most important I know of. So when Josh from Inktank talks about Ceph, I’m here to listen. As a note, this room is standing room only for this session!

Ceph is designed for scalability–it has no single point of failure, and you don’t have to be locked into a single hardware vendor. It’s software based and self-managing. There is also the ability to run custom functions on the storage node–such as create a thumbnail from an image file.

CRUSH is basically what sets Ceph apart from other storage systems. It’s a pseudo-random placement algorithm and it ensures even distribution across the cluster and has a rules-based system. Basically it avoids look up tables, which eventually kill distributed storage. Further, unlike RAID the entire cluster can recover in parallel.

RBD, the Rados Block Device, is the part of Ceph used to access block storage. KVM has a native driver for RBD. They are thin-provisioned, striped across nodes, and support snapshots and cloning. With RBD you can spin up thousands of virtual machines with the same base image.

Why use block storage in OpenStack?

Now with Folsom, Cinder has learned how to talk to Glance, which can respond with Images–ie. boot from volume. But still involves a large copy from Glance. However, images can be stored in RBD, and have been able to for some time! So we can skip the copy and just use RBD directly.

That said, it isn’t quite perfect yet. There are enhancements being made in Grizzly. Eg. is not in Horizon, but is in the API and CLI.


From Folsom to Grizzy: A DevOps Upgrade Pattern

This was the last session of the day, and I was quite tired, so apologies. Suffice it to say: Even imagining upgrading OpenStack is difficult and requires a lot of bullet points.

Misc Notes from the Day