2017 2017 - Define Future. 2017

I was fortunate enough to attend 2017 this year, it's honestly one of my favorite events of the year. Many people from the various upstream communities I work in or closely with come to discuss and present various technologies and it's a lot of fun.

This year I tried very hard to attend as many presentations as possible as well as catch up with other community contributors in "The Hallway Track" because I have in the past been bad at balancing between the official speaker track and The Hallway Track. I like to think I did well. :)

Some of the big themes of the event were Continuous Integration, Container Technologies, Project Atomic family of technologies, Ansible, and Cross-Community and Cross-Distro collaboration (making more of an effort to not re-invent the wheel). Also as a point of reference, sub topics of these include Fedora Modularity, Atomic Host, and Factory 2.0.

This event was kind enough to post video recordings of all the Speakers and I highly recommend those interested in any of these topic spaces to check out the lineup, it was quite good. Speaker Recordings here.

Below are quick notes about the sessions I had the opportunity to attend including a recap of my experience with "The Hallway Track" at the end. Day 1

Keynote and Welcome to 2017

DevConf started off with a quick welcome message about the Conference and a short history including fun facts about how much it's grown in recent years.

After the intro and welcome, it was off to the races with the Day 1 Keynote that discussed the concept of how "software is eating the world" and how the reality of more and more things moving to software is feeding into the Hybrid Cloud concept. In the modern landscape, this solution space can be catered to using only open source software by providing a platform to make infrastructure consistent and stable. At the previous DevConf there was a Keynote that spoke about full end to end Hybrid Cloud as an abstract concept that we as an open source technology ecosystem aimed to accomplish based on current (at the time) market trends. The bulk of this talk was a series of presenters performing live demos, each one effectively built on top of the previous in order to show how the abstract goal presented in the previous year's Keynote has now become a reality.

The open technologies that made their debut on-stage were:

Welcome to 2017 and Day 1 Keynote video

Generational Core - The Future of Fedora

Next up was a session dedicated to Fedora Generational Core, which is a core component of Fedora Modularity (or it was, it's more or less changed in name but the concept remains the same). Generational Core is now known as Base Runtime, these were originally different concepts targeting different use cases but have merged over time. The Base Runtime is what defines "the line" between Operating System and the Application. The main goal is to have an environment that can be the building block for all other modules and content which has a small package list and relatively low maintenance burden but can remain stable and of high quality. The Base Runtime is the first real module as part of Fedora Modularity that will be shipped.

The bulk of the discussion was off in the weeds talking about the journey to trim down the dependency chain. There was a graphic (in the video link below) that shows the incredible web of dependencies for even some of the most fundamentally required packages to have a functional base environment. It was a great tour of how much work is required to make this stuff happen and highlights that Fedora Modularity isn't just new metadata on top of groups of RPMs.

Generational Core - The Future of Fedora video

Atomic Cluster in 10 Minutes

This was a quick 30-minute session that briefly covered some introductory material about the Project Atomic family of technologies and then dove right into a live demo using ostree layering on top of the base rpm-ostree that comes out of the box with Atomic Host. This functionality comes from either rpm-ostree pkg-add or atomic host install, both of which allow for multiple runs of the command with different packages and they will just add to your new ostree layer on top of the base. Also, that new added layer will be rebased on any future updates to the underlying system.

The main headline of the demo was showing off the new upstream kubectl init command from kubernetes. This command allows for quick setup and testing to be able to be up and running and kicking the tires in no time (well, 10 minutes or less).

Atomic Cluster in 10 Minutes video

Atomic System Containers

Atomic System Containers are a new interesting technology that would allow a system administrator to augment the Atomic Host without having to modify the base ostree. This would allow for the ability to run even your container engine daemon as a container itself. The goal is to provide services that look/feel native to the system but are containers (Example: atomic install foo && systemctl start foo.service such that foo is a containerized service). This is broken down into effectively services distributed as OCI images, executed using runc, using systemd to manage lifecycle, ostree for storage management, skopeo for download/transport of images, and the metadata/conf specification templates required for various integration points. Also, any existing Docker image could be converted into a System Container by simply adding the configuration templates.

