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Andrija Panic shares some thoughts on joining the ShapeBlue team

Hi there, this is Andrija from… well, ShapeBlue! I’ve been working here for a month now and I thought that I’d share my views of working for the company.

Before I move to the actual topic, let me share just a little bit of background about myself.

Before joining ShapeBlue, I was working as a Cloud System Engineer for two different Swiss-based Public Cloud providers, both utilizing CloudStack to provide IaaS services for local (Swiss) and international customers – many of which (as you can probably guess) were serious financial institutions (Switzerland being considered a big privacy and security center). We even had customers connecting all the way from South America to their infrastructure for daily business, all managed by CloudStack – and it just worked flawlessly!

During my time with the Swiss guys, I had the pleasure (with my colleagues) to lead and build their CloudStack infrastructure from scratch. Here I gained some serious knowledge and experience on this topic. I also had the opportunity to work with some nice storage solutions, from NetApp SolidFire distributed All-Flash Storage (providing block-level storage to CloudStack VMs), to Cloudian Hyperstore S3 Object Storage solution providing (you can guess by its name…) S3 object storage with 100% Native S3 API compatibility. Both solutions had their challenges of integration into existing environment and I was lucky enough to pull the strings here and lead the thing myself. Really fun time! Did I mention CloudStack? Yes, we did quite a decent job here, we made a lot of tweaks and improvements, migrations and decent customer support.

But after 5 years with CloudStack in a service provider environment , it was time for me to move on and improve my cloud building skills even more, so my next logical step was to pull Giles Sirett, ShapeBlue CEO, for a quick coffee on the last CloudStack Conference (I even didn’t have to pay for the coffee – it was a free one!). The rest is pretty much history – I’m now paving my way into consultancy as a  Cloud Architect at ShapeBlue.

After spending a month here at ShapeBlue, I can honestly say that I’m nothing short of being impressed with both the people (colleagues) and the processes inside ShapeBlue. I was already used to Swiss guys being strict and very well organized, but my feeling is that ShapeBlue has moved this to a whole new level. When I joined the company, besides having a dedicated colleague as a mentor (hi there Dag – thanks for all your help!) helping me to find my way around the company, I also got proper training on many different tools and processes used in company, from some internal infrastructure stuff, to customer support tools, processes and SLAs, to many different things in general. In fact , this was a revelation when compared to the  old RTFM-it-yourself way (stands for Read The [Insert asterisks ***] Manual), in case you were wondering) that I’d experienced at previous companies. The people at ShapeBlue are supportive, the working atmosphere is just great, with tons of seriousness across the board but with a healthy dose of (mainly) British humor in the middle of hard work – to make you wake up and warm up during these cold winter days. From time to time we even get cats jumping from our Slack channel.

After being mostly in a technical leadership position in my previous jobs, I’m now, for the first time in my professional carrier, part of the team with a more experienced guys than me – and I’m really happy about that – it’s always nice to be able to get some help in case you need advice – but individual initiative and engagement is something that is strongly respected in ShapeBlue. One of the interesting things is, that the guys in the ShapeBlue Leadership Team do actually listen to engineers and take their advice / opinion – something you don’t necessarily find in every company. It’s a very collaborative and not authoritative environment – a thing that everybody respects here.

So far, I have been tasked with quite a few interesting things to work on: from  delivering the famous ShapeBlue Bootcamp to one of our new colleagues, playing around with some more interesting CloudStack setups (with different hypervisors) and been included in some customer projects and support stuff – all in all a good start!

In case you are still following me, here come a few personal things about me:

I’m based in Belgrade, Serbia (for all you techies, that is 44.0165° N, 21.0059° E ) – a country known for good cuisine, but mostly for ćevapi and šljivovica (national drink). Serbia is also home to Novak Djokovic, the world No. 1 in men’s singles tennis (this is the guy who regularly beats Roger Federer, for the record!).

In my free time I’m hanging around with my 3 princesses and sometimes I manage to squeeze some time for gym, music or very light electronic projects.

Talk to you later, Andrija.


We’re here in Montreal for the CloudStack Collaboration Conference, and it’s been a fantastic event with more to come! We’ve had two full days of back to back talks over two tracks, with subjects ranging from storage, billing and diagnostics through to containers, automation and monitoring… and everything in between. Mike Tutkowski (CloudStack VP) set the tone with his keynote at the beginning of the first day, asking the question ‘why are we here?’ The answer? To learn, work together​, share ideas​ and share problems. These fundamentals are what makes for a great community, and what makes Apache CloudStack such a great product. We have never really known just how widely adopted CloudStack is, so we have (for the first time) undertaken some in-depth analysis which Mike shared. In the last 12 months CloudStack management server packages were downloaded 116,796 times from 21,202 different IP addresses. We think this means that worldwide there are about 20,000 CloudStack clouds in production! Mike also mentioned several organisations that have recently adopted CloudStack, including Ticketmaster, from whom we saw a talk illustrating how they deployed their global cloud environment using Apache CloudStack.

The CloudStack community is full of smart, committed, talented people passionate about what they do, and this is clear from the quality and delivery of the talks, and the collaboration before and after. They aren’t just repeating facts or reading what has been written for them – they are talking from first hand experience, often about features and functionality they have personally developed and committed to the project. Thanks to the community, CloudStack is constantly being improved and developed by these real-world users and operators.

So we’re into day three, which means no more CloudStack talks. However – as I said, the event is far from finished. Today (Wednesday) we have an all-day hackathon – a room full of people working together on shared goals and ideas, the sole purpose to talk and share new ideas, and make CloudStack even better!

