The OpenStack Foundation Board of
met for a two hour conference call yesterday. The usual disclaimer
applies - this my informal recollection of the meeting. It’s not an
official record. Jonathan Bryce has posted an official summary of the
Executive Director Update - 2017 Budget
After taking a roll call and approving minutes from two previous
meetings, Jonathan gave a presentation on the 2017 Foundation budget.
Jonathan described a number of goals under a "One Platform" theme for
2017. He talked about how OpenStack should (a) make sure containers
are first class citizens within OpenStack, (b) ensure workload
portability across interoperable public and private OpenStack clouds,
and (c) reinforce OpenStack position as the standard platform for
Jonathan went on to remind the board that in 2016 we had planned for a
2016 loss, the idea being to invest some of the cash reserves that the
Foundation had built up in order that we could take on some new
activities. In 2017, the proposal is to aim for a break even budget so
as to avoid not further depleting the reserves. However, with the
addition of new Gold Members, we will be able to maintain the
increased investment from 2016 while still breaking even. Mark Collier
noted that China is a key growth area, given that much of this new
funding is from new Gold Members from China.
Jonathan then presented the budget itself, showing quarter-by-quarter
income and expenses in a number of high level buckets like "Corporate
Fees", "Events", "G&A", "Community Development", and "Community
Infrastructure". One particularly striking aspect of OpenStack
Foundation budgets is that much of the financial activity comes in Q2
and Q4 with the OpenStack Summit events in those quarters, accounting
for $10.5M and $6.5M activity in Q2 and Q3 respectively out of the
total $22M budget.
A discussion followed the presentation around what level of financial
detail the board would like and expect to have available. Roland Chan
expressed a concern that he was unable to tell how the strategic
decisions the board had made were impacting the budget. For example,
you could compare the 2016 and 2017 high-level budgets and make a good
guess as to the impact caused by the addition of the PTG, but it would
be nice to understand that in more detail. Some debate ensued as to
whether this was information that was already available to the Finance
Committee, whether the board should be supplied with a more detailed
budget breakdown, or whether we instead need some analysis and
commentary about the financial impact of key changes.
Jonathan took an action to prepare some further information which
should help address the question. Alan also took an action for the
Finance Committee to consider how to address this more
structurally. Finally, the 2017 budget was approved by a vote of board
User Committee Proposal
Next up, Edgar Magana presented some proposed by-laws changes around
the structure of the User
and related changes to the UC
Since these changes had been previously discussed by the board, they
were put to a vote after some short discussion. The board approved a
motion to replace section 4.14 of the by-laws with the text above,
along with adding a new UC member policy appendix.
The board then turned its attention to a discussion started at the
about the future of the project and some key questions it was felt the
board should be considering.
Allison Randal lead the discussion by talking through some of the
information the board had gathered in an etherpad since the previous
board meeting. We had condensed the questions and concerns into four
- OpenStack and its evolving relationship with adjacent
- Unanswered requirements, and how they will be address by the
project over time.
- Whether OpenStack is sufficiently able to evolve architecturally
architecture to meet certain needs.
- Community health indicators the board and the wider community
should be paying attention to.
It was felt that we would only be able to discuss these in a useful
way with an in-person board meeting, and the hope is that we will be
able to hold this meeting alongside the PTG with involvement from the
In order to help frame the discussion at that in-person meeting,
Allison proposed that board members consider a series of 12 strategic
questions as homework for the next board meeting. These questions are
based on the 12 "boundary questions" proposed by Werner
Ulrich in his work on
Critical Systems Heuristics
(CSH). There was
some discussion as to whether these questions could, in future, be
posed to the wider community via a survey.
There was some brief discussion about how this relates to
introduced by the TC. Toby Ford gave the concrete example of "1000s of
nodes under the management of a single control plane", and wondered
whether that would qualify as an OpenStack-wide goal. Doug Hellmann
happened to be on the call and was able to explain that the goals
mechanism is used to achieve changes that address concerns across all
projects and which can be completed in a single cycle.
The discussion ended with the board agreeing to complete the 12
questions prepared by Allison for an in-person meeting in Atlanta.