You can demo some of this now on Atomic Host using the atomic install --system [--name=NAME] CONTAINER command.

Atomic System Containers video <>

Building and Shipping your own Atomic Host

This was a great workshop session put on by Jonathan Lebon that shows you how to do exactly what the title says. Also provided was a great guide for the workshop (linked below). I suggest anyone interested in the topic to check out both the PDF and the video below.

Workshop Guide PDF

Building and Shipping your own Atomic Host video

Audit and Namespaces, Looking Towards Containers

The main outline of this talk aimed to cover:

  • Problems facing auditing and namespaces
  • What auditing means for containers
  • Possible solutions

First up was an introduction to Audit itself. Audit is a Linux kernel auditing mechanism and daemon, it was originally released in 2004, it works with SELinux, it is effectively a really high powered syslog that focuses on kernel space. Audit is a reporting tool, it monitors and reports but does not take action with exception of only one thing: you can configure it to kernel panic a system in the event of action that Audit is unable to log properly (which apparently some high security places would prefer system outage than anything occur without proper auditing). Next the discussion about kernel namespaces and the various ones that exist, including their introduction to the kernel on the timeline. From there a discussion of what containers are and the misconceptions that have come from them. For starters, the kernel has no concept of a container, it's a higher level abstraction that combines kernel features together (namespaces, seccomp, cgroups, etc). The problem comes in that there is only one audit daemon per system, this is because there is only one kernel per system. This makes it difficult to map audit events to various namespaces (or combinations of namespaces based on container storage or networking configuration).

Audit and Namespaces, Looking Towards Containers video Day 2

Keynote: A Story of Three Distros: Better Together

On Day 2 of DevConf, I had the honor of being included as a participant in the Keynote which was lead by Red Hat's VP of Engineering, Denise Dumas.

This keynote was a discussion about Fedora, Red Hat Enterprise Linux, and CentOS as the three distro lineage that makes up the Red Hat Family of distros, our individual histories, how we came to co-exist as a cross-distro collaborative effort around operating system technologies, and our plans to collaborate even more in the future around container technologies and runtimes. The discussion further extended the concept of a runtime from a standpoint of being able to migrate them between distros as we decouple these from the operating system in such cases as containers or Software Collections.

Day 2 Keynote video

OpenShift as Enterprise Kubernetes

OpenShift is a kubernetes with many added developer features. One of it's main goals is to be an Enterprise-grade on-premise kubernetes distribution that provides everyone the power to run agile, reliable, distributed systems. However, there are some misconceptions about containers and orchestration systems such as OpenShift. First off, containers are not lightweight virtual machines but instead are entry points for services in a distributed system that can be the building blocks for applications. The idea here is to "write applications, not containers"

The OpenShift Platform provides: service discovery, auto-scaling based on usage metrics, persistent storage management, configuration and secrets management, access to platform API from containers, self-deployable applications, application life cycle management, and build pipelines. The Control Plane is a set of components that all run on the master node(s): API Server, etcd, the cluster scheduler, and controller manager.

OpenShift is extremely powerful and a very cool platform that I urge anyone interested in to watch the video below, it was an extremely well thought out and thorough examination of the technology stack.

OpenShift as Enterprise Kubernetes video

Layered Image Build Service: Lessons Learned

I'm proud to say that this presentation was one of mine, I was honored to be able to speak at the event and I greatly enjoyed the experience.

This talk was about the Fedora Layered Image Build Service and lessons learned along the way. I started off by covering the topics of the day and then diving right in. I began with a fun tale of the time that the Fedora Project Leader, Matt Miller (no relation), said (paraphrased) "There's this open source layered image build system I heard about, we should deploy one!" which started my 18 month journey to a GA Layered Image Build Service release for Fedora. I discussed progress along the way, pain points, highlighted and thanked the various upstreams that kindly supported me along the the way and tipped my hat to the power of OpenShift. The fundamental lesson learned in all of this is that nothing in container land is set in stone, expect APIs to change, and expect backwards incompatible changes to be the norm.

Then we defined containers quickly, had a history lesson of their lineage in Linux space, covered the differences between a Layered Image and Base Image, discussed OpenShift as a platform and use of it's build pipeline and API to create custom tooling (such as with OSBS).

