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Summary: The Architecture of Open Source Applications, Volume II

October 11, 2012 at 10:17 am PST

I was recently fortunate enough to be invited to write a chapter in a book about the architecture of  the major open source application that I work on for Cisco: Open MPI.

Not only does this chapter give insight into how and why we designed Open MPI the way we did, it is in excellent company with other well-known open source developers who provide detail into the architectural decisions of their open source applications, too.

Best of all, all the proceeds from the book go to charity.

Read the full article The Architecture of Open Source Applications, Volume II for more details.

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Upcoming Cloud Computing Open Source Conferences

In case you missed it, Cloud Computing is hot right now. Has it peaked? That depends on who’s articles you read. Maybe along those lines, Gartner is arguing that cloud washing is coming to an end, and customers are now making more informed decisions. Regardless of if the hype cycle is over or just beginning, one thing which remains constant is the use of Open Source Software in Cloud Computing. Look no further than projects such as OpenStack, CloudStack, and oVirt to see the past, present and future of Open Source Cloud Computing platforms. If you’re serious about deploying these technologies as part of your infrastructure, you should note the following events coming up which can help you explore the technologies at a venue with the people who helped create each of them.

  • The OpenStack Summit is coming up the week of October 15 in San Diego, CA. This event will showcase both vendors and users of OpenStack technology. But the real treat for developers and DevOps folks is the design portion of the Summit. This allows developers of OpenStack the chance to plan features for the upcoming “Grizzly” release, slated for spring of 2013.
  • CloudStack will have it’s CloudStack Collaboration Conference November 30th to December 2nd in Las Vegas, NV. This event is a chance to get familiar with CloudStack and attend sessions detailing the technology underlying CloudStack, as well as user focused sessions detailing deployments of the Apache CloudStack project.
  • The upcoming KVM Forum will be collocated with the oVirt Workshop. The event takes place in Barcelona, Spain November 7-9. This event is a great chance to gather more information about oVirt, specifically about the future direction of the project, as well as sessions on deploying and using oVirt.

Each of the events listed above is a great way to get a better understanding of your Cloud Computing software of choice, and to engage with developers, users, and vendors around the software. What Open Source Cloud Computing events are you looking forward to attending?

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The Age of Hypervisors

The science behind Virtual Machine Monitors, or VMM, aka Hypervisors, was demystified almost half a century ago, in a famous ACM publication, “Formal Requirements for Virtualizable Third Generation Architectures”.

In my life, I had the honor of working on some of the most bleeding edge virtualization technologies of their day.  My first was IBM’s VM, VSAM and a host of other v-words.  My last was at XenSource (now Citrix) and Cisco, on what I still think is the most complete hypervisor of our age, true to its theoretical foundation in the Math paper I just mentioned.

Though Xen is arguably the most widely used hypervisor in the Cloud or sum of all servers in the world today, I actually think its most interesting accomplishment lies in what its founders just announced this week.  Therefore, I want to extend my congratulations to my good friends Simon Crosby and Ian Pratt for the admirable work at Bromium with vSentry.

I think it is remarkable for two reasons.  It addresses the missing part of what hypervisors are useful, which is security; for those of you that actually read Popek & Goldberg’s paper, you would note that VMM’s are very good at intercepting not just privileged but also sensitive instructions, and very few people out there, until now have focused on the latter, the security piece.  But there is one more reason, in fact the key point of this paper, the necessary and sufficient conditions for a system to be able to have a VMM or hypervisor, and I am hoping the Xen guys who have done so well articulating that for real (not fictional or hyped) hypervisors, can also help sort our the hype from fiction in what is ambiguously called nowadays a “network hypervisor”.

Could this approach be what is actually missing, to sort out truth from hype in what we call SDN today?  Is this the new age of hypervisors?  Or is this just another useful application of an un-hyped hypervisor?

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Nexus 1000V On Open Source Hypervisors

Last week at Cisco Live, Cisco unveiled the Cisco ONE strategy. I won’t go into detail on Cisco ONE in this blog post, there has been plenty of blog and analyst coverage of this elsewhere. One piece of the announcement I would like to talk about is the Nexus 1000V and it’s move to running on Open Source hypervisors, along with OpenStack Quantum integration.

Nexus 1000V on KVM With OpenStack: The Cisco Live Demo

At Cisco Live, we demonstrated the Nexus 1000V on KVM with integration into OpenStack. The demo included both the Nexus 1000V Virtual Supervisor Module (VSM), as well as the Virtual Ethernet Module (VEM). The VSM is a virtual machine running Cisco NX-OS software. For the demo, the VSM was running on a Nexus 1010 physical appliance. The VEM was running on the Linux host itself, which was running Fedora Linux, version 16. The OpenStack version we demoed was OpenStack Essex. We were running Nova, Glance, Keystone, Horizon and Quantum. We also wrote a Nexus 1000V Quantum plugin which handles interaction between Quantum and the Nexus 1000V VSM. This is done via a REST API on the Nexus 1000V VSM.

