My Experience at OpenStack Summit Barcelona 2016

When my colleague Jon Castro told me early this year that the next OpenStack Summit was going to be in Barcelona and that we should go I thought, yeah right, keep dreaming! How could we possibly land a valid excuse to travel halfway across the world to eat Paella and drink Sangria, oh and attend some talks of course . So we submitted an abstract for the work we had done with NTT West around the OpenDaylight controller and OpenStack, and thankfully we were selected!

Being my first OpenStack Summit I had no preconceived notions as to what to expect (so hopefully this recap is bias-free), and if you’re a fan of TLDRs like I am, then here is mine: Lots of NFV, SFC, Orchestration talk, OpenStack is no longer a science project but an enterprise solution... and Barcelona is good fun. Now into the details.

My Talk
As I was at the summit for the reason of presenting, I thought it best to go over this topic first. My talk was focused on a project we did with NTT West around providing programmatic/API access to a traditional firewall that could only be configured via CLI, and then driving this API through a new Horizon dashboard. The end goal being an operator (tenant) could be assigned a firewall and be able to administer the device without having to be experienced in the specifics of the command-line interface. If this sounds interesting to you, you can watch the presentation on YouTube to get a better understanding of how we achieved this.

NFV Stuff
Just by looking at the Summit schedule it is clear that NFV is a key use case for many companies using and contributing to OpenStack. There were 24 presentations and/or demos focused around NFV, diving into particular aspects such as orchestration, service function chaining (SFC) and use cases such as virtual evolved packet core (vEPC). I can’t talk about NFV without mentioning OPNFV (Open Platform for NFV) which is a reference NFV platform built by the open source community under the Linux Foundation. OPNFV is primarily a testing and integration project that brings together all the bits and pieces (OpenStack, OpenDaylight, OVS, DPDK, etc) you would need to launch an NFV cloud-ready platform, that has been thoroughly tested, automated and put through a CI/CD pipeline, all packaged in a nice installer(s) with documentation. You can learn more about OPNFV here. One OPNFV presentation at the summit was highlighting the advancements in neutron that benefit NFV use cases such as VLAN aware VMs and also showing the current shortfalls of neutron and how other networking solutions such as OpenDaylight can play nicely with Neutron to fulfill these shortfalls.

SFC Stuff
SFC was another hot topic, there were a couple of talks that showcased the benefits of using SFC and how it was being implemented in OpenStack. The following presentation was one of those, showing how traffic could be redirected based on classification such as optimising IPSec, or video traffic. This is achieved through using Network Service Headers (NSH) a SFC encapsulation protocol still in an IETF draft but quickly becoming reality and some aspects can already be used in the Mitaka release of OpenStack.

OVN Stuff
Other great network-centric talks included the OVN presentation which shows some powerful features if you’re operating a OpenStack cloud using OVS and OVN to perform L2 and L3 functions (networking-ovn plugin). It allows for extended OVS scaling (distributed DHCP on the OVS agent), L3 performance becomes on-par with L2 performance through flow caching, and pre-calculation of network hops. New debugging features called ovn-trace allows for "what-if” analysis on packet classifications so you can see how a packet will traverse the network and flow table(s). They also spoke about BPF Datapath which provides a sandboxed environment in the linux kernel allowing new functionality to be inserted at runtime without having to write new linux kernel modules which can cause headaches not only to write, but to maintain and be supported in various linux distributions. This means new network and tunnelling protocols developed for a particular use case can be created and potentially be portable across Linux distributions.

Orchestration Stuff
Orchestration was also a big topic at the summit, with many presentations from the Tacker team, Cloudify and others. All of whom seem to be converging on the use of TOSCA as the modelling language for NFV services. I recommend the following presentations for those who are interested in all things orchestration:

Other Stuff and Conclusion
Stepping back from the technical aspects of the summit and reading between the lines it can be said that OpenStack has really matured, the distributors such as Mirantis, Ubuntu and RedHat have really gone to lengths to ease the pain of installation through project such as Ironic, OpenStack Ansible, Fuel, Packstack etc. The CI/CD system in place for OpenStack has also meant that code that is pushed upstream is properly reviewed (through gerrit), tests are written (Unit + Integration) and run automatically by the CI system (Jenkins) the results of this process is a stable system made up of many different components with hundreds of contributors from around the world, quite an achievement in itself. I believe the maturity and stability of the product is driving more adoption into telcos who generally set a high bar when it comes to production ready software, so this can only be a good sign for the project.

Last but not least, the city of Barcelona is an amazing place, and the perfect setting to catch up with colleagues and meet new ones all over some fantastic food, drinks and laughs. 10/10 would do it again.

Originally published on the [] website on 4/27/17.