DAIR project team has its head in The Cloud

By Everett Toews, Senior Developer, Edmonton

CANARIE's Digital Accelerator for Innovation and Research Program (DAIR) took its first steps this past week. Four trainers from RackSpace came to Edmonton, AB to host a two-day training session on OpenStack, the cloud platform for the program. Representatives from Cybera, Academic Information and Communication Technologies (AICT) from the University of Alberta, University of Victoria, WestGrid, Universite de Sherbrooke, and Hydro-Quebec attended the training session.

The goal of the training was to understand how to deploy and maintain OpenStack. Among us, were engineers, system administrators, PhD students and techies in general…and little did we know within the first hour of training we would be playing deep within the cloud.

The first day involved Anthony Young and Vish Ishaya summarizing the OpenStack architecture and command-line tools, followed by a detailed look at Nova, the OpenStack Compute component, which Anthony and Vish helped to build. I walked into the session with a basic understanding of how to deploy a cloud, but within the first hour of training, I was running my first cloud; definitely, an exciting part of my day! The rest of the day was filled with lectures, hands-on exercises '€” fueled by coffee '€” and learning how to debug my cloud. I fell asleep that night with "euca-describe-instances" running through my head.

The second day was even more exciting: deployment! Jordan Rinke discussed Swift, OpenStack's Object Storage component. A few of the Swift exercises we did included basic user management and file uploading/downloading. We then discussed handling drive failures and Swift monitoring.

The most interactive exercise was when we split into four groups of three to put together two working cloud instances. The best way to learn is to do, so this hands-on experience was the best part of training. On each team, one group installed a head node, the second group installed a compute/volume manager. It was nice to find through the power of teamwork and open-source tools we were able to quickly build the working cloud.

The next step in the DAIR program is for the data centres at University of Alberta and Universite de Sherbrooke to prepare for the arrival of equipment.

I believe I can speak for all of the attendees (and trainers) that after building a cloud within a cloud, and moving between them for two days, we began to feel we were in an Inception-styled dream world. We were more than ready to get our heads out of the cloud and back into the real world.

Is your head in the cloud?