Unlocked by Design: Evolving a Successful OpenStack Partner Ecosystem

In this six-part blog series, contributors from the Mirantis Unlocked team discuss some of the methods and processes they have evolved to build a large and diverse partner ecosystem; one that promotes user choice, helps ensure that partner solution integrations are high-quality and production-ready, and encourages use of Fuel, Murano and other tools to simplify and automate partner solution configuration and deployment in Mirantis OpenStack environments. In this first installment, Kamesh Pemmaraju, VP Product Marketing at Mirantis, describes the inception of the Unlocked program, and offers a report-card on its first full year of operation.

OpenStack has advanced to a stage of maturity where large companies — even those in the Fortune 1000 — can use it to achieve concrete business outcomes, including strategic business agility and numerous operational efficiencies. At the same time, these companies don’t want to spend time figuring out whether their hardware (servers, networks, storage) is going to work with their OpenStack deployment, or how to make networking work at scale. They don’t want to spend time wondering if the latest developer tools are compatible, or struggle through downtime during complex upgrades to their environment with every new release of OpenStack. The greatest strength of OpenStack is its inherent flexibility and pluggability, but this also turns out to be OpenStack’s Achilles heel — creating complexity and making it  difficult for companies to build, operate and use OpenStack efficiently at scale.

At Mirantis, we saw the need for companies to be able to easily consume either existing customer infrastructure or the industry’s latest innovations within their OpenStack environments — without complex manual integration and without getting locked into any particular stack or hardware infrastructure. To this end, almost a year ago — in August of 2015, just before release of Mirantis OpenStack 7.0 in September — Mirantis launched its Unlocked Partner Program, with the goal of creating and nurturing a rich, open ecosystem of OpenStack partners.

The use of the term “Unlocked” in the program name was a conscious attempt to emphasize Mirantis’ pure play approach to ecosystem nurturance: giving our customers maximum freedom of choice. In fact, freedom from lock-in and the ability to use their existing infrastructure hardware and software was one of the big reasons Volkswagen chose Mirantis OpenStack for building out their private cloud infrastructure as they work on their vision for connected self-driving cars of the future. Combined with the traditional strengths of Mirantis around building production-ready large-scale OpenStack clouds, the Unlocked program provided the added benefits of no-lock-in customer choice of operating systems, hypervisors, networking, storage, and server infrastructure.

When we kicked off the Mirantis Unlocked program last year, we started with these main objectives:

  • Helping Mirantis partners test and validate OpenStack drivers, components, applications and hardware with successive versions of Mirantis OpenStack — so customers have compatible partner solutions that are known to be interoperable with Mirantis OpenStack
  • Working with partners to develop, document and maintain installation best-practice and authoritative reference architectures for their products — so customers can confidently deploy solutions in production environments
  • Providing transparent and standard open frameworks, tools, and processes to help partners develop and validate deployment automation for their products in the form of Fuel plugins and Murano packages — so customers can install partner solutions automatically, easily and repeatedly with and atop Mirantis OpenStack
  • Providing searchable online partner solution catalogs with links to docs, reference architectures, and authorized Fuel plugin binaries  — so customers can easily discover validated partner solutions, understand their dependencies, and put them to work quickly and with confidence.

Since that time, the Unlocked program has grown enormously. Today, just in advance of General Release for Mirantis OpenStack 9.0, the Mirantis Partner Catalog shows 86 active Unlocked partners, with 55 additional partners now working to validate solutions. Over 110 OpenStack infrastructure driver and compatible application solutions have already been validated for versions of MOS from 6.1 to 8.0 — fully 28 of these are Fuel Plugins, available in categories for Networking/NFV, Storage, Operations Management, Compute, Billing and more.

In addition to authoritative, checksum-protected Fuel Plugin binaries and installation docs, the Mirantis Unlocked Partner Catalog now offers over 260 additional documentary and tutorial resources, from official Reference Architectures to webinars. Accelerating growth continues at the rate of several new validated solutions, on average, per week. A broad community ecosystem of Fuel Plugins is also growing on GitHub, representing an estimated 60 repositories, with more than 30 Fuel plugins now listed for easy search and access in DriverLog.

