OpenStack Pune Meetup

I participated in the OpenStack Meetup at the Red Hat Pune office a few weekends ago.  I have been too caught up on the lower-level KVM/QEMU layers of the virt stack, and know there aren’t too many people involved in those layers in Pune (or even India); and was curious to learn more about OpenStack and also find out more about the OpenStack community in Pune.  The event was on a Saturday, which means sacrificing one day of rest and relaxation – but I went along because curiousity got the better of me.

This was a small, informal event where we had a few talks and several hallway discussions.  Praveen has already blogged about his experiences, here are my notes about the meetup.

There were a few scheduled talks for the day; speakers nominated themselves on the meetup page and the event organizers allotted slots for them.  The proceedings started off with configuring and setting up OpenStack via DevStack.  I wished (for the audience present there) there would’ve been an introductory talk before a deep-dive into DevStack.  I could spot a few newbies in the crowd, and they would have benefitted by an intro.

In a few discussions with the organizers, I learnt one of their pain points for such meetups: there inevitably are newbies at each meetup, and they can’t move on to advanced topics just because they have to start from scratch for each meetup.  I suggested they have a clear focus for each meetup: tell explicitly what each meetup is about, and the expertise level that’s going to be assumed.  For example, there’s nothing wrong with a newbie-focused event; but then some other event could focus on the networking part of OpenStack, and they assume people are familiar with configuring and deploying openstack and are familiar with basic networking priciples.  This suggestion is based on the Pune FADs we want to conduct and have in the pipeline; and was welcomed by the organizers.

Other talks followed; and I noticed a trend: not many people understood, or even knew about, the lower layers that make up the infrastructure beneath OpenStack.  I asked the organizers if they could spare 10 mins for me to provide a peek into the lower levels, and they agreed.  Right after a short working-lunch break, I took the stage.

I spoke about Linux, KVM and QEMU; dove into details of how each of them co-operate and how libvirt drives the interactions between the upper layers and the lower layers.  Also spoke a little about the alternative hypervisor support that libvirt has, but the advantages of the default hypervisor, QEMU/KVM has over others.  I then spoke about how improvements in Linux in general (e.g. the memory management layer) benefits the thousands of people running Linux, the thousands people running the KVM hypervisor, and in effect, benefit all the OpenStack deployments.  I then mentioned a bit about how features flow from upstream into distributions, and how all the advantages trickle down naturally, without anyone having to bother about particular parts of the infrastructure.

The short talk was well received, and judging by the questions I got asked, it was apparent that some people didn’t know the dynamics involved, and the way I presented it was very helpful to them and they wanted to learn more.  I also got asked a few hypervisor comparison questions.  I had to cut the interaction because I easily overflowed the 15 mins allotted to me, and asked people to follow up with me later, which several did.

One of the results of all those conversations was that I got volunteered to do more in-depth talks on the topic at future meetups.  The organizers lamented there’s a dearth of such talks and subject-matter experts; and many meetups generally end up being just talks from people who have read or heard about things rather than real users or implementers of the technology.  They said they would like to have more people from Red Hat talking about the work we do upstream and all the contributions we make.  I’m just glad our contributions are noticed :-)

Another related topic that came up during discussions with the organizers are hackathons, and getting people to contribute and actually do stuff.  I expect a hackathon to be proposed soon.

I had a very interesting conversation with Sajid, one of the organizers.  He mentioned Reliance Jio are setting up data centres across India, and are going to launch cloud computing services with their 4G rollout.  Their entire infrastructure is based on OpenStack.

There were other conversations as well, but I’ll perhaps talk about them in other posts.

Internally at Red Hat, we had a few discussions on how to improve our organization for such events (even though they’re community events; we should be geared up to serve the attendees better).  Mostly included stuff around making it easier to get people in (ie working with security), getting the AV equipment in place, etc.  All of this was working fine during this event, but basically ensuring all of the things that do go right are also part of the list of things to look at while organizing events so we don’t slip up.

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