Basically +1 with what Daniel is saying (note that, as mentioned, a side effect 
of our effort to split out the scheduler will help but not solve this problem).

My only question is about the need to separate out each virt driver into a 
separate project, wouldn't you accomplish a lot of the benefit by creating a 
single virt project that includes all of the drivers?  I wouldn't necessarily 
expect a VMware guy to understand the specifics of the HyperV implementation 
but both people should understand what a virt driver does, how it interfaces to 
Nova and they should be able to intelligently review each other's code.

Don Dugger
"Censeo Toto nos in Kansa esse decisse." - D. Gale
Ph: 303/443-3786

-----Original Message-----
From: Daniel P. Berrange [] 
Sent: Thursday, September 4, 2014 4:24 AM
To: OpenStack Development
Subject: [openstack-dev] [nova] Averting the Nova crisis by splitting out virt 

Position statement

Over the past year I've increasingly come to the conclusion that Nova is 
heading for (or probably already at) a major crisis. If steps are not taken to 
avert this, the project is likely to loose a non-trivial amount of talent, both 
regular code contributors and core team members. That includes myself. This is 
not good for Nova's long term health and so should be of concern to anyone 
involved in Nova and OpenStack.

For those who don't want to read the whole mail, the executive summary is that 
the nova-core team is an unfixable bottleneck in our development process with 
our current project structure.
The only way I see to remove the bottleneck is to split the virt drivers out of 
tree and let them all have their own core teams in their area of code, leaving 
current nova core to focus on all the common code outside the virt driver 
impls. I, now, none the less urge people to read the whole mail.

Background information

I see many factors coming together to form the crisis

 - Burn out of core team members from over work
 - Difficulty bringing new talent into the core team
 - Long delay in getting code reviewed & merged
 - Marginalization of code areas which aren't popular
 - Increasing size of nova code through new drivers
 - Exclusion of developers without corporate backing

Each item on their own may not seem too bad, but combined they add up to a big 

Core team burn out

Having been involved in Nova for several dev cycles now, it is clear that the 
backlog of code up for review never goes away. Even intensive code review 
efforts at various points in the dev cycle makes only a small impact on the 
backlog. This has a pretty significant impact on core team members, as their 
work is never done. At best, the dial is sometimes set to 10, instead of 11.

Many people, myself included, have built tools to help deal with the reviews in 
a more efficient manner than plain gerrit allows for. These certainly help, but 
they can't ever solve the problem on their own - just make it slightly more 
bearable. And this is not even considering that core team members might have 
useful contributions to make in ways beyond just code review. Ultimately the 
workload is just too high to sustain the levels of review required, so core 
team members will eventually burn out (as they have done many times already).

Even if one person attempts to take the initiative to heavily invest in review 
of certain features it is often to no avail.
Unless a second dedicated core reviewer can be found to 'tag team' it is hard 
for one person to make a difference. The end result is that a patch is +2d and 
then sits idle for weeks or more until a merge conflict requires it to be 
reposted at which point even that one +2 is lost. This is a pretty demotivating 
outcome for both reviewers & the patch contributor.

New core team talent

It can't escape attention that the Nova core team does not grow in size very 
often. When Nova was younger and its code base was smaller, it was easier for 
contributors to get onto core because the base level of knowledge required was 
that much smaller. To get onto core today requires a major investment in 
learning Nova over a year or more. Even people who potentially have the latent 
skills may not have the time available to invest in learning the entire of Nova.

With the number of reviews proposed to Nova, the core team should probably be 
at least double its current size[1]. There is plenty of expertize in the 
project as a whole but it is typically focused into specific areas of the 
codebase. There is nowhere we can find
20 more people with broad knowledge of the codebase who could be promoted even 
over the next year, let alone today. This is ignoring that many existing 
members of core are relatively inactive due to burnout and so need replacing. 
That means we really need another
25-30 people for core. That's not going to happen.

Code review delays

The obvious result of having too much work for too few reviewers is that code 
contributors face major delays in getting their work reviewed and merged. From 
personal experience, during Juno, I've probably spent 1 week in aggregate on 
actual code development vs
8 weeks on waiting on code review. You have to constantly be on alert for 
review comments because unless you can respond quickly (and repost) while you 
still have the attention of the reviewer, they may not be look again for 

The length of time to get work merged serves as a demotivator to actually do 
work in the first place. I've personally avoided doing alot of code refactoring 
& cleanup work that would improve the maintainability of the libvirt driver in 
the long term, because I can't face the battle to get it reviewed & merged. 
Other people have told me much the same. It is not uncommon to see changes that 
have been pending for 2 dev cycles, not because the code was bad but because 
they couldn't get people to review it. Contributors will simply walk away from 
nova if that happens too often.