Gold Membership Expansion
The final topic of discussion was raised by Shane Wang. Now that the
24 Gold Member slots have been filled, an obvious question remains
... should the Foundation increase the number of Gold Member slots?
Shane made the case that more companies want to join as Gold Members,
particularly in China and gave the example of an other major Chinese
telecommunications operator that is eager to join.
Roland explained that the topic had been discussed at a recent - but
poorly attended - meeting of the Gold Members. It was felt at that
meeting that more options need to be considered than simply increasing
the number of Gold Member slots - for example, increasing the number
of Platinum Member slots so that perhaps some Gold Members could move
to Platinum, or the introduction of a Silver Member tier.
However, it was also felt that we should carefully consider our goals
even before jumping into considering specific options. Anni made the
point that we're trying to achieve a balance between the risk of
devaluing the membership status versus wanting to welcome more
participation in the Foundation.
All felt that this was an important topic that warranted further
discussion and consideration.
Looking Ahead to 2017
And so, the boards work for 2016 has come to an end. The schedule of
has not yet been finalized, but the next two meetings are likely to be
a two hour conference call on January 31 and an all day in-person
meeting in Atlanta on February 24.
This is the prose version of a talk I gave today at OpenStack Day,
France. The slides are available
Today, I want to speak about a somewhat subtle, meta-topic. I hope to
share some insight on the question of how a company should think about
its investment in any given open-source project. The reason I think
the subject is important right now is that, as OpenStack follows its
inevitable path through the “hype curve”, we are seeing some major
players in the OpenStack ecosystem have recently re-shaped their
investment in the project. I think there is plenty of opportunity for
companies to take a much more realistic view on this subject, and my
hope is that this will lead to a much more sustainable level of
investment in the project.
My views on this question are so heavily influenced by an early
personal experience, that I’m tempted to talk at length about my own
story. But time is short. Very quickly, though, as I was finishing
university, I realized I wanted to focus my career on open-source, and
I was faced with the obvious question of who was going to pay me to
work on open-source? What value would be open-source work bring to my
employer? I spent a lot of time thinking about this, even after I
found myself employed to work full time on open-source.
An interesting thing happened. Because I had spent a good deal of time
thinking about the value of my own open-source work, I was well-placed
to help my employer think about how, where, and why to invest in
open-source projects. It quickly became apparent to me then - and is
still apparent to me now - that this fundamental question is fraught
with difficulty, and most people struggle greatly to answer it.
Investment vs Business Needs
Over the years, I’ve boiled my answer to this simple-sounding question
to something equally simple - your investment in a project should be
directly related to what the business needs from the project. I think
it’s important to frame it this way, because if the business doesn’t
have a good have a good understanding in the value of an investment,
the business is going to be quick to discontinue that investment when
it is looking at how to make the best use of its resources.
What do I mean about an investment that isn’t directly related to the
needs of the business? Let me dig into that a little bit with some
Focus on Features
First, features. Or, as Thierry Carrez puts it, “tactical
often look at the “what do we need from this project” question through
the lens of feature analysis - what are my requirements? What is missing?
The good thing about contributing features is that it is directly
related to business needs. The thing about your primary focus being on
new feature development is it misses the bigger picture. A community
of developers that is focused only on their own new features is not
going to get anywhere. Who is thinking about the long-term future of
the project? Who is looking at feedback from users? Who is merging the
code for these new features?
All of these types of activities are the basic necessities of any
software project. They are the basis through which new features get
added. You must invest in ensuring that this is happening in this
project whose future you care about.
This anti-pattern is about our choice of language, and how it affects
our thinking. People often talk about “donating” code to a
project. Calling it a donation suggests you have a feeling that
the return on your investment is quite intangible. How long will you
continue with these “donations”?
Related, it’s often quite clear that a major motivation for companies
investing in open-source is the recognition they receive in doing
so. Certainly, in OpenStack, with Stackalytics we have spawned an
impressively pointless competition between companies for ranking in
contributor statistics. If you give your employees the goal of
achieving a particular ranking in the contributor statistics, you may
achieve this, but what does that really achieve?
The type of business value that it delivers is essentially short-term
marketing value. We don’t want investment in open-source projects to
be made out marketing budgets, since that’s possibly the least
reliable source of funding!
