What is an OpenStack Powered Compute?

The OpenStack Technical Committee voted a resolution suggesting to the OpenStack Board to modify the definition of “OpenStack Powered Compute” to include statements such as

An `OpenStack Powered Compute`_ Cloud MUST be able to boot a Linux Guest

This is quite a change in OpenStack DefCore efforts, since as Rob says

The fundamental premise of DefCore is that we can use the development tests for API and behavior validation

DefCore has always been about the OpenStack API and carefully avoided checking the implementation of clouds, leaving enough space for vendors to differentiate their products without harming consumers. An ironic twist of fate is now forcing the whole program to take a stand on implementation, too.

Stating that an OpenStack cloud MUST be able to boot a Linux Guest  is the most controversial and I see why the TC is going into this direction: as a OpenStack user, I expect to be able to upload my images in any OpenStack cloud. Given that Linux is the OS of choice for the vast majority of today’s cloud workloads, booting my Linux image is a must have. It’s a practical choice and one that makes a lot of sense.

The problem is that forcing implementation details by the TC is a slippery slope. Will the TC suggest also that any OpenStack cloud must offer a routable IP or boot a VM in less than 5 seconds or that flavor names are always the same across all OpenStack clouds? Granted, all these requests make sense from the perspective of at least some users: there are already lots of unnecessary complications for putting workloads on OpenStack right now.

The question is if those mandates make sense for OpenStack as a whole and I’m not convinced they do. I tend to lean towards two complimentary positions:

  1. make sure that OpenStack Compute Powered clouds are transparent and their behavior is discoverable. Like the OpenStack Foundation exposes the results of the DefCore API compatibility on the Marketplace, I think DefCore should test the implementation of the clouds, public clouds especially and expose the results. This way a user would know that a cloud passes DefCore tests, runs OpenStack upstream code (as done now) and allows uploading/booting Linux guests, offer IPv6 by default, boot in x seconds, has XYZ flavors, allows custom flavors, etc.
  2. DefCore should consider public clouds, hosted private clouds and distributions as different beasts. To me it makes more sense to expect a public cloud to allow uploading Linux guests than mandate the same for a private clod… even less sense for a distribution. The buying process for these is different and the needs for users are different, too.

Thoughts?

I’m a candidate for OpenStack Foundation Board of Directors: if you like what you read, remember to vote for me at the 2016 elections

Skype open source. Not!

Skype open source? Reading the full announcement on Skype blog:

[…]Having an open source UI will help us […]

So, it’s not Skype being open sourced, but it’s only the UI. The full sentence should be:

Having an open source UI will help us further our [Skype’s] plans to monopolize the Voice Over IP market with a proprietary and secret protocol that nobody can interoperate with. [Evil laugh]

I wish Google released a fully free and open source Gtalk, server included.

How to avoid frustrations with BlackBerry and Mac

Just don’t buy that combo: Mac and BlackBerry are two very closed environments, they don’t want to be interoperable, they hate each other and their customers.

Not that I would make such mistake, never. But I have friends that do this kind of stuff and then I’m enough of a friend to share with them the painful experience.  A very good friend of mine loves Mac: it’s a cult (no rationality, only emotions) coupled with a very strong lock-in strategy with non-standard data format and in general poor interoperability with the outside world. She hates touchscreens, so she ruled out buying an iPhone. I can’t really say that this is necessarily bad because the iPhone would have tightened her data in stronger shackles.

So she decided to buy a BlackBerry Curve 8900 hoping that RIM’s newly released Desktop Manager for Mac would work. As she soon realized, that was a wrong assumption. I tried to help her out but DM for Mac is a smelly piece of **ap.  The software installs fine and when you connect the phone for the first time the DM happily tells you that there are upgrades available for your device. Do you want to install them? DM asked. Not now, I answered, as I first want to do a backup of all data. Ok, clicked on Backup.  The DM tried to shit but only farted: after 3 minutes with a progress bar not progressing, it said ‘Sorry, can’t backup’. Ok, I said, lets try this again. This time no useless progress bar, nothing. I noticed that the BB seemed disconnected. I unplugged and plugged it in again several times but nothing changed.  I tried soft rebooting the machine with no result, so I hard rebooted it taking off the battery. Everybody hates rebooting a BB: after waiting for 3 minutes I connected the usb cable again to the Mac Desktop Manager and the device showed up again, connected. DM asked: Do you want to install the updates for your device? This time I answered Yes, thinking that maybe declining the request the first time was the reason for the mess. Well, it wasn’t: the DM started the upgrade process but, after a few painful minutes watching the progress bar not showing any progress, it eventually gave up. I tried again the soft reboots, unplug-replug., hard reboot, etc. I even uninstalled and reinstalled the RIM Desktop Manager as suggested in the BB forums (wow! a pure Windows mentality) until I finally gave up.  I’ll see if I can find a Windows machine for her to update the BB firmware and see if that solves the problem of communication between Mac and BB.

