OpenStack Ussuri flows in: Chief operating officer spies public cloud chip wars ahead

Plus: Python2 slithers away from 21st release of open source cloud infrastructure project

The OpenStack Foundation has hit the green button on Ussuri, the 21st release of the open source cloud infrastructure project.

There are 10 million compute cores currently running OpenStack, the Foundation said, with users across enterprise, academic institutions, telecom operators, and hosting companies competing with the big players.

OpenStack has an approximate six-month release cycle, so Ussuri follows Train, which came out in October 2019. The releases are alphabetical, with each release also taking its name from some feature local to the location of the OpenStack summit (now called the Open Infrastructure summit). The November 2019 summit was in Shanghai, hence presumably the name Ussuri which is in China though nowhere near Shanghai; it will be easier in future since the geographic requirement for future names has been dropped.

Naming excitement aside, what is new in OpenStack Ussuri? The press release was vague. "Ongoing improvements to the reliability of the core infrastructure layer," it explained. "Enhancements to security and encryption capabilities," and what's more, "extended versatility."

Sounds like a yawn? OpenStack COO Mark Collier says not. "We feel like this release has a ton of features in it," he told us during a press briefing, though VP Engineering Thierry Carrez said that: "From an engineering perspective it's true that we are 10 years in the life of OpenStack and our major concern is that existing users cannot get broken by new features and upgrades," implying that maintaining compatibility slows the pace of change.

Admittedly it is a tricky project to encapsulate in a few words. OpenStack is big. There are 44 component projects listed on the release page. Canonical, for whom OpenStack is important as a key part of the Ubuntu ecosystem, says that "the most notable enhancements of today's OpenStack upstream release are stabilisation efforts around the Open Virtual Networking (OVN) driver and the Masakari project, which allow organisations to run highly available workloads on the top of an open source software-defined networking (SDN) platform."

Some of the other changes in this release:

  • The Nova compute service (manage VMs) has support for cold migrating and resizing servers between its cells,
  • Kuryr (enables virtual networking for containers) now supports iPv6,
  • Ironic (provision OpenStack components on bare metal) has new features to automate decommissioning hardware,
  • Octavia (load balancing service) now supports deploying load balancers to specific availability zones, and can specify TLS requirements enabling security compliance,
  • Magnum (container infrastructure management) can now upgrade the operating system used by Kubernetes clusters, and
  • Zun (serverless container deployment) can now be used by Kubernetes to create pods.

The OpenStack Foundation also flung the doors wide on OpenInfra Labs, a community for open source infrastructure operators to share testing and tooling work.

Like many developers, OpenStack is working to remove dependence on Python 2.7, which is end of life. According to the project notes: "Ussuri cycle is the time to drop the python2 support from OpenStack. All the projects have completed all of the work of updating all of their CI [Continuous Integration] jobs to work under Python 3."

That said, the docs also note that Swift (cloud storage) "is still fixing py3 bugs" and will keep Python 2.7 support.

Canonical offers commercial support for a distribution of OpenStack called Charmed, and this will be updated to version 20.05 on May 20th. The new version uses MySQL InnoDB Cluster 8.0 for its default database, in place of Galera Cluster.

We have Google building a one-off chip and keeping to themselves and Amazon's built an Arm server chip and is keeping it to themselves... the market is not going to be satisfied with only getting that technology from one company as a monopoly

OpenStack still matters because it is the only alternative to the domination of IT infrastructure by public cloud providers, says Collier. "There is an incredible demand for access to the technology needed to run cloud computing and that need in the market to have more than a monopoly or oligopoly of choices is still very much driving interest, demand and investment in OpenStack," he told the press.

He added that there is concern about recent developments where those providers create custom hardware, like Google's Tensor Processing Unit which uses a "custom-designed machine learning ASIC" and the AWS Graviton processor.

"We have Google building a one-off chip and keeping [it] to themselves and Amazon's built an Arm server chip and is keeping it to themselves. The fact that they're building these chips shows there's a problem to be solved where there's better economics, efficiency, energy and performance that necessitates that kind of investment, to build a new chip just for one company to run. On the other hand, the market is not going to be satisfied with only getting that technology from one company as a monopoly," he said.

Collier is relying on vendors like Intel, AMD and chip-focused startups to fill this gap. "Getting access to the technologies that the economy runs on today has always been fundamental to how we approach the mission at the foundation. You'll see that repeating in these chip wars," he told us. ®

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