Not so long ago, when companies were falling over themselves to
demonstrate their commitment to OpenStack, we saw an interesting
phenomenon - the “100% dedicated upstream resource”. These were
individuals and teams at various companies who were employed to
contribute to the project but - as far as I can tell - were
self-directed and deliberately kept isolated from any “downstream”
This is an incredibly alluring opportunity for those involved! The
company is saying that the project is critically important to the
business and whatever you or your team does to help the project be
successful, that’s valuable to the company! Unfortunately, we can see
how these things go in cycles and, at some point, the company will
take a harder look at what this person or team is doing. When that
happens, the likelihood is that the company has very little visibility
into - or understanding of - the work being done and, worse, the
person or team has no experience articulating how the value of the
work is meaningful to the business!
There are some exceptions to this, even within Red Hat. But as a
systematic way of investing in a project … it’s unlikely to be
Finally, the culmination of a number of these anti-patterns - the idea
that companies should "donate" to a non-profit organization like the
OpenStack Foundation, have that organization use the donations to
employ staff who are "100% dedicated upstream resources", and the
value to companies ...? The recognition it receives for being such
Having some technical staff employed by the non-profit is fine. Some
of my favorite people work for the OpenStack Foundation! My preference
would be for Foundation staff to be in facilitation roles. But
certainly, you would do well to avoid this pattern for the majority of
the contributors on a project.
One example of this is the Linux Foundation's Core Infrastructure
Initiative. In the wake of the
OpenSSL Heartbleed vulnerability, the Linux Foundation brought
together funding from a number of companies to invest resources for
key projects like OpenSSL. It's fascinating because here is a project
like OpenSSL that many, many businesses depended on, but few invested
in. What the Linux Foundation has done is positive, but I can't help
feel we have failed as a community if this is the only way to sustain
these projects. You'll notice that Red Hat hasn't joined this
initiative, despite us being supportive of it - we have always
invested in these projects directly, and think that is actually a
healthier model for the future.
Ok, so that's a bunch of anti-patterns ... what you generally
shouldn't do. What should you do? Well, you need to think
strategically. You are choosing to have your business depend on
something you don't control, but you should not allow yourself to feel
powerless about how successful that choice will be.
Think about the future, the long-term. Given the business choice you
are making, for how long will your business success depend on the
success of the project? Indefinitely? What are you doing to ensure
One way to think about that would be a worst-case scenario. The
unimaginable happens, and the rest of our community disappears. You
are left almost completely alone maintaining the project. What you
focus on? Obviously, you wouldn't choose to depend on a project where
there is a possibility of that happening, but the thought exercise
does help you think about your priorities.
If you are determined to ensure the success of the project, you'll
have your own view of what that success looks like. Are you happy to
hope the community will find a direction that fits your needs, without
any input from community leaders that understand the needs of your
At Red Hat, we talk about wearing "two hats". Given a particular
problem, a particular question of direction, you should have the
ability to understand what's good for the project overall and what's
good for Red Hat. And crucially, you should have a way to reconcile
those two views. This is not a zero sum game. Almost always, you can
find a solution that is good for both the project and Red Hat. Why
would Red Hat want a solution that is harmful to the project?
In order to be successful with any technology, you need to have access
to expertise that understands the technology. There is no better
expertise than the authors or maintainers of the project. These are
the people who understand not just how the technology works now, but
how it evolved there, and how things are likely to change in the
future. They understand the pitfalls, the know the cool new tricks.
You can have access to that expertise by having those experts join
your team. They stop being experts pretty quickly if they stop having
time to work on the project, so their upstream responsibilities should
continue to be a significant proportion of their time. But you'd be
amazed at how their presence on the team can help the whole team be
Red Hat's Model
As somewhat of an aside, since this presentation is not a sales pitch,
think about Red Hat's business model, and our proposition to our
customers. Certainly part of the model is that, through our product
subscriptions, the customer is investing in the projects involved and,
by proxy, is safeguarding the future of the project, gaining a level
of influence in the project, and has access to expertise relating to
A Measurable Goal
Recently, on Red Hat's OpenStack team, and thanks to the influence of
Alexis Monville, we've been using the
"Objectives and Key Results"
framework for using well-defined, measurable goals to guide our
teams. We started brainstorming on these OKRs almost a year ago, and
from those early discussions, I wondered “how do we frame an
measurable goal around our investment in upstream?”. What indicator
could we use to know whether we were on the right track, and to ensure
we’d stay on the right track?