Iterative Improvements to the program

Since launch, the Unlocked program has been continuously upgraded to better serve partners and users. It’s now easier than ever for new partners to join our vibrant partner ecosystem, validate products, and reach customers with Mirantis OpenStack.

  • Simplified Roadmap: The Unlocked Partner roadmap has been simplified. All partner-product validation pathways — for OpenStack infrastructure drivers, applications and hardware; and for additional development and validation of Fuel Plugins and Murano Apps — have been aligned for clarity, simplicity and transparency. Process steps are fully documented; template documents are available to speed and simplify sharing of test plans, test results, and production of required docs. New Fuel Plugin QA best-practice and standards for CI/CD based automated testing were recently introduced, and work to improve Fuel Plugin development workflow and enhance solution quality is ongoing.For more information on the specifics of Mirantis Unlocked validation, please see links at the end of this article.
  • Introduction of partner tiers: Though the majority of current Mirantis Unlocked Partners participate in the program free of charge, affordable Value and Premium Unlocked partnership tiers have been introduced to help partners with special engineering needs or less familiarity with OpenStack. Major benefits of higher tiers include support entitlements, several-times-yearly access to Mirantis-provided and managed remote testing/validation labs, training discounts, inside-track info on new releases and MOS roadmaps, and more.
  • Redesigned partner catalog: A ground-up redesign of the Unlocked Partner Catalogs was introduced in February of 2016, just ahead of the release of Mirantis OpenStack 8.0, with all catalogs (Fuel Plugins, Apps and Infrastructure, Hardware Compatibility List) linked in one tabbed page. Each partner now has a stand-alone, Google-visible partner page that collects and tabulates all relevant product-validation data and solution-integration options.
  • Comprehensive HCL catalog with search: As part of that redesign, a new Hardware Compatibility List database system was built, tested and exposed to power cross-tabulated searches on validated server configurations and the individual components they contain. The new HCL contains validated products from ten major hardware partners, including (to date) 75 server platforms, plus dozens of NICs, hard-drive/RAID controllers and other hardware products, tested for compatibility with versions of Mirantis OpenStack from 6.1 to 9.0. Upstream of the new HCL database, Mirantis’ automated HCL test scripts have been improved and made easier to use — part of a now-largely-automated open validation workflow.
  • Introduction of a NFV partner ecosystem: Validation pathways for new product categories have been introduced. Highlights include paths for VNFs (Virtualized Network Functions, validated against the Mirantis NFV Reference Platform), and a pathway for Validated Hardware Configurations: semi-prescriptive, rack-based platform solutions engineered for specific OpenStack use-cases (e.g., web workload hosting), giving customers one-stop platform purchasing and reduced uncertainty, along with freedom of choice.
  • Reference Architectures with Select partners: Reference Architectures have been developed for key partner solutions, and are now being maintained and updated across succeeding versions of Mirantis OpenStack. The current flock of RAs include collaborations with NetApp/Solidfire (conventional, hybrid, Flash and virtualized storage products), EMC (diverse storage solutions including EMC VNX, XtremeIO, and ScaleIO), Juniper (Contrail Networking SDN), Pure Storage (Flash arrays), Citrix (NetScaler ADC), Pivotal (Pivotal Cloud Foundry), and Dell (a Validated Hardware Configuration for web workload hosting, based on Dell PowerEdge servers and Dell Networking switches).

Over the next quarter, we plan to dive deep into many of the themes and threads of the Mirantis Unlocked Partner program, share customer and partner feedback, and map out the next two quarters of planned improvements to the Mirantis Unlocked Partner Ecosystem.

Mirantis Unlocked Validation Programs

For more information, you can also check out this blog series, authored by Evgeniya Shumakher, Sr. Manager of Technology Partnerships and Alliances at Mirantis, which dives deep into the process of validating OpenStack drivers/plugins, Fuel Plugins, Applications and other solution types with Mirantis OpenStack:


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