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June 16, 2019
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Mirantis makes configuring on-premises clouds easier

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Mirantis, the company you may still remember as one of the biggest players in the early days of OpenStack, launched an interesting new hosted SaSS service today that makes it easier for enterprises to build and deploy their on-premises clouds. The new Mirantis Model Designer, which is available for free, lets operators easily customize their clouds — starting with OpenStack clouds next month and Kubernetes clusters in the coming months — and build the configurations to deploy them.

Typically, doing so typically involves writing lots of YAML files by hand, something that’s error-prone and few developers love. Yet that’s exactly what’s at the core of the infrastructure-as-code model. Model Designer, on the other hand, takes what Mirantis learned from its highly popular Fuel installer for OpenStack and takes it a step further. The Model Designer, which Mirantis co-founder and CMO Boris Renski demoed for me ahead of today’s announcement, presents users with a GUI interface that walks them through the configuration steps. What’s smart here is that every step has a difficulty level (modeled after Doom’s levels ranging from “I’m too young to die” to “ultraviolence” — though it’s missing Dooms ‘nightmare’ setting), which you can choose based on how much you want to customize the setting.

Model Designer is an opinionated tool, but it does give users quite a bit of freedom, too. Once the configuration step is done, Mirantis actually takes the settings and runs them through its Jenkins automation server to validate the configuration. As Renski pointed out, that step can’t take into account all of the idiosyncrasies of every platform, but it can ensure that the files are correct. After this, the tools provides the user with the configuration files and actually deploying the OpenStack cloud is then simply a matter of taking the files, together with the core binaries that Mirantis makes available for download, to the on-premises cloud and executing a command-line script. Ideally, that’s all there is to the process. At this point, Mirantis’ DriveTrain tools take over and provision the cloud. For upgrades, users simply have to repeat the process.

Mirantis’ monetization strategy is to offer support, which range from basic support to fully managing a customer’s cloud. Model Designer is yet another way for the company to make more users aware of itself and then offer them support as they start using more of the company’s tools.

With Kata Containers and Zuul, OpenStack graduates its first infrastructure projects

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Over the course of the last year and a half, the OpenStack Foundation made the switch from purely focusing on the core OpenStack project to opening itself up to other infrastructure-related projects as well. The first two of these projects, Kata Containers and the Zuul project gating system, have now exited their pilot phase and have become the first top-level Open Infrastructure Projects at the OpenStack Foundation.

The Foundation made the announcement at its first Open Infrastructure Summit (previously known as the OpenStack Summit) in Denver today after the organization’s board voted to graduate them ahead of this week’s conference. “It’s an awesome milestone for the projects themselves,” OpenStack Foundation executive direction Jonathan Bryce told me. “It’s a validation of the fact that in the last 18 months, they have created sustainable and productive communities.”

It’s also a milestone for the OpenStack Foundation itself, though, which is still in the process of reinventing itself in many ways. It can now point at two successful projects that are under its stewardship, which will surely help it as it goes out an tries to attract others who are looking to bring their open-source projects under the aegis of a foundation.

In addition to graduating these first two projects, Airship — a collection of open-source tools for provisioning private clouds that is currently a pilot project — hit version 1.0 today. “Airship originated within AT&T,” Bryce said. “They built it from their need to bring a bunch of open-source tools together to deliver on their use case. And that’s why, from the beginning, it’s been really well aligned with what we would love to see more of in the open source world and why we’ve been super excited to be able to support their efforts there.”

With Airship, developers use YAML documents to describe what the final environment should like like and the result of that is a production-ready Kubernetes cluster that was deployed by OpenStack’s Helm tool – though without any other dependencies on OpenStack.

AT&T’s assistant vice president, Network Cloud Software Engineering, Ryan van
Wyk, told me that a lot of enterprises want to use certain open-source components, but that the interplay between them is often difficult and that while it’s relatively easy to manage the lifecycle of a single tool, it’s hard to do so when you bring in multiple open-source tools, all with their own lifecycles. “What we found over the last five years working in this space is that you can go and get all the different open-source solutions that you need,” he said. “But then the operator has to invest a lot of engineering time and build extensions and wrappers and perhaps some orchestration to manage the lifecycle of the various pieces of software required to deliver the infrastructure.”

It’s worth noting that nothing about Airship is specific to the telco world, though it’s no secret that OpenStack is quite popular in the telco world and unsurprisingly, the Foundation is using this week’s event to highlight the OpenStack project’s role in the upcoming 5G rollouts of various carriers.

In addition, the event will also showcase OpenStack’s bare metal capabilities, an area the project has also focused on in recent releases. Indeed, the Foundation today announced that its bare metal tools now manage over a million cores of compute. To codify these efforts, the Foundation also today launched the OpenStack Ironic Bare Metal program, which brings together some of the project’s biggest users like Verizon Media (home of TechCrunch, though we don’t run on the Verizon cloud), 99Cloud, China Mobile, China Telecom, China Unicom, Mirantis, OVH, Red Hat, SUSE, Vexxhost and ZTE.