Even when fate is on your side and code is reviewed, the chances of it getting 
a success result from the CI systems first time around is slim due to false 
failures. This really compounds the already poor experiance of submitting code 
to Nova.

Marginalization of areas

Since the core team has far more work to do than it can manage, it has to 
prioritize what it looks at. The core team figures out what the overall project 
priorities are and will focus more effort in to those areas. Individual members 
will also focus their attention in areas where they have personal interest. 
Unfortunately the core team is not representative of the entire of Nova 
codebase. The inevitable result is that the HyperV and VMWare drivers can often 
loose out in the battle for attention. In the past we've said that it is the 
responsibility of people in those teams to invest in learning the entire of 
Nova so that they have the knowledge required to be promoted to core. I used to 
support that approach, but now consider to be flawed due to the increased 
difficulty of *anyone* getting onto core. The time investment required is 
simply too great to expect people to undertake it. The marginalized areas have 
no freedom to self-organize to solve their own problems because they are for
 ever dependant on the core team bottleneck.

Increasing size

There is a long standing policy that the Nova virt driver API is considered 
unstable and thus all virt driver implementations should ultimately be part of 
the Nova codebase. In Juno it is likely that the Ironic driver will be merged 
into Nova. In a future release we may yet see the Docker driver return to the 
Nova tree.

The result of merging yet more drivers is that there will be yet more work for 
nova reviewers to do. It is far from obvious that merging new drivers will be 
accompanied by new members on the core team. So it is likely that the workload 
is going to get worse over future releases.

Splitting out the scheduler will be beneficial in reducing the review backlog, 
but probably not enough to counter the growth from virt drivers. Killing of 
nova-network is unlikely to help at all, since that consumes little-to-no 
review time currently [2]. 

Exclusion of non-corporate devs

There is a strong push from nova core for everything that is merged into Nova 
to be accompanied by CI testing. This certainly makes sense from the POV of 
overall product quality and reducing the burden on the core reviewers to catch 
all mistakes through code review. What we don't take into account is that 
setting up and maintaining such testing infrastructure requires a major 
investment in terms of both hardware costs and man power. It has already been 
seen that this is too much to bear for some companies who contribute to Nova, 
eg with the Docker driver [3]. Developers who are not affiliated with any 
company do not stand any realistic chance of meeting the CI testing needs 
unless they're lucky that their feature can be covered by an existing running 
CI system. This looks like it could effectively prevent support for a community 
submitted FreeBSD BHyve driver from being merged, no matter how useful it might 
be to users who want it.
NB, now a FreeBSD BHyve driver would probably be done as part of the libvirt 
driver, which complicates this particular point I'm trying to make, since I 
don't suggest reducing testing of the libvirt driver compared to what it has 

I don't want to get into a detailed testing discussion here really, since 
that's somewhat of a tangent to the question of our dev and review process. I 
am, however, concerned when our testing policy forces maintainers of some virt 
drivers into the position of being treated as second class citizens within the 
project as a whole, with a different development structure to the in-tree 
approved drivers.
That said, Docker probably benefits from being out of tree, since it thus 
avoids the painful nova core bottleneck entirely.

Problem summary

The common thread through most of these problems is that the nova core team is 
a massive bottleneck in the development process.
Processes adopted (or under discussion) by the core team are fundamentally not 
helping to remove the bottleneck. Rather they are introducing new layers of 
beaurocracy so that we can feel justified in telling contributors that we are 
going to ignore or reject their work. At best this is going to result in far 
less useful work taking place in Nova. At worst this is further reducing the 
ability of people to self organize to solve the problems, will cause our 
contribtors to leave the community and possibly even force some virt drivers to 
go out of tree to get their work done. Death by a thousand cuts.

A sub-thread is around the idea that our current structure of one big repo also 
has other negative consequences for drivers who may not be able to meet the 
same high standards as the rest of the drivers. A driver is either in or out of 
the club, and if its out of the club life is made comparatively harder for its 
developers & users. By all means have rules around that requirements for a 
release to use the openstack trademarks based on CI testing coverage, but don't 
let that penalize the actual development process itself.

Overall Nova is being increasingly hostile to its community of contributors. I 
don't mean this as a result of any sense of malice or ill-will. What we're 
seeing is merely a symptom of a hard worked team struggling to survive with a 
burden they can no longer be reasonably expected to cope with. Nova core has 
done an amazing job at surviving for so long as the project grew much larger & 
more quickly than anyone probably expected. The time has come for some radical 
changes to let nova adapt & evolve to the next level.