What we demonstrated was the ability for providers to create networks using the standard “nova-manage” CLI in OpenStack. These networks were then mapped to port-profiles on the Nexus 1000V VSM. When a tenant then powered up a VM, the VM was placed on the provider network, and ultimately had it’s VIF attached to the port-profile associated with the provider network. The network administrator, through the VSM, is now able to see the virtual interfaces attached to veth ports, and can apply policies on them. We demoed ACLs on the virtual ports, to demonstrate a Nexus 1000V feature in use with OpenStack. What the demo ultimately showed was the Nexus 1000V operational model separating network and server administrator in an OpenStack deployment.

Where To Go From Here

One thing we are planning to do around our Quantum plugin is to expose the port-profile concept as an extension to the standard Quantum API. This allows profiles to be managed by our Quantum plugin, and allows for us to provide the ability to expose profiles to users of Quantum via the extension API. One immediate benefit this allows for is a GUI such as Horizon to expose port-profile information back into their UI, allowing tenants to select port-profiles to map to virtual interfaces when powering up virtual machines. Effectively, this would allow for providers to create port-profiles and make them available for their tenants to select when powering up virtual machines. Providers can then control policy on the virtual interfaces on their networks.

The End Result

The result of integrating Nexus 1000V with Open Source hypervisors is allowing for the continued evolution of advanced virtual machine networking onto these platforms. OpenStack Quantum integration allows for the integration of the concept of network and server administrator separation into the OpenStack deployment model. Both of these are ultimately about providing more control, visibility, and programmability for customers. I think this is something customers will be excited about, just as we are excited about driving to deliver this to those same customers.

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OpenStack Conference Wrapup

It’s been a few weeks since the Spring 2012 OpenStack Conference took place in San Francisco. The semi-annual event allows developers to get together and plan for the upcoming OpenStack release. It also allows for OpenStack users to show how they deploy the software in production. Given that a year ago was when Quantum, the networking component of OpenStack, was born, I thought it was a good time to reflect back on Cisco’s contribution to the 2012 OpenStack Summit. Cisco was a very active participatant at the event, both in the Design Summit as well as the conference. The OpenStack Foundations 19 members were announced just prior to the event, and Cisco is a Gold level contributor.

In the Design Summit, Cisco OpenStack Engineers made the following contributions:

  • Debo Dutta lead sessions on Quantum System Test as well as Scaling OpenStack. The session on scaling was particularly interesting, as it highlighted the gap in understanding what the current scaling limits of OpenStack really are. It also was a forum for some organizations to discuss how far they are scaling OpenStack in production, and for the developers to try and come to an agreement on what scale to shoot for in the Folsom timeframe.
  • Edgar Magana Perdomo lead a track on L2 & L3 Network Services Insertion. The key takeaway from this session is that Edgar was not proposing adding new APIs at this point in time, but rather allowing for a CLI to assist with stitching in network services.
  • Sumit Naiksatam lead a track on L3 topics. The session was called “IPAM/L3-fwding/NAT/Floating IPs II“, and given the name, was a continuing session on discussing how Quantum can provide L3 services. Getting everyone on the same page was the key for both of these sessions.
  • Soren Hansen was responsible for organizing all sessions in the Nova hypervisors track. Soren is a long time OpenStack contributor who recently joined Cisco’s OpenStack team.
  • On top of actively leading the above sessions, Cisco’s OpenStack engineering team were active participants in all of the Quantum related sessions, as well as sessions around scaling OpenStack and Horizon integration with Quantum.

As OpenStack continues to mature, the interest in Quantum providing the correct network abstractions is very real. An entire track on day 2 was dedicated to Quantum in fact, and all of the sessions had a large number of attendees. The goal for Quantum in the Folsom timeframe is to hit parity with the existing nova-networking, such that Quantum can become the standard networking environment when people deploy OpenStack.

During the conference Cisco participated in the following ways:

  • Lew Tucker, Cisco’s CTO of Cloud and the face of Cisco’s OpenStack participation, gave a keynote at the conference portion of the event. Lew’s slides are available on slideshare here.
  • As a Gold Level sponsor, Cisco had a booth in the main exhibit area not far from the conference entrance. We distributed t-shirts with the “OpenStack@Cisco” logo on them. We were able to engage with fellow OpenStack developers, partners, and customers the entire week.
  • Cisco was a sponsor of both the conference and the summit.

The key take away from the event was around the production deployments of OpenStack announced around the conference timeframe. OpenStack continues to have a lot of momentum going forward, and the announcements by places like Rackspace show the technology is already being deployed at scale in production.  Cisco is actively working with the OpenStack community to help shape the development of Quantum, Nova, Horizon, and other parts of OpenStack. If you are interested in joining the OpenStack@Cisco team, the team is hiring. Please contact Murali Raju (murraju at cisco dot com) for more information about joining the team!

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