Our first thoughts on this was to look at data like our position in
the contributor statistics, or the number of core contributors, PTLs,
or TC members on our team. None of this sat well with us, though,
because we have seen that these type of goals don’t drive the right
behaviors. When we started drafting a vision statement for each goal,
“Teams of engineers with the required motivation, an understanding of
Red Hat's vision, and empowered with the necessary time,
encouragement, and recognition, working upstream to drive and
influence many diverse parts of OpenStack.”
And there it sat for a while, us all lacking ideas on how to measure
this. Quite recently, Russell Bryant and Doug Hellmann hit on a
promising solution. Survey the team with a small set of questions and
use that sentiment of our measure of success with this goal.
The questions that Russell and Doug developed are:
- Does your team have effective input into the features accepted and design decisions made upstream?
- Does your team have effective input into bug fixes and backports made upstream?
- Does your team have effective input into discussions related to processes, schedules, requirements, infrastructure management, and other decisions made by the upstream OpenStack community in general?
- What level of investment does your team make in upstream work?
The allowed answers are “not enough”, “just right”, “too much”, and
“don’t know”. We also had a free-form comments section which is
helping us gain insight into the results.
Notice one important aspect of this - we are asking individuals about
the effectiveness of the investment their team is making
upstream. That reflects the vision above.
We only recently started running this survey, and we will do one every
release cycle. So far, we’ve had over 70 responses, so that’s a pretty
The really interesting judgment call we need to make is what
percentage of “just right” answers do we want to aim for? It would
seem misguided to aim for 100% - do we really think that it’s
important that every individual feels we’re striking the right
balance? We’ve arbitrarily chosen 80% as our target, which means we
feel pretty good about where we’re at, but there’s still opportunities
One thing I’m loving about my job these days is the direct exposure I
have to Red Hat customers who are choosing to invest in
OpenStack. Deciding to build a significant cloud for production use is
a huge decision, and no-one takes it lightly. It’s exciting, and
companies doing this can look forward to a true transformation in how
they think about IT resources. The truly daunting part is the sense of
responsibility that comes with it.
These are long-term choices being made, and they’re being made because
people believe in the future of this project. Red Hat takes the
responsibility seriously by making choices that we hope will ensure
the project has a long, sustainable future.
I had previously posted summaries of most board
but had stopped doing this when I was appointed as Red Hat's
representative on the board. Lately, I've sensed folks at Red Hat
becoming more interested in the workings of the Foundation, so I
figured it might be useful to start doing this again.
The OpenStack Foundation Board of
met for a two hour conference call last week. The usual disclaimer
applies - this my informal recollection of the meeting. It’s not an
Gold Member Applications
The first half of the meeting was given over to an Executive Session,
after which the board voted to approve China Telecom, Inspur, and ZTE
of the Foundation.
This completes the handling of the 7 Gold Member applications that
were presented to the board at the October 24
in Barcelona. 99Cloud, China Mobile, City Networks, and Deutsche
Telecom were approved at that meeting.
For the first time, the Foundation now has reached the maximum of 24
Gold Members. We will
only be able to consider applications for new Gold Members if an
existing member departs, or if we go through a difficult process to
change the limit in our
User Committee Proposal
Next up, Edgar Magana updated the board on some proposed changes to
that was first discussed at the October meeting.
Currently the bylaws describe the User Committee is an "advisory
committee" of three members appointed by the Board and TC, which
prepares regular reports for the Board and TC. The idea with this
proposal is to make the User Committee a parallel entity to the TC,
with its members chosen through an election of Active User
The bylaws changes outline how the User Committee has at least five
members, that elections of Active User Contributors (AUCs) are held
every six months, an affiliation limit for members of the UC, how AUC
status is determined, and more.
The hope is that feedback will be collected as comments in the
and that the Board will vote on the proposal during our December 6
meeting. A vote of the Board is sufficient to enact the changes.