This is a crisis. A large crisis. In fact, if you got a moment, it's a 
twelve-storey crisis with a magnificent entrance hall, carpeting throughout, 
24-hour portage, and an enormous sign on the roof, saying 'This Is a Large 
Crisis'. A large crisis requires a large plan.

Proposal / solution

In the past Nova has spun out its volume layer to form the cinder project. The 
Neutron project started as an attempt to solve the networking space, and 
ultimately replace the nova-network. It is likely that the schedular will be 
spun out to a separate project.

Now Neutron itself has grown so large and successful that it is considering 
going one step further and spinning its actual drivers out of tree into 
standalone add-on projects [4]. I've heard on the grapevine that Ironic is 
considering similar steps for hardware drivers.

The radical (?) solution to the nova core team bottleneck is thus to follow 
this lead and split the nova virt drivers out into separate projects and 
delegate their maintainence to new dedicated teams.

 - Nova becomes the home for the public APIs, RPC system, database
   persistent and the glue that ties all this together with the
   virt driver API.

 - Each virt driver project gets its own core team and is responsible
   for dealing with review, merge & release of their codebase.

Note, I really do mean *all* virt drivers should be separate. I do not want to 
see some virt drivers split out and others remain in tree because I feel that 
signifies that the out of tree ones are second class citizens. It is important 
to set up our dev structure so that every virt driver is treated equally & so 
has equal chance to achieve success. As long as one driver remains in tree 
there will always be pressure for others to join it, which is exactly what 
we're trying to get away from here. By everyone being out of tree, drivers (like
Docker) can take a decision about whether it is the right time for them to be 
investing in gating CI systems, without being penalized in their dev process if 
they make a decision to not have gate tests right now.

This has quite a few implications for the way development would operate.

 - The Nova core team at least, would be voluntarily giving up a big
   amount of responsibility over the evolution of virt drivers. Due
   to human nature, people are not good at giving up power, so this
   may be painful to swallow. Realistically current nova core are
   not experts in most of the virt drivers to start with, and more
   important we clearly do not have sufficient time to do a good job
   of review with everything submitted. Much of the current need
   for core review of virt drivers is to prevent the mis-use of a
   poorly defined virt driver API...which can be mitigated - See
   later point(s)

 - Nova core would/should not have automatic +2 over the virt driver
   repositories since it is unreasonable to assume they have the
   suitable domain knowledge for all virt drivers out there. People
   would of course be able to be members of multiple core teams. For
   example John G would naturally be nova-core and nova-xen-core. I
   would aim for nova-core and nova-libvirt-core, and so on. I do not
   want any +2 responsibility over VMWare/HyperV/Docker drivers since
   they're not my area of expertize - I only look at them today because
   they have no other nova-core representation.

 - Not sure if it implies the Nova PTL would be solely focused on
   Nova common. eg would there continue to be one PTL over all virt
   driver implementation projects, or would each project have its
   own PTL. Maybe this is irrelevant if a Czars approach is chosen
   by virt driver projects for their work. I'd be inclined to say
   that a single PTL should stay as a figurehead to represent all
   the virt driver projects, acting as a point of contact to ensure
   we keep communication / co-operation between the drivers in sync.

 - A fairly significant amount of nova code would need to be
   considered semi-stable API. Certainly everything under nova/virt
   and any object which is passed in/out of the virt driver API.
   Changes to such APIs would have to be done in a backwards
   compatible manner, since it is no longer possible to lock-step
   change all the virt driver impls. In some ways I think this would
   be a good thing as it will encourage people to put more thought
   into the long term maintainability of nova internal code instead
   of relying on being able to rip it apart later, at will.

 - The nova/virt/ class would need to be much better
   specified. All parameters / return values which are opaque dicts
   must be replaced with objects + attributes. Completion of the
   objectification work is mandatory, so there is cleaner separation
   between virt driver impls & the rest of Nova.

 - If changes are required to common code, the virt driver developer
   would first have to get the necccessary pieces merged into Nova
   common. Then the follow up virt driver specific changes could be
   proposed to their repo. This implies that some changes to virt
   drivers will still contend for resource in the common nova repo 
   and team. This contention should be lower than it is today though
   since the current nova core team should have less code to look 
   after per-person on aggregate.

