Advanced Computing in the Age of AI|Tuesday, September 29, 2020
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Taking the Pain Out of OpenStack Upgrades 

The tenth release of OpenStack, "Juno," last October, added a batch of new enterprise features aimed at boosting stability and performance and extending the reach of the open source tool to telecommunications and service provider datacenters. Those features included storage policies, new data processing services for provisioning Hadoop and Spark along with foundational steps toward making the OpenStack a platform for network functions virtualization.

In short, the OpenStack Foundation is trying to build on the momentum of the open source tool in order to make it the main control plane for a broader range of cloud infrastructures. To that end, the foundation is currently compiling a user survey that in the past has been released at the foundation's annual summit.

The release of Juno also has fueled the ecosystem coalescing around OpenStack to come up with new ways to ease the painful upgrade process as OpenStack shifts from test and development cloud deployments to production environments.

Among the facilitators of OpenStack is Platform9, which emerged from stealth mode last summer with the launch of a service-as-a-software platform aimed at managing private clouds. The Silicon Valley startup released a "managed OpenStack" SaaS product in January after six months of beta testing. The focus on OpenStack stems from what Platform9 sees as the struggles enterprises face in implementing OpenStack—and in this case, OpenStack Juno—as they seek to transform existing servers into an agile private clouds.

Hence, Platform9 identified a niche in the OpenStack ecosystem by promising to speed up deployment of a "production grade" Openstack control plane to run private clouds. In a blog post this week, the company announced that it managed to migrate its users to OpenStack Juno in about 20 minutes as opposed to the days and sometimes weeks previously required for an OpenStack upgrade.

The company touts its "zero-touch" approach as orchestrating OpenStack upgrades by backing up the control plane, then upgrading it, migrating data stored in private clouds, then validating that the upgrade was successful. Moreover, the startup said underlying infrastructure like virtual machines and servers remained online during the 20-minute upgrade process.

Platform9 credits the acceleration of OpenStack upgrades to the software profile orchestration engine at the heart of its SaaS platform. The engine "orchestrates the upgrade on the controller services and the data-plane software" on customer servers, according to Madhura Maskasky, a Platform9 co-founder and former VMware engineer.

The startup also hopes to plug a gap in the OpenStack ecosystem by creating a standard upgrade path for the open source tool. Platform9 notes that some OpenStack distributors offer an upgrade path while others lack a defined upgrade schedule. The longer users avoid the current, painful upgrade process, the more likely they will simply opt to start over with a new OpenStack deployment, the company argues.

The latest OpenStack user survey expected to be released during the community's summit next month in Vancouver will likely shed more light on whether upgrades to Juno and future versions of OpenStack are as big an issue as companies like Platform9 insist.

About the author: George Leopold

George Leopold has written about science and technology for more than 30 years, focusing on electronics and aerospace technology. He previously served as executive editor of Electronic Engineering Times. Leopold is the author of "Calculated Risk: The Supersonic Life and Times of Gus Grissom" (Purdue University Press, 2016).

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