For anyone reading this who has been a parent, you will know that the most surprising thing about toddlers is how fast they change. You go away for a couple of weeks of business travel, and when you get back, there’s a different person waiting for you when you get home. And two years old is about the time when the rate of change is at its peak.
That is what OPNFV feels like now: we have navigated the early teething issues and reached a state where there is lots of change and lots of progress. We have labs on every continent, many active projects developing new NFV related functionality, three platform releases, and increasing industry interest. Two and a half years ago, NFV was a promising architecture concept. Today, operators are putting NFVi platforms into production, thanks in part to the work of OPNFV.
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I have been thinking about how size can affect culture and adaptability of groups recently. The topic once again came up today in a talk about what makes a healthy community. The answer to that will depend on the community's size and maturity. An open source project, in the words of one participant in one conversation I had recently on this subject, should have "the minimum level of structure to allow it to function effectively." I agree—just enough is the right amount. This article contains some ponderings on the relationship between size and communities, and some conclusions we can take from that.
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NFV (Network Function Virtualization) has taken the telecommunications world by storm in recent years. Communications service providers plan to run their core services in virtual machines, running on a standardized, open source platform. This promises to reduce both capital and operation costs, and most importantly, to accelerate the delivery of new services to market through increased agility.
The Open Platform for NFV (OPNFV) project is deploying a collection of open source projects, including OpenStack as the Infrastructure-as-a-Service layer, OpenDaylight and Open vSwitch for virtual network, Ceph for virtual storage, and libvirt and qemu/KVM for virtual compute. OpenStack and OpenDaylight are themselves collections of multiple projects, each with their own set of maintainers. All told, the OPNFV platform consists of around 20 different projects, many of which will need to be changed to satisfy the performance and reliability constraints of an NFV platform.
How vendors make and distribute those changes will vary from one to another. Some participants will attempt to maintain differentiation by developing features in private, and integrating them in their products without ensuring the changes will be integrated into the upstream open source projects. Others will propose changes at the same time as they are released in a product.
Red Hat is a company with a policy we call “upstream first” - we work to get features integrated into open source projects before we integrate them into our product offerings. Wouldn't it be easier just to develop features for our customers, and let the upstream projects figure out what they care about? What are the costs associated with the upstream first approach? Why do we take this approach?
The short answer is because it is the cheapest, most sustainable way to innovate on an open source platform. To explain why, I will explore what it means to build on top of open source projects, the different approaches people take to doing it, and the costs associated with each approach.
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For the first time, FOSDEM will include a dedicated track
for networking. The DevRoom covers two distinct topics: network management (the configuration of host-level networking, such as VPNS, and ethernet and wifi connections) and SDN (Software Defined Networking, the management of networking in large networks, including routing and switching traffic, and enforcing network policy).
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My first dilemma was at 11:40AM on Monday, right after the morning keynotes on the first day of the OpenStack Summit, which was held November 3-7 in Paris, France. I had to decide between a design summit session for OpenDaylight Neutron plug-in design, and three main track sessions: IPv6 in OpenStack Juno in the Networking track, Open Networking and SDN for Next-Generation OpenStack Clouds in the sponsored sessions, and Orange: A Leading Operator of the Internet Era Leaping to Cloud in the telco track. In the end, IPv6 won out, but the dilemmas continued all day.
Throughout the conference, finding two, three, or four networking or SDN sessions occurring at the same time was not unusual. In the main conference, there were 15 sessions specifically on NFV and related topics, many to standing-room-only audiences, and another 30 or so on networking and SDN. In the developer conference across the street, the OpenStack Kilo Design Summit, two sessions were dedicated entirely to NFV and telco needs. In addition, it was a prominent theme all week in design summit sessions related to OpenStack projects Nova (compute), Neutron (network) and Congress (policy).
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Whether you are deploying applications in containers, VMs, or on bare metal, being able to group related services together into private networks and control the traffic flowing into and out of your infrastructure is important. The SDN controller fulfills that role by allowing you to define network policy centrally and have that policy applied at the edges of your network, in the physical and virtual network switches.
OpenDaylight is an open source SDN controller. In its short lifetime, OpenDaylight has gained support from a diverse set of companies and individuals who are eager to see an open source controller serve the networking needs of traditional IT, cloud infrastructure platforms, traditional virtualization management, and fleets of containers. Cisco released the initial code in 2013 and the project now includes 41 paying members. Red Hat is a founding member of the project at Platinum level.
This week the OpenDaylight project had its second major code release, code-named Helium, which is a big advancement for the project. The release includes more than 4,700 contributions from 183 engineers, representing 20 companies. More than 300 commits came from the affiliation "independent", which also shows the breadth of the project's appeal.
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In recent years, the telecommunications industry has looked toward Network Function Virtualization (NFV) to revolutionize the way that telco services are developed and delivered to customers. A "network function" is any service that acts on the data passing through the network. In the typical datacenter, this would include services like a firewall, a VPN endpoint, or an intrusion detection system. In the telco industry, network functions also cover voice, data and internet services, broadband and cellular network services, and the delivery of video content, such as streaming TV.
Traditionally these network services have been provided by big, expensive, custom-built servers that require a multi-year investment for the network operators, so progress tends to be in fits and starts because previous investments are amortized before replacement features are deployed.
By moving the operation of these network services to virtual network functions (VNFs) running on a private cloud platform, on industry standard high-density servers, NFV enables operators to deliver customer-facing services more easily and faster. DevOps can finally come to the deployment of network services.
The Open Platform for NFV (OPNFV) project launched earlier today on opnfv.org as an industry-wide effort that includes network operators, network equipment providers, platform vendors, and hardware vendors working together to create a reference platform for NFV. The goal is to take existing open source projects such as OpenStack, OpenDaylight, DPDK, libvirt, and KVM, and identify any areas where we can improve these platforms to enable the deployment of network services.
As a founding member of the project at the highest Platinum level, Red Hat recognizes the project's potential to change the telco industry, and is committed to bringing the company’s strengths to the table in support. One of the key challenges for the project will be to ensure that code developed for NFV is submitted and accepted upstream in the relevant projects, and Red Hat has a wealth of experience upstream in these communities and in affecting change across a number of projects.
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Metrics are great. They can give you situational awareness about what's going on in your community, help you identify issues that you need to fix, and prove the effectiveness (or lack thereof) of community initiatives. But sometimes things go wrong.
Good metrics should lead to action, but sometimes, if you're not careful, you can end up with results you didn't intend. The very act of measuring something, and communicating that measurement, creates an incentive in the community. And sometimes the incentives you create do not match the behavior you want to encourage. (This is called The Cobra Effect.)
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These are notes related to the presentation "Community Catalysts: The Value of Open Source Community Development", to be presented by Dave Neary at the Red Hat Summit 2013, in Boston on Wednesday, June 12th, at 3:40pm EDT – if you're at the summit be sure to attend!
Red Hat is an open source company. Everything we do is open source. We "do" open source software because we see value in it.
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