 - Changes submitted to nova common code would trigger running of CI
   tests against the external virt drivers. Each virt driver core team
   would decide whether they want their driver to be tested upon Nova
   common changes. Expect that all would choose to be included to the
   same extent that they are today. So level of validation of nova code
   would remain at least at current level. I don't want to reduce the
   amount of code testing here since that's contrary to the direction
   we're taking wrt testing.

 - Changes submitted to virt drivers would trigger running CI tests
   that are applicable. eg changes to libvirt driver repo would not
   involve running database migration tests, since all database code
   is isolated in nova. libvirt changes would not trigger vmware,
   xenserver, ironic, etc CI systems. Virt driver changes should
   see fewer false positives in the tests as a result, and those
   that do occur should be more explicitly related to the code being
   proposed. eg a change to vmware is not going to trigger a tempest
   run that uses libvirt, so non-deterministic failures in libvirt
   will no longer plague vmware developers reviews. This would also
   make it possible for VMWare CI to be made gating for changes to
   the VMWare virt driver repository, without negatively impacting
   other virt drivers. So this change should increase testing quality
   for non-libvirt virt drivers and reduce pain of false failures
   for everyone.

 - Virt drivers shouldn't use oslo incubator code from nova, since
   that can be replaced any time and isn't upgrade safe. Ideally most
   of the incubator stuff virt drivers need should turn into stable
   oslo APIs. Failing that, virt drivers would need their own copy
   of the incubated code in their module namespace, to avoid clash
   or the need to lock-step upgrade code across separate git repos.

Overall the outcome is that

 - Far larger pool of people able to approve changes for merge
   across nova core and the virt driver core teams.

 - Faster review & merge for virt driver patches that don't involve
   changes to common nova code, with less CI system testing pain.

 - Ability to set priority of work in virt drivers without a 3rd
   party being a bottleneck, where the work doesn't involve changes
   to common nova code.

 - Each virt driver team can accept as many features as they feel
   able to deal with, without it negatively impacting amount of
   features that other virt driver teams can accept.

 - Virt drivers have flexibility to set their own policies on testing
   without being penalized in the way they then develop their code.

The migration

Obviously a proposal such as this is a pretty major undertaking. It should be 
clear that it could not be done in a short amount of time.
It is suggested that it be phased in over two dev cycles. In the Kilo release 
the focus would be on prep work:

  - Formalizing the separation between the virt driver impls and the
    rest of the nova codebase. Figure out exactly which areas of 
    Nova internal code will need to be marked as 'semi-stable' for 
    use by virt drivers, and ensure their APIs are sufficiently
    future proof.

  - Discussions with the infrastructure, docs, release, etc teams to
    identify impacts on them and do any required prep work.

  - Identify the teams which will lead the new virt driver projects.
    eg core reviewers, PTL or Czars for each job if applicable

  - Probably more things I can't think of right now

Then at the start of the Lxxxx release, the virt drivers would actually be 
split out into separate git repos and start their dev process for the future. 
So for bulk of Lxxxx the drivers would be on their own. The two Lxxxx rc 
milestones would allow us to ensure our release processes were working well 
with the split drivers before the Lxxxx final release.

Final thought

Overall consider this a vote of no confidence in nova continuing to operate as 
it does today. As mentioned above this is not intended to be disrepectful to 
the effort every nova core member has put in, just a reflection on the changed 
environment we find ourselves in. Fiddling with our processes for the 
prioritization of work cannot fix the fundamental fact that nova core today is 
a massive single point of failure & bottleneck, increasingly crippling the 
project. The only way to address this is by a radical re-organization of our 
project to remove the bottlenecks by modularization of the project & leaders.
Keeping a single team and adding more/changing process is simply akin to 
shifting deckchairs on the titanic and not a viable option to coninue with long 

Now, I'm realistic. Even with every driver separated out, I expect that each of 
them will individually still have more work proposed than their respective core 
teams have time to review. The new structure will, however, make it easier for 
the core individal teams to grow & adapt in ways that suit their specific 
needs. For self-contained virt driver changes it will mean that acceptance of 
work by one team will not take away capacity from another team. Further the 
burden of knowledge required to make it onto a virt driver core team would be 
greatly reduced due to the narrower focus of each core team, so we'll be able 
to promote good talent onto virt driver core teams more quickly.

Thanks for reading so far. Now lets make some real change to prepare us for 
future sustainability & even growth.


[2] There was a ban on changes to nova-network for much of the past two
    cycles. It was relaxed primarily to allow full conversion of nova
    codebase to use objects, not for major new feature development.

|:      -o- :|
|:              -o-    :|
|:       -o- :|
|:       -o- :|

OpenStack-dev mailing list

OpenStack-dev mailing list

Reply via email to