About Dave Neary

Dave Neary is part the Open Source and Standards team at Red Hat, driving adoption and community growth for projects including oVirt, RDO, a distribution of OpenStack for Red Hat-based operating systems, Gluster, and Fedora. Dave is currently concentrating on projects related to Network Function Virtualization and Software Defined Networking. Dave has been active in free and open source communities for more than 15 years as a consultant, community manager, trainer and developer. Find him on Twitter @nearyd

Tales of a First-Time Community Manager

In August 2015, George Zhao of Huawei, formerly the OpenDaylight release manager, was assigned to be OpenDaylight community manager full time, a role that I had been filling on a part-time basis since October 2014. To help him ramp up as a first-time community manager, I agreed to mentor George. In the course of working together, I have had the opportunity to structure some of the things I have learned in my career, and pass them on to him.

This series of articles, resulting from my conversations with George, is a collection of personal thoughts and analysis on community management, which I hope will be useful to others.

(Check out Part 1 in this series.)

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Upstream First: Turning OpenStack into an NFV platform

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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Network Management and SDN at FOSDEM

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).

Software Defined Networking

The DevRoom opens with presentations on Software Defined Networking, the ability to define network flow centrally for an entire network. Presentations cover three themes:

  • SDN controllers, overlay networks: These projects can manage networking for clusters of hosts, potentially with many virtual machines running on them. An SDN controller can manage both physical and virtual infrastructure centrally, whereas an overlay network completely dissociates the virtual network topology from the physical network topology. Learn how to use OpenContrail as a network virtualization platform with OpenStack, or discover newer open source projects including Calico, MidoNet, and VXVDE. We will also have an overview of OpenLISP, an open source implementation of the Locator/ID Separation Protocol.

  • Virtual switches: A virtual switch is a way to bridge network connections for multiple virtual machines on a host to the physical network. Thomas Graf will give us a guide to tracking stateful services with Open vSwitch.

  • Packet filtering, dataplane processing: A key piece of virtual networking is the ability to move network packet processing functionality out of the kernel and into userspace, where it can be less of a bottleneck. There are a number of presentations on the high-performance packet filtering project pflua, and on the Dataplane Development Kit (DPDK).

Network Management

The second part of the day focuses on network configuration inside a host — automating the process of connecting to the network and managing network connections and network hardware.

  • Hardware management: Learn more about OpenNMS, open source solutions for managing hardware switches, and using the netlink protocol with pyroute2.

  • Network management projects: There will be status updates from NetworkManager and networkd.

  • Network services: Learn about Knot DNS, a stand-alone DNS server.

For this first edition, we will have 16 half-hour talks, which allows attendees to get a brief overview of a lot of projects. All of the presentations will be recorded and will be online soon after the conference.

For more information about the projects presented, check out these links:

NFV and SDN at the OpenStack Summit Paris

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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OpenDaylight Helium Gets Out of the Gate

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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When Metrics Go Wrong

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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Red Hat Joins the OPNFV Project as Platinum Founding Member

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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The Value of Open Source

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.

It’s not always obvious, however, what the value of that is to our customers. The four freedoms of the free software definition which personify open source software – the freedom to use, study, modify and share modified copies of the software – at first glance appear to benefit only participants in open source communities. If you are a customer of a company like Red Hat, does it really matter that you have access to the source code, or that you can share the software with others? Aren’t customers, in some sense, paying us to "just take care of all of that stuff?"

By using and building on open source software, we see an opportunity to offer our customers a better experience, and better value for money. Some aspects of working with open source benefit us directly, and by allowing us to provide better service, benefit our customers indirectly.

First, by engaging with a community of developers, we increase the rate of development: working as a group, we make better software faster than we could working alone. Second, because open source enables wider adoption and distribution of the software we base our products on, we’re able to "punch beyond our weight," making a bigger impact than otherwise possible. Third, open source software development has been shown to set the benchmark in secure, high quality software.

In addition, users of products built on open source software can benefit directly. You can engage the upstream developer community to influence the future direction of the software, as the NSA did with SELinux. You can start using the software for free, from the open source project, and move to a commercially supported version when you decide it’s time – paying at the point of value, as Simon Phipps has put it.

Many open source projects like OpenStack have a diversity of companies who offer services and support for them, giving you the freedom to choose a different supplier if you are unhappy with the service you are getting from your current supplier. In addition, if your supplier loses interest in a project you have come to depend on, the community may well decide to fork the project, and provide you with a compatible alternative – as happened with both LibreOffice and MariaDB. Open source is the ultimate in code escrow.

While the first-order freedoms you have as a user of open source might, at first glance, appear useful only to community activists and developers, the second-order benefits which you get by being able to see and participate in the development process, by having an open market for vendors offering support and productization of the same source code, are clear benefits to all users of the software, whether you have ever looked at a line of source code or not.