One point of discussion was whether bylaws changes are necessary at
all. The hope when the bylaws were originally drafted was that the
User Committee would have plenty of lattitude to evolve via changes to
made the point that the key change is for the UC to become a parallel
entity to the TC rather than an advisory committee to the Board and
Next, Toby Ford gave a presentation on a topic he had proposed along
with Imad Sousou, Allison Randal, and Mark Baker. Toby introduced the
topic by saying that as any project evolves and matures, it is
important to reflect on competitive threats and the need to evolve the
Toby talked about a wide set of competitive threats to OpenStack from
the container ecosystem (including Kubernetes and Mesos), to other
storage implementations, to various projects in the Telco world
3GPPP), and the obvious challenge of AWS,
Azure, and Google with AWS revenue over $10B.
Toby moved on to talk about "the good and the bad of the Big Tent",
describing the need for a balance between diversity and innovation
versus consolidation and refactoring. Toby made the case that we're
seeing a lot of expansion in the Big Tent, but not consolidation and
refactoring. He expressed particular concern about how and whether
core projects will be able to evolve, especially if the Big Tent does
not allow for competitors to existing projects.
Toby then put on his "AT&T hat" and talked about the challenges for
OpenStack from an AT&T perspective - the need to get to a control
plane that scales to 10k servers, the problem of managing over 100
different production sites, the challenge of more and more happening
"at the edge" with 5G, innovation happening in the networking space
and how it relates to OpenStack, and the unsolved problem of keeping a
production environment current with latest OpenStack releases.
To wrap up his presentation, Toby listed a few "possible
recommendations" the Board could make to the technical community - (1)
allow core projects to have competition within the Big Tent, (2) a
mechanism to incubate new approaches, and (3) a mechanism to
reationalize, clean up, or refactor.
What followed was a pretty lively discussion that covered much ground,
over and beyond the concerns raised by Toby. While the success of
OpenStack in bringing together such a diverse set of interests was
acknowledged, there was a definite frustration that some form of
necessary change is failing to emerge naturally, and whether it falls
on the Board to try to at least try to clearly articulate the problem
at a strategic level.
Jonathan tried to focus the conversation by giving his perspective
that the Big Tent concerns had tied down until "recent comments in the
media", and that is probably a distraction from the concerns people
are expressing about core projects like Nova and Neutron. He was at
pains to say that this isn't about project teams doing bad work - we
continue to make huge progress in each release, and valuable work is
being done. However, we're definitely seeing frustration from some
quarters that it is difficult to influence the community with their
Jonathan warned that talking too much in the abstract creates the risk
that the discussion will go around in circles. Despite this, the
discussion never did go into any particular detail on where we've
witnessed the problems we were discussing. From my own perspective, it
was clear that much of frustration was as a result of how the
Gluon projects have been
received, but we're failing to learn anything significant from those
experiences by not talking about them in detail.
By the end of the discussion, we had agree to collaborate on a
concrete description of specific problem areas, the questions they
raise, and some possible solutions. The hope is that we would complete
this before our December meeting, and we may then plan a longer
meeting (possibly face-to-face, possibly with the TC) to dig into
Derek mentioned "upstream packaging" on this week's packaging
and asked RDO packagers to participate in the upstream discussions. I
thought some more context might be useful.
First, a little history ...
When I first started contributing to OpenStack, it
briefly looked like I would need to
make some Ubuntu packaging updates in order to get a Nova patch landed.
At the Essex design summit a few weeks later, I raged at Monty Taylor
how ridiculous it would be to require a Fedora packager to fix Ubuntu
packaging in order to contribute a patch. I was making the point that
upstream projects should leave packaging to the downstream packaging
maintainers. Upstream CI quickly moved away from using packages after
that summit, and I've heard Monty cite that conversation several times
as why upstream should not get into packaging.
Meanwhile, Dan Prince was running the Smokestack CI system at the time,
which effectively was being treated as OpenStack's first "third party
CI". Interestingly, Smokestack was using packages to do its deployment,
and for a long time Dan was successfully keeping packaging up to date
such that Smokestack could build packages for patches proposed in
And then there's been the persistent interest in "chasing trunk".