The lesson learned is: if you buy highly proprietary products like Mac and BlackBerry don’t expect them to be interoperable between each other. These companies hate each other and they sacrifice their user’s freedom of choice only to see the other company suffer.

Why I agree with RMS concerning Mono

I’ve been listening to the conversations about Mono since this summer. I was waiting for the dust to settle before I started re-reading the various comments but the dust is not settling and the protagonists of the summer name-calling-fest are still busy pointing fingers at Richard Stallman for stating his opinion.

Stallman’s position is pretty clear to me: he is afraid that software patents can kill the work of his life, depriving users of the digital freedom that he and the FSF have been promoting in the past 25 years. His reasoning is very logic, as usual:
1) software patents are a threat to free as in freedom software
2) Mono uses patented techniques, patents held by Microsoft
3) Microsoft’s business model is incompatible with free as in freedom software and recent behaviour confirm that Microsoft uses software patents to attack free software.

Given these premises, RMS concludes that Mono is not a safe framework to develop applications on. I’ve read and agree with most of the poins made by the Ubuntu Technical Board and Dave Neary. In other circumstances I would have agreed with him also on this one:

I fundamentally disagree with discouraging someone from pursuing a technology choice because of the threat of patents.

Except that this time it’s not a generic technology that we’re talking about. It’s Microsoft. With them we can’t be friends unless proven wrong, it must be the other way around: Microsoft has a history of misbehaviour and of abuses. Microsoft needs to demonstrate that they’re worth being trusted. They made a step forward adding a promise not to sue on C# and CLI. But they must do more, much more in that direction before the free software community can feel safe.

I hope that the name-calling stops on all sides. I became very sad reading the offense thrown at Suse/Novell developers. I hope also that proponents of Mono will understand that the issue is not how good C# and Mono is but how trustworthy Microsoft is. Mono proponents need to convince their friends at Microsoft to change their attitude towards free software, release information to reach interoperability under copyleft compatible terms and stop abusing of the patents system. I think that this is what the free software community really needs.

Liberating the cloud one block at the time

simpson-cloudThe issue is how to bring the values of free software community to the cloud. According to reports from Southern California Linux Expo (SCALE), Bradley Kuhn‘s speech has addressed the issue.’  I hope he will include it in the next episodes of the Software Freedom Law Show, the interesting podcasts he runs with SFLC counsel Karen Sandler.

The problems of the cloud range from data ownership and portability to service interoperability and ultimately to software freedom. There is no simple solution, but building blocks to build a liberated cloud are available. Bradley mentioned Laconi.cat in his speech, for its federate microblogging service. I add Funambol to the pile because I believe it brings freedom to the other (often forgotten) cloud: the cell phone networks. With Funambol you own your data and you can take them with you, when you change operator or when you change device.’  I like the MobileWe marketing pitch for Funambol: freedom is a ‘we’ issue, not just a ‘me’. You can’t be free if you’re allowed to do what you want only in a limited space, like you are now if you buy the Pear meCell from DudeMobile. It’s like saying that a lion in a zoo is free, because he can move around as he wants … within the boundaries of the cage. A society made of non-free ‘me’ makes a non-free society. WE have to be free for the MEs to be free, too.

Cross-platform and interoperability is the key

When it comes to connecting people, the first thing you need to do is use the same language.’  That doesn’t mean force everybody to use your language, because that’s what dictators do (and dictators are wiped out by history). To connect people you have to adapt to people’s language, eventually learning many of them.

This post describes a user experience with new services launched by Nokia and he highlights the major issue I have seen with most, if not all, of the services offered by the big guys:

Nokia Chat I can appreciate because it’s cool new tech — but unless it’s going to support those cool features on a wide range of devices, including non-Nokia ones, it’s pretty pointless for me.

That’s hitting the nail on the head: how can somebody design a chat system that is not interoperable with the rest of the world? It’s the abc of networked economies. Like the fax machine or the telephone itself, more users more (squared) value.

Thinking that everybody will want to buy a Nokia (or Samsung or iPhone or you-name-it) to be able to chat with other that have the same system is arrogant, to say the least. Nonetheless, it’s a mistake that many incumbents are making and one that Funambol is trying hard to avoid. By releasing clients for all platforms Funambol demonstrates that it believes in cross-platform, open standards and interoperability.

