OpenStack Board Member Rob Hirschfeld on the impact of DevOps, SDN, Docker & more

Listen as RackN CEO and Crowbar Co-Founder Rob Hirschfeld shares his thoughts on hot topics for OpenStack in 2015.

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We saw that potential in this project and we’ve been racking it to build around helping provide support for that and then commercial extension and make sure it works with different vendor’s hardware, provide consulting and support for building that out as a platform.

Art Fewell: I’m excited to see more what you do, because for those of you. If you haven’t been around the OpenStack community for very long, if you’re not familiar with Crowbar and you may have heard a thing about Puppet or a Chef or Ansible or things like this. Crowbar, at least from an openstack installer perspective is kinda like their daddy, right?

Rob Hirschfeld: I don’t know about that.

Art Fewell: You can tell in the popularity, the ubiquity of how widely it seems to have been used especially among the early OpenStack community before some of the more recent tools have followed along in the tracks. Basically, anyone who’s tried to deploy OpenStack, one thing you’ll know is that it’s hard. It’s not an easy thing to deploy OpenStack. That’s getting to be easier ‘cause I now I can go over to Red Hat OpenStack and I can download a bundle and click and install. If the stars are aligned and everything goes smoothly, not that hard, right? That’s now. That’s if you’re doing that exact reference architecture.

One of the things I think Crowbar has been doing for really a large portion of the OpenStack community for a few years now is giving the ability to click a button and have … There’s a little more complexity too at that but you can get to the point where you click a button and you have an OpenStack deployment happen from the bare metal on up to the operating system installed and everything.

Rob Hirschfeld: I want to differentiate. What’s interesting is that was really what we did in Crowbar 1. What we heard was that … You’re exactly right. If the stars align I can use Red Hat’s open installer, I can use other people’s OpenStack installers.

The issue is not with the OpenStack installer, the issue that we saw and the thing that we found really important with Crowbar, was that if you can establish a repeatable baseline, what we now call ready state, if you can get your OS installed and your networking topology installed and your machine is connected together and all the prerequisites setup then you have a very good shot of installing OpenStack however you want with Packstack or Salt or Ansible.

The new version we’re incredibly agnostic about how you do it. I’ve done demos with Salt and Ansible and Puppet and Chef. It doesn’t matter to us. The trick is once you’ve gotten that baseline you can rock on and you can repeat your install all day long. That was what we found was really important.

The thing that in our opinion has been blocking a lot of success with OpenStack is that every single person hires a consultant, does it themselves. They do it differently. It doesn’t matter that it’s, “Oh, I did my networking this way and you did it that way.” or “I installed my operating system with this instead of that.”

Those changes actually make material differences in the scripts that you use to set things up. What Crowbar had to do in the new version is that we have to create that baseline. Once that baseline is ready then, yeah, then you just turn the crank and you go.

What’s even more important is that it’s not just I turn the crank and I go one time. What you do with Crowbar now is you can rebuild your environment back to exactly the way it was over and over and over again because the thing that you want to do with, it’s not just OpenStack, with any deployment, you’re not going to get it right the first time. You’re not going to get it right the second time.

What you have to do is rehearse that deployment until you understand what it’s doing and how it is doing it. Your software defined networking layer and your whole environment. You want to be able to rehearse that. The faster you can go through that learning cycle the better your deployment is going to be.

What we do, literally, we did this all the time in deployments, is we’re going to build the infrastructure up to that standard and then you’re going to finish it. You’re going to get so good at doing that that you’re going to have a very repeatable deployment. That’s the experience that we found with Crowbar 1, you’re entirely right.

We would do a pushbutton to play OpenStack, rock on, it’s great. What happened is is that we found that there was enough churn at the bottom that we were hiding that that’s where the real value was, not in the Chef’s scripts that deployed OpenStack. Although that’s really valuable.

RackN’s focus is not deploying OpenStack. RackN’s focus is helping people who want to deploy OpenStack do it really well and that can be a partner, that can be … We have a Packstack demo that we do where you can click a button and install Packstack. That’s really valuable for us.

It doesn’t matter if you want to run Dell, HP, Supermicro, open compute gear under that. That abstraction layer means that people can work together and actually share scripts, say, “Hey, my Packstack install is busted.” Okay. Well, if you use Crowbar to install it, your baseline, then I know what you did. I can repeat that environment.”

Art Fewell: It’s just like what we were saying before from a different lens about how … Before we had open source in the mix. Each vendor was doing the same thing wasting all those cycles of human energy and innovation by staying in isolation.

I think it’s another challenge for how we do our networks ‘cause we’re so private about our IT and our information.

I think tools like Chef and Crowbar really are going to make a revolutionary change there so to help us share. You can’t develop a good process in isolation, this is not going to happen.

Rob Hirschfeld: That is wisdom. I was there in the very early days in VMware. VMware went through the same cycle. We struggled to figure out how to VMware. Eventually that market converged on, “Oh, you buy a SAN, you buy a blade and you set it up.”

You can do up to 40 nodes like that and you spent a lot of money on SANs and Fibre Channel and stuff like that, but you know what? Everybody knew how to do it. Literally, you went … We’re figuring it out, figuring it out, we’re figuring it out … and then VMware was everywhere and it became this datacenter standard. Once people agreed on the best practice on how to do it.

Unfortunately datacenter’s scale are still complex and hard and things like that. If we can have some agreed process standards and we can get some baseline stuff going, that’s where the human cost of doing operations stops being on monkey patching, fixing things one at a time and going back, go to one machine and turning it off and another machine turning it off. That’s not going to work. We’ve got to get a standard. We got to get a base.

That’s where people get ahead and that’s where they start really creating value. Today people are chasing around a lot of, what some people would call yak shaving. Everything. You have to do everything else first and you finally get to the thing you have to do.

Art Fewell: The community were really lucky to have you and the rest of OpenStack community. It’s been amazing to be able to witness and observe the birth of it. It’s clear that this style, open source, this style of open innovation of community collaboration. It’s going to redefine every industry.

I think regardless of which industry you look at, OpenStack has been a vehicle for innovation in terms of governance and how this type of community framework can even exist. I think it’s spells for a better future in a lot more ways than just what we’ve seen from it thus far and it’s going to be one of these things that goes down in the history books.

Rob Hirschfeld: I definitely think that OpenStack’s legacy will more likely be the community and the governance and what we’ve learned from that than probably the code. That will probably persist longer.

Art Fewell: Yeah, those individual components will change. It’s just like human nature, you can change a lot of things but there’s a lot of aspects of human nature and how humans have to deal with each other that won’t change with the next wave of technology.

Rob, I’m really grateful for having you on. Hopefully we’ll be able to have you on the show again. Definitely checkout Rob, check out RackN and I’ll put links up in here for all the viewers if you’d like to follow Rob on Twitter, etcetera, we’ll have those links for you. Thanks a lot for being on the show Rob.

Rob Hirschfeld: I appreciate it. It’s been fun talking to you, I really appreciate it. It’s great questions, great conversation.

Copyright © 2015 IDG Communications, Inc.

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