Operators who want to practice Continuous Deployment of OpenStack from
trunk. How does packaging fit in that world? Well, the DevOps mantra of
doing development and CI in environments that model your production
environment applies. You should be using packaging as early on in your
pipeline as possible.
My conclusion from all of that is:
- A key part in building a Continuous Delivery pipeline for OpenStack
is to practice continuous package maintenance. You can glibly say
this is "applying a DevOps mindset to package maintenance".
- How awesome would it be if OpenStack had "upstream infrastructure
for downstream package maintainers". In other words, if downstream
package maintainer teams could do their work close to the upstream
project, using upstream infrastructure, without disrupting
I think the work that Derek, Alan, Dan, John, and everyone else has been
doing on Delorean is really helping RDO maintainers figure out how to
practice (1). I first started maintaining Fedora packages for Fedora
Core 2, so IMO what RDO is doing here is really dramatic. It's a very
different way of thinking about package maintenance.
As for (2), this where we get back on topic ...
At a Design Summit session in
Vancouver, the idea
of maintaining packaging using upstream infra really took hold. Thomas
Goirand (aka zigo) proposed the creation of a "distribution packaging"
team and this triggered a healthy
Derek has since pushed a WIP patch showing how RDO packaging could be
There's a clear desire on the part of the Debian and Ubuntu package
maintainers to collaborate on shared packaging, and it sounds like this
goal of further collaboration is one of the primary motivators for
moving their packaging upstream. This makes a lot of sense, given the
shared heritage of Debian and Ubuntu.
The RDO team is enthusiastic about adopting this sort of upstream
workflow, but the Debian/Ubuntu collaboration has added an entirely new
aspect to the conversation. Despite the fact that RDO and SUSE platforms
have little in the way of shared heritage, shouldn't the RDO and SUSE
packaging teams also collaborate, since they both use the RPM format?
And perhaps deb and rpm maintainers should also collaborate to ensure
To my mind, the goal here should be to encourage downstream packaging
teams to work closer to the upstream project, and have downstream
packaging teams collaborate more with upstream developers. This is about
upstream infrastructure for downstream teams, rather than a way to force
collaboration between downstream teams, simply because forced
collaboration rarely works.
For me, what's hugely exciting about all of this is the future prospect
of the package maintainers for different platforms adopting a
"continuous packaging" workflow and working closely with project
developers, to the extent that packaging changes could even be
coordinated with code changes. With its amazing infrastructure,
OpenStack has broken new ground for how open-source projects can
operate. This could be yet another breakthrough, this time demonstrating
how a project's infrastructure can be used to enable an entirely new
level of collaboration between package maintainers and project
This week's launch of
is a good opportunity to think about a simmering debate in the OpenStack
developer community for a while now - what exactly does NFV have to do
with OpenStack, and is it a good thing?
My own “journey” on this started exactly one year ago today when I
visited a local Red Hat partner to talk about OpenStack and, towards the
end of our Q&A, I was asked something like “will OpenStack support
NFV?”. I’d never heard of the term and, when the general idea was
explained, I gave a less than coherent version of “OpenStack implements
an elastic cloud for cattle; this sounds like pets. Sorry”. After the
meeting, the person who asked the question forwarded me an NFV
whitepaper from October 2012 and, glancing through it, most of it went
right over my head and I didn’t see what it had to do with OpenStack.
Since then, Chris Wright has been patiently talking me through this
space and gently trying to get me over my initial skepticism. Chris
would say that our conversations has helped him refine how he explains
the concepts to open-source developers, and I think he really nailed it
in his keynote at the Linux Foundation’s Collaboration summit in April.
In his keynote, Chris talks about the benefits of collaboration in
open-source and walks through all of the various aspects of how the
networking industry is changing, and how open-source is playing a key
part in all of those changes. He covers, and simplifies:
- Taking the current architecture of proprietary, expensive, complex,
difficult to manage forwarding devices (like routers) and how SDN
(Software Defined Networking) aims to “put an API on it”. This is
what’s meant by “disaggregation of the control plane and data
plane” - that forwarding devices become devices which are controlled
by open standards, and allows your distributed system of forwarding
devices to be controlled and automated.
