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OpenStack on Edge? 4 Ways Edge Is Distinct From Cloud

OpenStack on Edge? 4 Ways Edge Is Distinct From Cloud

Last week, I attended a unique OpenDev Edge Infrastructure focused event hosted by the OpenStack Foundation to help RackN understand the challenges customers are facing at the infrastructure edges.  We are exploring how the new lightweight, remote API-driven Digital Rebar Provision can play a unique role in these resource and management constrained environments.

I had also hoped the event part of the Foundation’s pivot towards being an “open infrastructure” community that we’ve seen emerging as the semiannual conferences attract a broader set of open source operations technologies like Kubernetes, Ceph, Docker and SDN platforms.  As a past board member, I believe this is a healthy recognition of how the community uses a growing mix of open technologies in the data center and cloud.

It’s logical for the OpenStack community, especially the telcos, to be leaders in edge infrastructure; unfortunately, that too often seemed to mean trying to “square peg” OpenStack into the every round hole at the Edge.  For companies with a diverse solution portfolio, like RackN, being too myopic on using OpenStack to solve all problems keeps us from listening to the real use-cases.  OpenStack has real utility but there is no one-size-fits all solution (and that goes for Kubernetes too).

By far the largest issue of the Edge discussion was actually agreeing about what “edge” meant.  It seemed as if every session had a 50% mandatory overhead in definitioning.  I heard some very interesting attempts to define edge in terms of 1) resource constraints of the equipment or 2) proximity to data sources or 3) bandwidth limitations to the infrastructure.  All of these are helpful ways to describe edge infrastructure.

Putting my usual operations spin on the problem, I choose to define edge infrastructure in data center management terms.  Edge infrastructure has very distinct challenges compared to hyperscale data centers.  

Here is my definition:

1) Edge is inaccessible by operators so remote lights out operation is required

2) Edge requires distributed scale management because there are many thousands of instances to be managed

3) Edge is heterogeneous because breath of environments and scale imposes variations

4) Edge has a physical location awareness component because proximity matters by design

These four items are hard operational management related challenges.  They are also very distinctive challenges when compared to traditional hyperscale data center operations issues where we typically enjoy easy access, consolidated management, homogeneous infrastructure and equal network access.

In our next post, ….

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