Cloud credence?

OpenStack: The Road Ahead

Chris Mayer
Jonathan Bryce - Keynote

Just a few weeks after releasing the seventh major version, we sat down with the OpenStack Foundation’s Executive Director, Jonathan Bryce. This interview appeared in April’s edition of JAX Magazine.

Just a few weeks after releasing the seventh major version,
Grizzly we sat down with the OpenStack Foundation’s Executive
Director, Jonathan Bryce. This interview appeared in May’s edition
of JAX
Magazine
.

Unless you‘ve been living under a rock for the past year or so,
you’ve probably heard of OpenStack – the collaborative cloud
infrastructure project that has got many vendors swooning.
Naturally, it can be hard to quell expectation with names such as
IBM, HP and Red Hat all at the table, but has OpenStack finally
overcome the hype as users step into the limelight?

From its open source beginnings as a joint effort by Rackspace
Hosting and NASA to the sprawling project we see today, OpenStack
has been on quite the ride since its creation in 2010. Its bold
mission statement is as follows: “to produce the ubiquitous open
source cloud computing platform that will meet the needs of public
and private cloud regardless of size, by being simple to implement
and massively scalable.” But crucially, it wants to provide all
this on standard hardware, nothing proprietary. 

Four months on from its inception, the first release Austin
arrived, with two core components that still provide the backbone
of the project today – OpenStack Compute (codenamed Nova) and
OpenStack Storage (Swift). From this point, Rackspace committed to
a six month release cycle to introduce newer components, as well as
updating what had come before. It wasn’t long before the big boys
came knocking, liking what they saw, with Ubuntu and Red Hat making
glances, adopting the technology in their distributions.

The last 12 months in particular have cemented OpenStack’s place
as one of the most exciting projects around. Red Hat and IBM have
both put all their chips on the infrastructure project, while at
the same time, the number of committers has risen dramatically too.
It’s a
truly global project
too attracting over 9,000 members from 100
countries in 850 different organisations. 

Sustaining this rapid growth, both from a community and
technical perspective, must seem like a logistical nightmare for
Jonathan Bryce, the OpenStack Foundation’s Executive Director and
his 12 full-time staff. Established fully in 2012 after Rackspace
relinquished control of the project, the non-profit entity ensures
that the OpenStack standard is met, while actively seeking to grow
the community. Making sure that OpenStack keeps to its six month
release cycle isn’t exactly a breeze either.

Bryce, a founder of the Rackspace Cloud, also leads the
direction of OpenStack Summit, a bi-annual get-together to lift the
covers of their hard work. The idea is to let developers and
companies showcase how they are using OpenStack, but also to
discuss how to move forward with a planned design summit to flesh
out the parts of the next release. 

The state of the stack

April’s event, alongside the arrival of OpenStack’s 7th version
release Grizzly, was the biggest yet and for Bryce, the Summit was
a tremendous success. 

“Going into it about a month ago, we were expecting around 2,000
and ended up 2,600 show up,” he told JAX Magazine. Over 200 major
updates were made by around 500 developers across OpenStack’s
projects. 

But it wasn’t the stats that shone through for Bryce, but the
customers who were willing to showcase OpenStack in production.
Bloomberg, Best Buy and Comcast all joined Bryce on stage at
Tuesday’s keynote to talk specifics. 

The biggest transition a fledging project has to make is to go
from a thriving open source project with many contributors to one
embedded firmly in an enterprise environment. OpenStack in
particular has been high on community, but until now has very
little to show in terms of deployments. Now that Rackspace have
handed over the keys to the community, companies are now willing to
step forward and show how they are using the project, which shows a
great leap towards acceptance.

“I didn’t realise how many users are already doing testing and
in some cases deployments, of the bare metal components of
OpenStack,” he told us.

“They [press and analysts] were surprised just how much people
were willing to talk about what they are doing with it, and
specifics. That’s great for the community to hear as well,” he
added.

“Comcast did a live demo on stage with their new next generation
cablebox that is backended by an OpenStack cluster. So we were
watching TV and pulling up these IPTV applications and looking at
stores and DVR content and all of this stuff from a cablebox. That
was really neat to see things like that are not normally how you
think about consuming OpenStack through a television box.”

From unexpected use cases to ones that were nailed on, Red Hat
detailed their new initiative with Hortonworks and Mirantis to
combine Hadoop with OpenStack in Project Savanna. Big data and
analytics are big use cases for the operating system.

