Thursday, November 6, 2014

Paris OpenStack Summit Recap

While I have been involved with OpenStack in various ways for the last couple of years, the OpenStack Summit in Paris has been my first and it has been a great experience. Throughout my career I have attended many vendor conferences like Cisco Live, VMworld and others, industry events (CeBIT, Supercom, …) and I have also attended FOSDEM in the past. The OpenStack was a mix between an industry event, a vendor conference and FOSDEM.

The organisation was great, similar to what you get on large vendor events. The audience was certainly (a lot) more technical and with a lot more presence of developers than most vendor conferences (I have not attended developer conferences …), but clearly there's also a marketing spirit all around the Summit that is very different from the FOSDEM experience. But that said, the event shows the interest on open collaboration.

Considering this event is happening every six months and considering it is an open source focused conference, the volume and level of attendance is impressive. I believe there's been more than 4,600 attendees from 60 different countries.

The keynotes were interesting and there's been many good sessions. I believe most were recorded and the videos can be found on line here.

Learning Experience

There are a lot of sessions, really a lot. This means you have to make  hard choices in terms of which ones you attend, because no sessions are repeated and there are many overlapping topics. I believe the session abstracts could be a bit better some times as well ... As explained above, most were recorded so you can also check those you missed, but of course without the opportunity to ask questions, interact, etc.

So what about OpenStack? …  I have been a fan and an OpenStack "aficionado" for a while. Already a year ago it was clear that the maturity level was reaching a point that indicated that OpenStack becoming mainstream technology was not a dream.

At this Summit, we have seen about some large scale deployments by some (very) large Enterprises including BMW, BBVA, Tapjoy, CERN, SAP, Expedia and others. Impressive. We are talking of different use cases, different industries, different scale levels, but all successfully running OpenStack.

CERN is currently running 70,000 cores on OpenStack (I believe on RDO if I got it right), with plans to double that in the near future. The keynote presentation by Tim Bell was great. I strongly recommend watching it, not just from an OpenStack point of view but to learn more about CERN and what they do.

By all means, OpenStack is a real challenger to legacy virtualisation and cloud management proprietary vendor solutions. In fact, perhaps not a challenger, but many challengers … because there are various mature options for "consuming" OpenStack already. Whether it is as a product (Piston), a distro (RDO, HP ...), or even as a service (MetaCloud).


Sure. Many. This is one of the areas where the OpenStack Summit clearly differs from vendor events and trade shows. Folk here shares as much of the problems as they share their success.

I think it is fair to say that unless you know very well what you are doing and/or you have a small army of Openstack savvy engineers, you want to have a vendor backing you up (read list above). But, how is this different from implementing a cloud solution using proprietary software? ... It's not like you can download the vendor's code and start building your cloud right?

OpenStack challenges seem to be mostly coming from the very nature of the framework: a loose collection of components that work together but are built to be independent. So you need to pay attention to tuning things like your backend databases, message queue systems, understand how you provide HA for various components, etc.

Perhaps because of my background, or perhaps because of reality, but networking appears to be the most challenging part. It is the one area where the "native" OpenStack solutions are not really up to speed and you need to rely on some vendor option.

There's still a lot of discussion about whether overlays and/or full SDN solutions (where the physical fabric is orchestrated to provide virtualization services) is the best choice. There was a great panel about it.

One of the interesting points that came out of that panel is that L2 overlays and virtualization solutions are in fact looking to solve problems that come out of IPv4 limitations. However we should be thinking about IPv6 as the long term solution. I think this is definitely true and worth exploring. Much of what has been done with overlays is completely unnecessary if we consider IPv6.

Another thing comes clear is that much work is still required on OVS, both in terms of performance and stability.


After interacting with multiple people, including developers, customers, vendors … there is a clear interest in moving away from expensive proprietary software stacks for implementing private and public clouds.

Many speakers (including some on several of the keynotes) talked about OpenStack providing a way for achieving freedom of choice, not just of hardware, but most importantly of software components as well. During the keynote on Monday, the Dr. Stefan Lenz from BMW in particular was very explicit to call out the issues of the past, when they were developing around a proprietary automation software - effectively locking themselves on to it - to later experience increasing licenses fees that you couldn't turn away from (because you were locked in).

Contrary to the mantra around … software lock-in is usually the most expensive one!

Final thought ...

The messaging on the keynotes was, understandably, highlighting the growing relevance of software in the economy and  in the world in general. Of course, the open source development model is presented in this context as the natural way of doing things in this new world. Pretty much, the message is that OpenSource will rule the world. A slide presented that in the near future, most solutions will likely use an 80/20 rule with 80% of code being open source.

So, considering that companies still need to create value, what is the way to differentiate on an open source dominated world? It's that 20% of value-added code enough? Either that, ... or the hardware where Open Source code runs adds value as well … (or both).

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