Machine learning, edge computing, cloud lifecycles - what to expect from OpenStack Sydney

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The OpenStack Foundation have toured the globe to drop in on OpenStack community days. In London, Lauren Sell and Jonathan Bryce talk Computerworld UK through what to expect at the OpenStack Summit in Sydney this November

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The OpenStack Foundation's executive director Jonathan Bryce and VP for marketing and community Lauren Sell sat down with Computerworld UK to talk about why edge computing, machine learning, and the 'lifecycle of a cloud' will be three major talking points at the OpenStack Summit in Sydney this November.

"Big data has been a driver for OpenStack environments for a couple of years now, but one area specifically where we're starting to see more deployments is with machine learning, deep learning, tools like Tensorflow and Cafe," said Jonathan Bryce, speaking at an 'OpenStack Day' event at Bishopsgate, east London, one of many the group has been running worldwide. "A lot of times people are running those on top of containers, in some cases virtual machines."

Trends

"What's been interesting to see is the data from our user survey. We've seen a spike in the use of Ironic, the bare metal service, and some of that is driven by the fact people are putting GPUs into their clouds now – so they can really take advantage of the opportunity that AI presents, to give their business better decision-making capabilities with machine learning," he added.

"If you've got GPUs, you want to use the GPUs directly and you want control over how you divide them up, what work you spread across, so Ironic makes a lot of sense there and it's driving a big set of users right now."

Bryce expects the 'lifecycle' of cloud to be another conversation point at the summit – that is, managing the cloud over time. "I think that is one of the challenges people have faced when they've deployed infrastructure software like OpenStack," Bryce said.

"You put this out there and users can run anything they want to on that, so it becomes an extremely dynamic environment – you have to have a strategy for how you're going to monitor it, security it, upgrade it, and all of those things over the lifetime of a cloud. There's been a big focus on that both upstream and in the ecosystem."

AT&T is expected to talk about managing its OpenStack cloud lifecycles – with the telco having built its own set of tools to manage the infrastructure in more than 100 data centres, and running about half of their network now.

Edge computing will also take a top place at the conference. Companies like AT&T, Walmart and eBay are already large OpenStack users, but are starting to "break apart the components of OpenStack" and moving them out of their data centres and closer to users, retail facilities and other sites, Bryce explained. 

The Foundation released OpenStack Pike this August, which promised to enable 'composable' infrastructure. As we said at the time, HPE has especially pushed the term over the past couple of years, referring to managing compute, storage and networking through software commands.

"When we first started using that term we thought about it in terms as the sort of things underneath Openstack, all the different hardware components, the different networking providers, the different storage systems, all this kind of thing," said Bryce.

"More and more what's been really interesting to see is how that has expanded to include things beside OpenStack, on top of OpenStack, and it's really becoming this glue component for a lot of things people are doing in their environments."

"You want to be able to pick capabilities from a set of tools rather than getting this cookie cutter thing you have to wedge your business into."

China contributions pick up speed

While Bryce and Sell didn't point to it as a trend per se, there could well be more of a focus on Chinese contributors to OpenStack this year – a country where winning the SuperUser award has become a "coveted position" according to Sell – and where the community is growing the fastest.

"We went there for an OpenStack day event like this, and that was 2,500 people, it was crazy," Bryce said. "What's most impressive about China is the use cases. There is a whole ecosystem of startup companies that are building OpenStack clouds and providing services around it, and it's driven by extremely large scale usage."

For example, the largest utility company in the world is the State Grid Corporation of China, with roughly 1.5 million employees, while China UnionPay is the largest card payment processing company in the world, and both of these organisations run on OpenStack environments. But companies with a traditionally smaller IT estate like Pacific Textiles – which manufactures fabric for a lot of well-known brands – is also running OpenStack environments.

China UnionPay was listed to speak in the Boston summit earlier this year but the speakers had trouble with obtaining their visas due to "changes in government".

"It's been something of a really interesting and challenging landscape to navigate, and figure out how to get our global community together," said Sell. "So we're working to get them to Australia. They're helping kick off the financial services working group."

"What I think is interesting is that in spite of political upheaval in various places around the world... it's interesting to me to see how OpenStack works across these borders and timezones," said Bryce. "We have a community of 80,000 plus people in 180 countries who work together really well, it should give us hope that we can work on big things and accomplish stuff together."

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