“Hadoop gives you scale-out processing so it makes a lot of
sense to have some sort of tie-in to get scaleout infrastructure
underneath that,” explains Bryce. “Savanna is sort of a
formalisation of some things that have been happening in the last
6-8 months.”

Does it live or die on Big Red?

Red Hat’s unwavering commitment throughout the project’s
lifespan can’t be ignored. CTO Brian Stevens, who also sits on
OpenStack’s technical committee,
told us at the time
that he thought “the future’s been already
written, and it’s going to be OpenStack.”

True to Stevens word, Red Hat have massively ramped up their
code contributions and are one of the main drivers.
Red Hat are comfortably the main committer
for the latest
release, bringing 11.9% of the total made in Grizzly, which is
double the next two contributors in Rackspace and IBM. 

Is there a danger that Red Hat could dominate the development
process and OpenStack market? Could Red Hat in theory hold
something back to give them the edge over competitors? They could
also back out in the future, leaving the project with a sizeable
role to fill, although this seems extremely unlikely as they prep
their OpenStack distribution and the investment pumped in thus far.
At the April event, Red Hat also told onlookers how they were
training their staff for OpenStack support.

Bryce believes that Red Hat’s firm commitment to OpenStack is
ultimately a good thing for the project at large, because they are
“extremely committed” to pushing it all back into the
codebase. 

“People say how do you keep them [OpenStack Foundation members]
all aligned – how can that work? Every one of them has been
committed to putting that work back into the codebase, so they’re
all working off the same bits. I think at this point, they realise
that the community as a whole is moving a lot faster than any of
them could by splitting off.”

“To have Red Hat come out and say that they [are committed], as
one of the largest contributors to the project and a major force in
the enterprise, is a really strong statement.”

Back in March, Big Blue unveiled their rethinking of cloud
services based on OpenStack. It appears to only be a matter of time
before others up their contributions.

The sound of the police

Keeping tabs on every vendor involved in OpenStack looks like a
daunting task for the OpenStack Foundation, and the dreaded word
‘interoperability’ just won’t go away. Fragmentation was a big
concern for those in attendance at the OpenStack Summit. With the
number of committers growing, is deviation inevitable?

“I think it’s one of those things we could talk about for hours
and I have,” Bryce tells us before adding that interoperability
“means something different to everyone” and is “an easy catchphrase
for people to latch onto.”

Just what constitutes an OpenStack instance and what is outlawed
currently. OpenStack’s trademark program in broad terms states that
if something wants to be called OpenStack, it has to be running a
certain set of components that aren’t any older than a specific
number of versions behind. All this has to be exposed in the
OpenStack API to give the base level of interoperability, so
starting servers and assigning IP’s for example.

I press the Executive Director on
recent news articles
that said the OpenStack Foundation were
set to clampdown on those with incompatible clouds. 

“What we’re looking to do over the coming year in addition to
the trademark policy in what you need to be running, is also
creating an external validation test suite,” he revealed. “You can
point it at an API endpoint and it will run through the core
functions and verify that they behave as expected.”

Bryce continued, saying that “there will be differences between
different OpenStack implementations” but “that’s one of the core
strengths” of the projects.  

“What’s important is that it’s not entirely different
environment that is a total rewrite. That’s what we’ve been working
towards and what we’re beginning to strengthen, making sure that
people can target OpenStack and as they move between OpenStack
environments, that they are not starting from ground zero.”

On the right trajectory

How
the OpenStack Foundation deals with these concerns
will
ultimately determine the project’s success and it’s clear that
Bryce and the OpenStack Foundation know this. Balancing the needs
of the community vs the vendor can be difficult, but Bryce believes
that those at the heart of development make the right decision for
the project itself.

“One of the most heated discussions I saw was in a Storage
session and there were two guys standing up, having a *very* heated
conversation and they actually worked for the same company,” he
joked.

“At a technical level, it’s less about who writes the paycheck
and more about what the developers think is right for their
particular piece of the project.”

When asked what are the biggest challenges for OpenStack moving
forward, Bryce admitted that sustaining the level of growth would
be “one of the things we have to stay on top of.” On the technical
side, he said the plan was “to make a shift from loading features
up to improving what’s already there,” something which Grizzly
tackles.

Off the bat of Grizzly, OpenStack has shrugged off many bugbears
and begun on the road to enterprise acceptance. With Red Hat
leading that charge, it looks like they are on the right track,
especially at safeguarding the OpenStack trademark and managing
nuances between implementations. The community is in good hands we
believe.

This interview appeared in May’s edition of JAX
Magazine
. For other issues, click here

OpenStack Summit images courtesy of ahockley

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