- NFV (Network Function Virtualization) as a shift in the telco
data-center world which embraces many of the lessons that the
elastic infrastructure cloud has taught the IT industry. More on
- Changes in the “data plane” world, where we’re starting to see the
network device market mimic the x86 server market such that these
devices can be “white box” servers running open-source software.
Again that disaggregation word, but this time it’s about
“disaggregation of hardware and software” and how the software part
can be open-source implementations of optimized packet-forwarding
capabilities which we’re used to seeing implemented in expensive and
proprietary hardware appliances.
But let’s focus here on NFV.
I real don’t know much about the telco industry, but what Chris has me
imagining now is data-centers full of proprietary, black-box hardware
appliances which are collectively know as “network functions” or “middle
boxes”. These boxes are used for everything from firewalls, NAT, deep
packet inspect (DPI), the mobile packet core, etc. These are software
applications trapped in hardware. They’re expensive, proprietary, slow
to roll-out, don’t always scale well and are hindering telco service
providers as they attempt to react to a rapidly changing market.
NFV is about completely re-thinking the architecture of these
data-centers. This is the telco industry re-imaging their data centers
as elastic infrastructure clouds running their “network functions” as
virtualized, horizontally scalable applications on these clouds. The
exciting - simply stunning - aspect of all of this for me as an
open-source advocate, is that the telco industry is settling on a
consensus around an architecture involving open-source generally and
Say that again? These huge telcos want to rebuild their entire data
centers with OpenStack and open-source? Yes.
If, like me, you want to see open-source change the IT world into one
where we all embrace the opportunity to collaborate in the open, while
still successfully building building businesses that serve our users’
needs … then this sounds pretty cool, right?
If, like me, you want to see OpenStack as the standard platform from
which many of the worlds’ elastic infrastructure clouds are built ...
then this sounds like a no-brainer, right?
Well, the thing we need to bear in mind is that these applications (i.e.
network functions) are pretty darn specialized. They need to have a high
level of performance, determinism and reliability. But that does not
necessarily mean they are “pets” and missing one of the key points of an
Let’s take the reliability requirement - when these network functions
are implemented as horizontal scale-out applications, they will look to
achieve high levels of reliability in the same way that typical cloud
applications do - with each tier of the application spread across
multiple failure domains, and by spreading application load
horizontally. Telcos will just want to take this further, with faster
and more deterministic response to failures, while also avoiding any
compromise to application's performance. For example, you’ll see a lot
of interest in how instances are scheduled to take to into account
affinity and anti-affinity within an instance group.
The performance requirement is largely about high-performance packet
processing. How to get a packet off the network, into a VM, processed
quickly and back out again on the network. One of the techniques being
pursued is to give VMs direct physical access to the network via SR-IOV
which, in turn, means the compute scheduler needs to know which physical
networks the NICs on each compute node has access to.
The deterministic requirement is about predictable performance. How to
avoid the vagaries of the hypervisor and host OS scheduler affecting
these performance-sensitive applications? You’ll see work around
allowing operators to define flavors, and application owners to define
image properties, which between them control things like vCPU topology,
vCPU to pCPU pinning, the placement of applications in relation to NUMA
nodes and making huge pages available to the applications. Compare to
Amazon’s memory-optimized and compute-optimized flavors, and imagine
this being taken a step further.
Oh, and another requirement you’ll see come up in this space a lot is …
IPv6 everywhere! I’m certainly down with that.
Want to learn more about the work involved? See the OpenStack NFV
team's amazing wiki page
which goes into excruciating detail.
The more you dig into the specifics of what we’re talking about here,
start breaking this down into tangible concepts without all the acronyms
and buzzwords, you start to realize that this really is the telco world
embracing everything that OpenStack is all about, but just pushing the
envelope a bit with some requirements which are a pretty natural
evolution for us, but we might not otherwise have expected to come about
for some time yet.
I guess the summary here is that if you're skeptical, that's cool ...
you're not alone. But please do take the time to see through the
complexity and confusion to the simple fact we're poised to be a key
part in turning the telco data-center, and how this is just another
exciting part of our goal to "to produce the ubiquitous Open Source
Cloud Computing platform".