Ozzie talks about FLOSS and FLOSS advocates talk back

Lots of talking about Microsoft lately.’  As I expected, Ray Ozzie’s public appearances are increasing with declarations of love for the magic word interoperability and with a new, more open, attitude.’  I believe it’s true that “Microsoft fundamentally, as a whole, has changed dramatically as a result of open source,” as Ozzie said.

Roberto wrote a long post about Microsoft Open Source strategy. Having talked to him long enough, I know he sees the big potential for new Open Source firms to prosper on Microsoft ecosystem.’  I suspect he is right, given the fact that the *nix competitors have lost 15 years of evolution fighting each other instead of building a common (superior) platform. Only with GNU/Linux such common platform arrived, but it probably came a day late and a dollar short.

Contrary to Roberto, I think that Microsoft change is not sufficient yet for Free Software advocates like me to merrily lift the precautions. I can still hear Ballmer shouting threats and see him trying to twist the arms of the EU Commission (as Carlo remembers very well). I’m not confident yet that these moves represent a new strategy and they’re not merely tactics to penetrate the FLOSS market and break it from the inside (patent lawsuit?).’  If I were a developer I wouldn’t trust any promise not to sue by Microsoft, even if that promise uses the same (murky) words of IBM’s promises. I don’t care: Microsoft track records on Free Software is bad, bad, bad and worse. Microsoft must do better than IBM, it must be perfect (they can, if they want to).

The power of interoperability (and geo-information)

I love geo-information.’  I still work on GIS, every now and then (I’ve just finished a project to map damages in Venetian buildings together with Politecnico di Milano and others) and it’s so much fun.’ ’  It’s great when you can integrate data from different sources and make sense of different phenomenons. The Venice application maps damages in buildings and it allows to integrate also data from marine flows, traffic in the canals (and their waves), winds and so on, in search of cause-effect correlation. Integration is a powerful tool and you need interoperability for that.

Fabrizio integrated Dash with with myFUNAMBOL,

which now pushes to the device my calendar events. That is, if I put an appointment on my Outlook and I add the location in it, it shows up in the car. I mean, I get in the car and I have all my appointments there. One click and I get routed to the place (with the fastest route, avoiding traffic jams).

This new gadget sounds so cool, I almost want to finally buy a car (I never had one, I prefer carsharing), get a Dash and move to California.’  For now I’ll stay in Milano, keep the scooter and participate to OpenStreetMap in Milano next Sunday.

Il Comune di Milano regala Microsoft

Come funziona sta cosa? Il Comune di Milano “regala” a tutti i suoi cittadini residenti i prodotti non interoperabili di un monopolista?

Il servizio è sperimentale, gratuito e ti permetterà  di utilizzare tutti i servizi di Windows Live tra cui: account di posta, messaggistica istantanea, avvisi, calendario ed eventi, spazio di condivisione e collaborazione…

Mi pare strano che’  il Comune demandi il trattamento dei dati personali a Microsoft, mentre il servizio è offerto dal Comune (almeno così pare). Per l’iscrizione vengono chiesti dati importanti, oltre a nome e cognome anche codice fiscale e numero della carta di identità . E non è affatto chiaro chi custodirà  i dati personali come gli scambi di email, IM ecc.’  A queste condizioni non faccio neanche la prova per vedere.

Incomprensibile: perché il Comune si fa veicolo di pubblicità  per Microsoft senza avere niente in cambio?’  Si sono resi conto gli alti dirigenti del Comune che la maggior parte di quei servizi sono già  offerti da Microsoft (e da Yahoo e Google e Tiscali ecc ecc)’  gratuitamente?’  Che valore sperano di offrire così ai cittadini?

W3C under siege: developers want free hands

Standards can be a Royal PITA and every developer and hacker knows that. But for users they’re the only way not to go crazy. Web standards give users the possibility to connect to the Internet from any device and blog, check email, get and make information. The debate is heating up on top of the Opera-vs-Microsoft complaint. A nice summary is: Is the Sacred Cow of Web Standards Headed for the Slaughterhouse?

There’s a movement afoot in the web development community that says it’s time to move beyond standards and take the web to a new levels. Unhappy with the pace of innovation at the W3C, many developers are calling on browser manufacturers to go beyond supporting official W3C specifications and develop tools to support new features.

I understand hackers and their frustration, but we must be aware that power in the digital domain is mainly in hackers and developers, users are at their mercy. But powers must be balanced and at the moment I see the W3C as the only organization that can still balance freedom for hackers to innovate with users’ freedom of choice. I wouldn’t trade my freedom as a user with that of developers to push proprietary tools like Flash or Silverlight and patented formats.