Dirty Clouds Done Cheap

I recently gave a presentations at the OpenStack Summit in Boston with the same title. You can find a video of the talk here: https://www.openstack.org/videos/boston-2017/dirty-clouds-done-dirt-cheap. This blog post will cover the same project, but it will go into a lot more detail, which I couldn’t cover during the presentation.

Just a heads up this post is long!  I try to cover every step of the project with all the details I could remember. It probably would have made sense to split things up into multiple posts, but I wrote it in a single sitting and doing that felt weird. If you’re just looking for a quicker overview, I recommend watching the video of my talk instead.

The Project Scope

When I was in college I had a part time job as a sysadmin at a HPC research lab in the aerospace engineering department. In that role I was responsible for all aspects of the IT in the lab, from the workstations and servers to the HPC clusters. In that role I  often had to deploy new software with no prior knowledge about it. I managed to muddle through most of the time by reading the official docs and frantically google searching when I encountered issues.

Since I started working on OpenStack I often think back to my work in college and wonder if I had been tasked with deploying an OpenStack cloud back then would I have been able to? As a naive college student who had no knowledge of OpenStack would I have been successful in trying to deploy OpenStack by myself? Since I had no knowledge  of configuration management (like puppet or chef) back then I would have gone about it by installing everything by hand. Basically the open question from that idea is how hard is it actually to install OpenStack by hand  using the documentation and google searches?

Aside from the interesting thought exercise I also have wanted a small cloud at home for a couple of reasons. I maintain a number of servers at home that run a bunch of critical infrastructure. For some time I’ve wanted to virtualize my home infrastructure mainly just for the increased flexibility and potential reliability improvements.  Running things off a residential ISP and power isn’t the best way to run a server with a decent uptime.  Besides virtualizing some of my servers it would be nice to have the extra resources for my upstream OpenStack development, I often do not have the resources available to me for running devstack or integration tests locally and have to rely on upstream testing.

So after the Ocata release I decided to combine these 2 ideas and build myself a small cloud at home. I would do it by hand (ie no automation or config management) to test out how hard it would be. I set myself a strict budget of $1500 USD (the rough cost of my first desktop computer in middle school, an IBM Netvista A30p that I bought with my Bar Mitzvah money) to acquire hardware. This was mostly just a fun project for me so I didn’t want to spend an obscene amount of money. $1500 USD is still a lot of money, but it seemed like a reasonable amount for the project.

However, I decided to take things a step further than I originally planned and build the cloud using the release tarballs from http://tarballs.openstack.org/. My reasoning behind this was to test out how hard it would be to take the raw code we release as a community and turn that into a working cloud. It basically invalidated the project as a test for my thought exercise of deploying the cloud if I was back in college (since I definitely would have just used my Linux distro’s packages back then) but it made the exercise more relevant for me personally as an upstream OpenStack developer. It would give me insight as to where what we’re there are gaps in our released code and how we could start to fix them.
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