The OpenStack guide that helps train CERN’s staff

Tim Bell

October 07th, 2015

What is OpenStack?

OpenStack is one of the great success stories of open source technology. Born from Rackspace and NASA, it has been developed by scores of people across the globe as one of the most powerful and popular cloud operating stacks. Backed by some of the leading players in the cloud space today, OpenStack is widely deployed from small businesses to huge multi-million research projects alike.

What is CERN?

At CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, physicists and engineers are probing the fundamental structure of the universe. They use the world's largest and most complex scientific instruments to study the basic constituents of matter – the fundamental particles. The particles are made to collide together at close to the speed of light. The process gives the physicists clues about how the particles interact, and provides insights into the fundamental laws of nature.

The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is the world’s largest and most powerful particle accelerator. It consists of a 27-kilometre ring of superconducting magnets with a number of structures to accelerate particles at close to the speed of light before they are made to collide. This produces 27 Petabytes of data every year – all of which is recorded in the CERN data centre and analysed thanks to the Worldwide LHC Computing Grid.

OpenStack at CERN

In 2015 the LHC was upgraded to nearly double the collision energy. It was clear to us that further computing resources were needed. To provide the additional capacity and be more responsive to the users, a new approach was needed. In 2012, a small team at CERN started looking at OpenStack for creating computing clouds. It was a very promising technology with an enthusiastic community but a significant level of complexity.

The OpenStack Cookbook - Accelerating training for CERN cloud administrators

Along with the code being very new, it was very early days for the OpenStack documentation and training. We wanted to educate the people rapidly to start the project and so looked for guides to get the new administrators productive. This was when we encountered the first edition of the OpenStack Cloud Computing Cookbook. It became the standard document for newcomers to the team to understand the concepts, set up their first clouds and then start work on the CERN cloud.

As the cloud evolved and the OpenStack technology matured, we continued to use the guide as members of the team rotated, building small clouds to try out new concepts and investigate the flexibility of cloud computing.

Over the years, I have frequently met with book authors Kevin, Cody and Egle at OpenStack summits which give the community an opportunity to meet and exchange experiences. With OpenStack evolving so rapidly, it also gives an opportunity to get the latest editions of the Cookbook which they have continued to keep up to date.

The CERN cloud is now in production across two data centers in Geneva and Budapest with over 4,000 servers running tens of thousands of virtual machines. With new staff members joining frequently, we continue to use the Cookbook as a key part of the team’s training and look forward to the updates in the latest edition.

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Get the OpenStack Cloud Computing Cookbook Today

If you’re interested in the practical, hands-on OpenStack guidance that has been helpful to training CERNs engineers for working on the CERN cloud you can pick up the latest edition now direct from Packt Publishing. Available in both eBook and print, find out today why this guide is invaluable for setting up an OpenStack cloud for anything from a small enterprise to a huge research endeavour such as CERN.

About the Author

Tim Bell is infrastructure manager at CERN, an OpenStack Foundation board member, and author of the foreword to the OpenStack Cloud Computing Cookbook - Third Edition, from Packt Publishing.