OpenStack Stein launches with improved Kubernetes support

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The OpenStack project, which powers more than 75 public and thousands of private clouds, launched the 19th version of its software this week. You’d think that after 19 updates to the open-source infrastructure platform, there really isn’t all that much new the various project teams could add, given that we’re talking about a rather stable code base here. There are actually a few new features in this release, though, as well as all the usual tweaks and feature improvements you’d expect.

While the hype around OpenStack has died down, we’re still talking about a very active open-source project. On average, there were 155 commits per day during the Stein development cycle. As far as development activity goes, that keeps OpenStack on the same level as the Linux kernel and Chromium.

Unsurprisingly, a lot of that development activity focused on Kubernetes and the tools to manage these container clusters. With this release, the team behind the OpenStack Kubernetes installer brought the launch time for a cluster down from about 10 minutes to five, regardless of the number of nodes. To further enhance Kubernetes support, OpenStack Stein also includes updates to Neutron, the project’s networking service, which now makes it easier to create virtual networking ports in bulk as containers are spun up, and Ironic, the bare-metal provisioning service.

All of that is no surprise, given that according to the project’s latest survey, 61 percent of OpenStack deployments now use both Kubernetes and OpenStack in tandem.

The update also includes a number of new networking features that are mostly targeted at the many telecom users. Indeed, over the course of the last few years, telcos have emerged as some of the most active OpenStack users as these companies are looking to modernize their infrastructure as part of their 5G rollouts.

Besides the expected updates, though, there are also a few new and improved projects here that are worth noting.

“The trend from the last couple of releases has been on scale and stability, which is really focused on operations,” OpenStack Foundation executive director Jonathan Bryce told me. “The new projects — and really most of the new projects from the last year — have all been pretty oriented around real-world use cases.”

The first of these is Placement. “As people build a cloud and start to grow it and it becomes more broadly adopted within the organization, a lot of times, there are other requirements that come into play,” Bryce explained. “One of these things that was pretty simplistic at the beginning was how a request for a resource was actually placed on the underlying infrastructure in the data center.” But as users get more sophisticated, they often want to run specific workloads on machines with certain hardware requirements. These days, that’s often a specific GPU for a machine learning workload, for example. With Placement, that’s a bit easier now.

It’s worth noting that OpenStack had some of this functionality before. The team, however, decided to uncouple it from the existing compute service and turn it into a more generic service that could then also be used more easily beyond the compute stack, turning it more into a kind of resource inventory and tracking tool.

Then, there is also Blazer, a reservation service that offers OpenStack users something akin to AWS Reserved Instances. In a private cloud, the use case for a feature is a bit different, though. But as some of the private clouds got bigger, some users found that they needed to be able to guarantee resources to run some of their regular, overnight batch jobs or data analytics workloads, for example.

As far as resource management goes, it’s also worth highlighting Sahara, which now makes it easier to provision Hadoop clusters on OpenStack.

In previous releases, one of the focus areas for the project was to improve the update experience. OpenStack is obviously a very complex system, so bringing it up to the latest version is also a bit of a complex undertaking. These improvements are now paying off. “Nobody even knows we are running Stein right now,” Vexxhost CEO Mohammed Nasar, who made an early bet on OpenStack for his service, told me. “And I think that’s a good thing. You want to be least impactful, especially when you’re in such a core infrastructure level. […] That’s something the projects are starting to become more and more aware of but it’s also part of the OpenStack software in general becoming much more stable.”

As usual, this release launched only a few weeks before the OpenStack Foundation hosts its bi-annual Summit in Denver. Since the OpenStack Foundation has expanded its scope beyond the OpenStack project, though, this event also focuses on a broader range of topics around open-source infrastructure. It’ll be interesting to see how this will change the dynamics at the event.

Google remains the top open-source contributor to CNCF projects

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According to the latest data from Stackalytics, a project founded by Mirantis and hosted by the OpenStack Foundation that visualizes a company’s contribution to open-source projects, Google remains the dominant force in the CNCF open-source ecosystem. Indeed, according to this data, Google is responsible for almost 53 percent of all code commits to CNCF projects. Red Hat, the second biggest contributor, is far behind, with 7.4 percent.

The CNCF is the home of Kubernetes, the extremely popular container orchestration service that Google open sourced, so the fact that Google is the top contributor may not seem like a major surprise. But according to this data, Google would still be the top code contributor to all CNCF projects without even taking Kubernetes into account. In part, that’s due to the fact that Google is also the major contributor to GRPC, a queuing project the company donated to the CNCF, and Vitess, the database clustering system it developed for YouTube.