Every time I attend a CloudStack conference, I am privileged to spend time with a community who genuinely enjoy what they do, and I come away having made new friends, and having learnt something new. I am already excited about next year’s event, and seeing some of our new friends in London at our next CloudStack meetup (December 13).

Sincere thanks to the Apache Software Foundation (our conference co-locates every year with Apachecon). It’s always a well organised and well attended event, and we are delighted to be associated with it. Thanks also to the city of Montreal – a beautiful city which I hope to visit again soon.

All the CloudStack talks were recorded and will be published to Apache.org and our YouTube channel very soon.

    

  

ShapeBlue SA are pleased to announce the extension of their distribution partner agreement for NetApp in South Africa, building out a successful relationship that started in 2014.

‘ShapeBlue has built a strong partnership with NetApp in this region. Expanding our capabilities to represent the full NetApp portfolio presents a strategic opportunity for us and our partners.’ Says Dan Crowe, Managing Director, ShapeBlue SA.

‘NetApp’s vision, depth of solutions and cloud-centric approach continues to differentiate them. We are seeing a fantastic response, in particular to the Cloud Infrastructure portfolio with HCI and the Cloud Data Services portfolio.’

ShapeBlue, as expert builders of clouds bring a unique insight to both service provider and integrator partners as they develop services, and work with customers on transformation projects.

ShapeBlue believe a new generation of NetApp partners can accelerate strategic initiatives across sectors and harness the true value of data insights.

ShapeBlue will offer SA based partners access to the full NetApp range of solutions, professional services and sales and marketing collaborations.

ShapeBlue have recently expanded office premises in both Cape Town and Johannesburg, with worldwide software engineering now based here in SA. “We’re excited about our newly expanded partnership with NetApp and looking forward to the next step in our evolution.” Concludes Crowe.

About ShapeBlue

ShapeBlue are the leading worldwide independent CloudStack integrator, with offices in London, Bangalore, Rio De Janerio, Mountain View CA, Cape Town and Johannesburg.
Services include consulting, integration, training and infrastructure support

Introduction

ShapeBlue have been working on a new feature for Apache Cloudstack 4.11.1 that will allow users to bypass secondary storage with KVM. The feature introduces a new way to use templates and ISOs, allowing administrators to use them without being cached on secondary storage. Using this approach Cloudstack administrators will not have to worry about massive secondary storage, since it will be simple bypassed, there won’t be any template sitting there waiting. As well it’s bypassing the SSVM since the download task will not be carried on by the SSVM, but the KVM agent itself. This will enable administrators not to spare resources for SSVM, but to use them for commercial purposes. The usual process of virtual machine deployment will stay as before.

Overview

This feature adds a new field in the vm_template table which is called ‘direct_download’. The field will determine if template needs to be downloaded by SSVM (in case of ‘0’), or directly on the host when deploying the VM (in case of ‘1’). CloudStack administrators will have the option to set this field through the UI or API call as described in the following examples:

From the UI:

From Cloudmonkey:

register template zoneid=3e80c1e6-0710-4018-9062-194d6b3bab97 ostypeid=6f232c75-5370-11e8-afb9-06354a01076f hypervisor=KVM url=http://dl.openvm.eu/cloudstack/macchinina/x86_64/macchinina-kvm.qcow2.bz2 format=QCOW2 displaytext=TestMachina name=TestMachina directdownload=true

The same feature applies to ISOs as well – they don’t need to be cached on secondary storage but can be directly downloaded by the host. CloudStack admins have this option available on the API call when registering ISOs and through the UI form as well.

Whenever a VM deployment is started the template will be downloaded on primary storage. The feature actually checks if the template/ISO has been already downloaded on the pool, checking template_spool_ref table. If there’s an entry on the table matching its pool ID and the template ID, then it won’t be downloaded again. The same action applies if the running VM requires the template again (eg. when reinstalling ). Please note that due to the direct download nature of this feature, the uniqueness of the templates across primary storage pools is the responsibility of the CloudStack operator. CloudStack itself can’t detect if the files in a template download URL have changed or not.

Metalinks are also supported for this feature, and administrators can be more flexible in terms of managing their templates as they can set priorities and location preferences in the metalink file. Metalinks are effectively xml that provides URLs for downloading files. The duplicate download locations provide reliability in case one method fails. Some clients also achieve faster download speeds by allowing different chunks/segments of each file to be downloaded from multiple resources at the same time. Please see the following example:

As the example shows, CloudStack administrators can set location preference and priority, which will be considered upon VM deployment. The deployment logic itself introduces a retry mechanism in 2 cases of failures: VM deployment failure and template download failure.

VM deployment retry logic: this will initiate the deployment on a suitable host and will try to deploy it (which includes the template download itself). If the deployment fails for some reason it will retry the deployment on another suitable host.

Template download retry logic: this is part of the VM deployment and will try to download the template/iso directly by the host. If it fails for some reason (e.g. URL not available) it will iterate through the provided list of priority and location. Once download is completed it will execute the checksum validation (if provided), if that one fails it will download it again, until it has made three attempts. If all three attempts unsuccessful it will return a deployment failure and go back to VM Deployment logic.

Please see the following simplified picture of the deployment logic:

Since the download task has been delegated to the KVM agent instead of SSVM, this feature will be available only for KVM templates.

About the author

Boris Stoyanov is Software Engineer in testing at ShapeBlue, The Cloud Specialists. Bobby spends his time testing features for the Apache CloudStack Community and for our ShapeBlue clients.