Another topic of interest as it relates to this system is that of Release Engineering, most noteably the cornerstones of making software that is: Reproducible, Auditable, Definable, and Deliverable. This allows us to understand some of the design decisions of the system.

Finally is the discussion of the Layered Image Build Service itself and the Fedora specific implementation.

Layered Image Build Service: Lessons Learned video

Fedora Two-Week Atomic Host: Progress and Future

This session was also one that I presented, it was about the Fedora Atomic Host and the progress so far on the initiative as well as plans for the future. First off I wanted to frame the discussion around Release Engineering and how Fedora traditionally works. As with my previous session I defined Release Engineering as creating a software pipeline that is Reproducible, Auditable, Definable, and Deliverable. Also as a point of reference, a "Compose" is the collection of primitive build artifacts (RPMs), the creation of deliverables (ISOs, Virt Images, Cloud Images, OCI Based Image, etc), and combination of these as a collection that is ready for testing and release release. From there the discussion moved to how the Fedora Release Process works, it is time based (roughly 6 months), there are Nightly Rawhide Composes, DistGit is branched for each upcoming release which triggers Composes to begin for Branched, then Milestone Freezes (Alpha, Beta, RC, GA) go into affect with changes subject to Fedora QE, the Updates Criteria is updated, and ultimately the GA Release.

However, the goals for the Atomic Host Two Week were to move Fedora Atomic Host out of the Fedora 6 month release cycle in order to allow it to iterate more rapidly. We also wanted to create a fully automated pipeline for release, integration, validation, and delivery. We've accomplished a lot on that journey such as the creation of the new dedicated Atomic Host compose which allows changes to be made that won't impact the rest of Fedora, automatic generation of ostree content based on Bodhi updates, AutoCloud automated testing, and a two-week release cycle that is mostly automated (just need to get automated signing work done). In the future we hope to make even more progress around the automated signing, a fully automated end-to-end release (using loopabull), remove kubernetes from the base ostree and move it into a system container (which would make the Atomic Host image smaller and provide more flexibility and choice of container orchestration runtimes for users). We would also like to change the default configuration to use overlayfs for container storage on the backend as well as add kubernetes and OpenShift, single as well as multi-node, testing.

Fedora Two-Week Atomic Host: Progress and Future video Day 3

Keynote: History of Containers

The third day of the conference started with a really fun, entertaining, and light-hearted exploration of the history of containers starting from Virtual Machines that started in 1963, through the creation of the OCI, and all the way up to a comical debate-style presentation about the future of containers and wild ideas like microkernels.

One of my favorite components of this talk was the introduction of a new analogy for what used to be known as "Pets vs Cattle" by Steve Pousty. This "Pets vs Cattle" analogy is often used as a way to refer to computing resources that we care about having a long life and substantial uptime (such as virtual machines) vs computing resources that are ephemeral in nature (cloud instances and containers). The presenter identified that not only is this analogy both offensive to the billion+ people on the planet that consider cows as sacred animals, but it is also incorrect in that ranchers don't care about their cattle. The new proposed analogy is "Ants and Elephants" because ants are hive-minded and often are ephemeral in nature and they horizontally scale to accomplish a task (which is more or less what containers aim to do). However, elephants on the other hand spend a lot of time taking care of members of their herd, have grave sites where they pay respects to fallen members, and are large animals that can perform large tasks on their own. Therefore, from now on I will use the "Ants and Elephants" analogy and I highly encourage others to join me.

Keynote: History of Containers video

Commissaire: Exposing System Management

The presentation on Commissaire introduced the project and it's goals of exposing systems management over a simple JSON RPC base API that uses kombu to enable AMQP and performs tasks on the back end with Ansible. Also a point of note in the presentation is that the commissaire developers are working upstream with Ansible on the Python2 to Python3 transition as well. The over all goal is to be able to easily perform maintenance tasks across a container orchestration environment such as kubernetes or OpenShift.

Commissaire: Exposing System Management video

Ansible for people allergic to Dockerfiles

System Message: WARNING/2 (<string>, line 351)

Title underline too short.

