TryStack.org – A Sandbox for OpenStack!

Today, a project that has been a long time in the making is finally coming to fruition. Back last summer, when I was working at Rackspace, Nati Ueno from NTT PF Labs came up with the idea of establishing a “Free Cloud” — a site running OpenStack that developers using the OpenStack APIs could use to test their software.

The involvement of a number of companies — Dell, NTT PF Labs, Rackspace, Cisco, Equinix and HP Cloud Services — eventually drove the idea of “The Free Cloud” from concept to reality. Though there were many delays, I’m happy to announce that this new OpenStack testing sandbox has now been launched.

The new name of the artist formerly known as The Free Cloud is now called TryStack. The front page at http://trystack.org now houses some information about the effort and a few FAQs. If you’re interested in trying out OpenStack, TryStack.org is right up your alley, and we encourage you to sign up. Instructions for signup are on the front page.

Using TryStack

Once you’ve gone through the TryStack registration process, you will receive a username and password for logging in to the TryStack Dashboard and Nova API. After logging in, you’ll see the user dashboard for TryStack. This dashboard is essentially the stock upstream OpenStack Dashboard — only lightly modified with a couple extensions that Nati wrote to show consumption of Stack Dollars and the TryStack logo.

Stack Dollars are the “unit of currency” for TryStack. When you perform certain actions in TryStack — launching instances, creating volumes, etc — you consume Stack Dollars. Likewise, instances consume Stack Dollars as long as they are running. When you run out of Stack Dollars, you won’t be able to use TryStack services until your Stack Dollars are replenished. Stack Dollars will be replenished on a periodic basis (haven’t quite decided on the interval yet…)

To prevent people from gaming the system or using TryStack as a tool for evil, instances will remain alive for up to 24 hours or until your Stack Dollar balance is depleted. Also, always keep in mind that TryStack should only be used for testing. Under no circumstances should you use it for any production uses. There is no service level agreement with TryStack.

An Automation and Administration Sandbox Too!

In addition to being a useful sandbox for developers using the OpenStack APIs and others interested in seeing what OpenStack is all about, TryStack.org is also a very useful testbed for work that the OpenStack community is doing to automate the deployment and administration OpenStack environments.

TryStack is deployed using the Chef Cookbooks from the upstream repository, and changes that are needed will be pushed back upstream immediately for consumption by the broad community. We have a limited HA setup for the initial TryStack availability zone and lessons learned from the deployment of these HA setups are being incorporated into an online TryStack Administrator’s Guide that will serve as input for the upstream documentation teams as well.

Roadmap for TryStack

In the next three to six months, we’re planning to bring on-line at least one more availability zone. The next availability zone will be running HP hardware and will be housed in a datacenter in Las Vegas. It is likely that this new zone will be deployed with the Essex release of OpenStack components, enabling users to test against both a Diablo-based OpenStack installation and an Essex-based installation.

This first availability zone does not contain an installation of Swift. Of course, we want to change that, so an installation of Swift is definitely on the roadmap for either the next availability zone or as a separate service itself. Note that, just like the instances launched in TryStack, objects stored in a TryStack Swift cluster would be temporary. After all, TryStack is for trying out OpenStack services, not for providing a free CDN or storage system! :)

We will also eventually move towards a different registration process to accomodate non-Facebook users. If you are interested in helping with this effort, please do let us know.

Finally, we’ll be adding things like an automated Twitter status feed for each zone, lots of documentation gathered from running TryStack, and hopefully a number of videos showing usage of TryStack as well as common administrative tasks — all with the goal of providing more and better information to the broad and growing OpenStack community. I fully expect numerous hiccups and growing pains in these first couple months of operation, but we promise to turn any pain points into lessons learned and document them for the benefit of the OpenStack community.

Please do check out the trystack.org service. We look forward to your feedback. You can find us on Freenode.net #trystack. Nati and I will be hosting a webinar February 23, and we’ll be speaking at a San Francisco meetup March 6 if you’re interested in learning more or getting involved.

Update: I totally goofed and left Cisco off the list of donor organizations. My apologies to Mark Voelker and the excellent folks at Cisco who provided two 4948-10GE switches that are in use in the TryStack cloud. I also got the link wrong to HP Cloud… which is pretty lame, considering I work for HP. :( That’s been corrected.

  • Guesty McGuesterson

    So to follow their updates I need to join a facebook group? What kind of crap is that? How about an RSS or Atom feed??

    • Jay Pipes

      We’re working on a permanent non-Facebook solution for registration… just did this quickly to prevent spam and ensure real humans are signing up.

      We have a Twitter feed (@trystack:twitter) that you can use to follow updates.

      -jay