How OpenStack is powering research at BarcelonaTech.


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Here we catch up with Andrés Sánchez, master’s student and research support engineer at BAMPLA research group of the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya (UPC), also known as BarcelonaTech.

Describe how are you using OpenStack. What kinds of applications or workloads are you currently running on OpenStack?

We have two OpenStack deployments:

1. Academic: we have an OpenStack deployment in one of our class laboratories where students learn the operating basics of OpenStack operation and management. In this laboratory, we also deploy a software-defined-network laboratory, where we use Openstack to deploy SDN controllers that students setup to control physical networking devices via OpenFlow.

2. Research: This is a “production” OpenStack deployment, it has two main functions: provide students doing their thesis with resources for conducting simulations or any kind of work load they require (the virtual machines are usually used for making simulations or deploying SDN scenarios like Mininet or SDN controllers). These research activities have the backing of the Spanish government under the Ministerio de Economía y Competitividad, specifically as TEC2016-76795-C6-1-R and AEI/FEDER, UE. The deployment is also currently supporting several Spanish and European-funded research projects such as 5GCity, 5G Barcelona.

The other function (which is the one I run) is to provide NFV/SDN research activities, I use this OpenStack as the VIM (referring to NFV-ETSI architecture) for deploying VNFs as part of proof-of-concepts or deploying any open-source NFV-related project (for example, OPNFV, Open Source Mano, CORD); I also use it to deploy SDN controllers for research.

What have been the biggest benefits to your organization as a result of using OpenStack? How are you measuring the impact?

The biggest benefits are:

– An open-source cloud deployment enables us to conduct research on trending SDN/NFV topics, a cloud-computing platform is the basic block for the NFV paradigm therefore it is paramount to have an operating deployment in order to be able to onboard the NFV subject. Openstack is seen as the standard platform for open-source NFV therefore in order to get involved in these projects you need to have an OpenStack deployment. We “measure” this by deploying or getting involved successfully any NFV open-source project or environment which we believe will produce academic publications.

– From an educational point of view, providing students with a private cloud for them to work on their projects instead on relying on their on equipment is a huge benefit since they don’t have to worry about resource constraints and their work becomes more portable and re-usable since VMs can be easily saved, imported and deployed on reproducible environments. I also think this will be “measured” with the results of academic publications.

What is a challenge that you’ve faced within your organization regarding OpenStack and how did you overcome it?

For me, the biggest challenge with OpenStack was the steep learning curve required to operate and manage the platform, as well as deploy it. It is a broad subject that is not easy to undertake. We overcame it by a lot of trial and error, I feel that more documentation containing real examples or use-case scenarios would be extremely beneficial for the community.

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Cover image courtesy UPC.