Ansible for people allergic to Dockerfiles

This session time slot was a short 30-minute one that introduced the concepts of ansible-container, how it aims to enforce best practices across ansible modules such that they can easily be re-used for container and non-container creation/deployments. There was also discussion of how ansible-container can deploy to orchestration engines automatically (kubernetes and OpenShift currently supported).

NOTE: I was unable to find the video of this talk.

Linch-Pin: Hybrid Cloud Provisioning with Ansible

Linch-Pin is a tool that is aimed to provide simple provisioning and tear-down of environments in multiple on-premise and public cloud providers using Ansible. The utility currently supports short-lived testing environments but targeting long-lived production scenarios in the future.

The guiding principle of Linch-Pin is that "Simple is Better" and it's a tool that originated to replace a really complicated utility called "Provisioner 1.0" (to the best of my knowledge, Provisioner 1.0 is not a public/open source tool). Linch-Pin provides the ability to perform installation/provisioning of systems based on "Topology Files" as input with the output being logging information about the creation as well as an ansible inventory file such that subsequent ansible commands can use it to find/access the specific systems that were created by Linch-Pin. Documentation can be found here.

Linch-Pin: Hybrid Cloud Provisioning with Ansible video

Scaling Up Aggregated Logging and Metrics on OpenShift

This session was a technical deep dive talking about how to resolve some really interesting problems at substantial scale of an OpenShift container orchestration cluster. Scenarios examined here were targeting solutions for clusters with over 10,000 pods in them. Areas such as how to scale ElasticSearch, Kibana, Cassandra, fluentd, and heapster. The session gets off in the weeds quick and is very technical. Anyone interested in these topics or who may potentially run into this level of scale issues is highly recommended to check out the video.

Scaling Up Aggregated Logging and Metrics on OpenShift video <>_

Deploying Applications on Atomic Host with Ansible

The time slot for this session was also a quick 30 minutes and it focused primarily on quick overview of information about each of Atomic Host, docker build, Ansible, and Cockpit. Then it was demo time, where the presenter showed her ansible playbook and Dockerfile explaining what each does along the way. From there it was a live demonstration of the entire thing working end-to-end to build and deploy a containerize application on Atomic Host using Ansible and Docker.

Deploying Applications on Atomic Host with Ansible video

Testing and Automation and Cooperation: Oh My!

Yet another quick 30 minute time slot that covered a considerable amount of ground across it's topic space. This session covered Fedora's plans to a fully integrated CI pipeline for the entire distro with updates being gated by the CI but easily overridden if/when needed. As an example, the OpenStack project already has this kind of CI pipeline. In Fedora land, we need to firmly decide on what is considered the "input stream" for a CI system as well as determine what we want to gate on (which turns out to be difficult questions to answer). Then we need to find a place to run all tests. As a point of note is that collaboration can be difficult for testing as testing is often project-specific, requirements are often different and sometimes there's cross-community politics in play. We collectively need to start moving towards a common backend toolchain in order to start towards true cross-project collaboration. Currently, we're targeting Ansible as that thing (OpenStack Zuul is already using ansible on the backend).

Testing and Automation and Cooperation: Oh My!

Hallway Track

The hallway tracks are always some of my favorite times at conferences and is certainly no different. However, because of the nature of them I don't have good notes on the discussions that were had and I've included at least highlight information about the ones that stick out most in my memory

Project Atomic

I had the opportunity to meet up with some community members of the Fedora Atomic WG to discuss various items about plans for the future, the desire to have multiple update streams, as well as plans for Fedora Containers and improving the Container Guidelines. All of these topic items have since been filed into the Atomic WG space as issue tickets for posterity and work tracking in the future.

Fedora Infra Managed OpenShift

In another hallway track session a hand full of us were tossing around wild ideas of having an OpenShift environment in Fedora space that ran on bare metal and could provide shared hosting for upstreams to iteratively work on things in a way that could be integrated directly with Fedora services (such as fedmsg, taskotron, and loopabull). This might turn out to be a bit more far fetched than we can really accomplish purely because of the nature of the request but it's something that everyone in the circle thought was a good idea at the time.

Closing time...

That, in a really long-winded nutshell, is my 2017 experience.

I look forward to DevConf.z 2018!

Until next time...