Guidelines for a productive OpenStack Design Summit experience

GuidelinesOpenStack

So you have been tasked with figuring out this OpenStack thing and how you can leverage it in your IT department to deliver greater efficiency, automation, and agility to the business. To dive in and start learning, you sign up to attend the upcoming OpenStack Design Summit in Vancouver. However, because you’re an outsider to a community as large and fast-moving as OpenStack, it’s a daunting task to determine where to start.

Fear not.

This will be the seventh OpenStack Design Summit SolidFire has attended. Over the past three years, we’ve witnessed the rapid evolution of this ecosystem and have helped our customers figure out the most effective way to convert the OpenStack project, and all that it entails, into a positive ROI solution that has real impact on their business.

There are a lot of people embarking on a similar fact-finding mission heading into this year’s Summit in Vancouver. So, to produce a list of the most useful guidelines to ensure this event is productive for you, we brought together a group of OpenStack developers and architects here at SolidFire to harness our collective experience in the community. Here is what the team came up with:

Start small, think big. Don’t try to boil the ocean, and don’t try to be an expert right of the gate. Focus on learning the ins and outs of OpenStack, but keep in mind that the goal is to figure out how to start at a reasonable scale and grow over time.

Figure out the basics first. Try not to get lost in all the projects and services that compose OpenStack. These are important things that will come up later, but to get going, focus on the basic foundational services:

compute: Nova
storage: Cinder and Swift
networking: Neutron

Hot tip: Ahead of the event, one of the best ways to learn more about each of these projects is to review past summit presentations.

Attend any talks that have “Lessons Learned” in the title. Learning from the mistakes of others might be the single most valuable use of your time at the Summit. Let the hands-on experience of others be your guide, and pay attention to any “Here be dragons!” warnings.

Focus on architecture over implementation. If you are just starting out, try not to get tripped up deciding which deployment tool to use. Rather than getting caught up in the most elegant implementation, focus on the core fundamentals of the architecture and what provides the most value to the organization to get moving quickly.

Know your use case candidates going in. OpenStack can address a variety of use cases, so identifying a key one to investigate during the Summit will maximize your time. Use the week of OpenStackDesign Summit to make sure this use case fits OpenStack, and implement that one thing first to get a win under your belt.

Embrace failure. Understanding OpenStack is best achieved if you don’t try to neatly fit it into your previous understanding of infrastructure and application best practices. One particular area where this really matters is high availability (HA). Do your best to think about embracing failure versus trying to avoid it. In fact, you should design for failure throughout your architecture. As a result, high availability is fundamental, not optional. Look for technologies and failure-tolerant architectures that bake in high availability from the get-go.

Understand the various storage choices around. We’re admittedly biased at SolidFire and believe storage is an important decision that can significantly impact the success, and resulting ROI, of your cloud project. Applications and use cases have divergent performance and availability needs within a single OpenStack environment. Are these needs best served by block or object storage? When is it necessary to choose performance-optimized storage vs. capacity-optimized?

Avoid the Docker hype for now. Docker has awesome potential, but if this is the first time you have heard of it then you are better off ignoring it for now until you get your basic OpenStack footing underneath you.

Hopefully these guidelines help make for an extremely productive event in Vancouver and put you on a path to initial success with your OpenStack project. While you are there, make sure to attend our keynote on Monday, one of our various breakout sessions, visit us in booth #H3 or schedule a meeting with us directly to learn more about how SolidFire can enable you to take your cloud to places others can’t.

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