There are still quite a few projects where Google isn’t the main contributor; 64 percent of contributions to Jaeger come from Uber, for example, and 84 percent of LinkerD code commits are from Buoyant engineers. What’s interesting here is that the report found there is only one project where there isn’t a vendor who contributes more than 40 percent, and that’s the Prometheus monitoring solution that was contributed to the CNCF by SoundCloud but which is now mostly maintained by independent developers Red Hat.

You may read those stats and argue that Google may be a bit too dominant a player in the CNCF ecosystem. Google, of course, doesn’t think so.

“Google has a long history of contribution to and respect for, contribution to open-source software. We love to give back,” said Aparna Sinha, Group Product Manager for GKE and Kubernetes, Google Cloud. “One top of mind example is Kubernetes, one of the fastest growing projects in the history of open source, and today has a thriving community and widespread industry support. Google has been at the heart of it all, as a constant driving force in the community and the broader CNCF. A key part of that momentum has been driven by Google’s deep commitment to the project’s success, whether it’s through providing extensive engineering expertise, code contribution and compute resources, or through project management, testing and documentation. We’re just as dedicated to the project as ever, and we’re excited to see the broader Kubernetes community begin to shape the project’s future and ensure its long-term success.”

It’s worth noting that the CNCF also publishes its own data through its DevStats tool, which tells a similar story, even though it doesn’t quite highlight Google’s dominance as a contributor. When I asked Mirantis co-founder and CMO Boris Renski about these discrepancies, he noted that Stackalytics focuses on commits, whereas the CNCF’s tool looks at contributions, which includes reviews, comments and created issues, among other things. Stackalytics also doesn’t take the CNCF’s sandbox projects into account, where Red Hat contributes quite a bit. The two tools also handle attributions differently, with DevStats attributing all former contributions from CoreOS to Red Hat after it was acquired by the company.

On Twitter, Renski suggested that the different organizations should merge their different data sources to do away with these discrepancies, but I’m not sure how well the CNCF and the OpenStack Foundation really play together these days.

Mirantis bets on Spinnaker, Netflix’s open-source continuous delivery platform

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Spinnaker is the new open-source project to watch. It’s a multi-cloud continuous delivery platform that came out of Netflix and that now also has the backing of Google.

The typical cycle for these kind of products, which mirrors what we’ve seen with projects like Kubernetes or OpenStack, is that a few companies will back the open-source efforts and others will start to offer commercial services and distributions around it. We’re seeing the same play out with Spinnaker.

One of the first companies to offer support for it was Armory.io and today, Mirantis is joining in as well. While Mirantis started out as an OpenStack specialist, the company has added other managed cloud services over time and is currently in the process of refocusing many of its activities on application delivery — and at the core of that is now the Spinnaker project.

“We spent probably a good 18 months kind of pathfinding in the application space to figure out what the proper angle was going to be and where to invest our fairly scarce resources,” Mirantis co-founder and CMO Boris Renski explained to me. The result of this is the beta launch of the Mirantis Application Platform today.

The team already had a lot of expertise in the infrastructure space, but Renski believes that to truly succeed — and provide real value to enterprises — it had to go beyond infrastructure tools like Docker and Kubernetes to deliver value to enterprises. In the end, the company decided that Spinnaker would be the way to go. Spinnaker’s backing by major tech companies like Netflix and Google surely helped, but it also helped that the tools can sit on top of virtually any cloud or on-premise environment, and that it’s meant to be very open and pluggable.

Mirantis CEO Adrian Ionel mirrored this assessment in a statement today. “While it’s easy to start using public cloud and get immediate benefits as a small team, getting ROI from cloud for a large enterprise requires streamlining the various processes, tools and security requirements across a diverse set of engineering silos,” he wrote. “Mirantis Application Platform aims to address this challenge, enabling enterprises to maximize cloud ROI at scale through cloud native continuous delivery.”

In practice, enterprises that work with Mirantis will get a number of services through the Application Platform. Mirantis will install, configure and manage a dedicated Application Platform instance with Spinnaker, Jenkins, Gerrit and Terraform running on any private of public cloud. It’ll integrate this instance with a company’s identity provider and continuous integration system of choice, as well as compliance scanners and tools like Slack (because without a Slack integration, any tool is pretty much dead in the water these days, right?). Mirantis will then work with the enterprise to deploy and support one starter application. That starter application is meant to create a blueprint for the overall delivery pipeline that the enterprise can then use to deploy new applications going forward.

This approach mirrors Mirantis’ take on delivering its OpenStack and Kubernetes solutions.

Mirantis’ current customers include the likes of Adobe, AT&T, State Farm, Vodafone, Volkswagen and Wells Fargo. Renski couldn’t disclose which of its customers are in the beta program for its Application Platform, but he did note the company currently has about a dozen beta deployments in progress.

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