StarlingX at the virtual Project Teams Gathering in October, 2023
Get the highlights of StarlingX discussions and project updates at the virtual OpenInfra Project Teams Gathering (PTG) event in October, 2023.
The StarlingX community had sessions on two consecutive days at the event to discuss use cases, go through project team updates, talk about the 9.0 release and further roadmap items, and more. This article provides a highlight of the conversations the community had at the event.
Discussing existing and new use cases is always very exciting, and this conversation at the event was no exception. Session attendees discussed two main use cases, telecommunications and forest fire detection.
Autonomous Fire Detection
Forest fires have a large impact on the environment as well as human lives due to the large damage they often cause. There are newly forming ideas to build out a sensor-based smart system to detect uncontrolled forest fires early. StarlingX is an ideal platform for a system like this, since it’s designed to manage a group of geographically distributed sites, including sites with very small footprint. In this use case tiny sites would be distributed in forests to collect and manage data from sensors such as cameras, temperature sensors, and more.
As part of a commercial distribution, StarlingX is utilized by large telecom operators around the globe as a base for 5G and open RAN systems. These deployments are leveraging StarlingX’s support for container-based workloads orchestrated by Kubernetes, which is a fundamental part of the platform. Another highly used feature is the Distributed Cloud architecture model, that gets deployed in most scenarios. Sub-clouds are usually using All-In-One (AIO) Simplex configuration for the Distributed Unit (DU) component of the 5G architecture, due to its small footprint. Open RAN deployments utilize AIO-Duplex or Standard Multi-Server configuration options for bigger sites where more servers are available.
Project team updates
Similarly to previous PTGs, attendees covered updates from most of the community's project teams.
The Build team has been busy with some recent changes, such as moving off of the CENGN environment to a lab that is donated to the community by Wind River. Arm has also donated servers to the community to set up in the lab, to support the work to add and test Arm support to the StarlingX platform. The build system is also being adjusted as well to detect the architecture the platform ISO is built for.
Another bigger work item has been to jump to the Antelope version of OpenStack in the platform, which needed support from the Build team as well. Contributors have also been working on adding support for a universal software manager and OSTree. Future plans include improving performance through parallelism and scheduling, and further enhancements to the monolithic build.
Contributors of this team have been working on upgrade related changes. They are adding optimization to the AIO-Simplex configuration to update Kubernetes components, and a dedicated namespace for the containers of the platform services. The latter improves the CPU isolation capabilities of the platform. Contributors are also actively collaborating with the KubeVirt community on enhancements.
Future work items include enhancements to the HA configuration support and performance, as well as upversioning Kubernetes to 1.28 or 1.29. The latter item is facing some challenges due to Kubernetes constantly pulling in newer versions of Golang as a dependency.
Distro & Multi-OS
These two teams have been working together on the ISO and container images, including splitting packages between these and keep the size of the images manageable. Contributors are also involved in the work on Arm support to add required kernel modules to the platform. The team’s further roadmap includes a kernel update to version 6.6, and collaborating with the Build team to further utilize OSTree in StarlingX.
The Documentation team has been focusing on enhancing user experience in the platform by improving the terminology for CLI commands, adding a glossary and adding further content to both the bare metal as well as virtual installation guides. The Contributor Guide also got some recent updates to have a more detailed description of documentation contribution process. To complement documentation, contributors have been recording new videos to demonstrate the installation process on VirtualBox.
During the 8.0 and 9.0 release cycles the Flock Services team has been working on improving scalability, performance efficiency and operability. The team further optimized the platform backup and restore process by taking advantage of the registry backup. Other enhancements to the Flock services also include multi-version upgrades for AIO-Simplex configuration and more.
The team will further enhance both upgrades as well as backup and restore functions during the 10.0 release cycle. Contributors will be working with the Build and Distro teams to implement simplified software management methods and adding OSTree and other changes.
The Networking team has been working on a lot of enhancements and new features during the 9.0 release cycle. Highlights of their work items include an L3 firewall for platform interfaces with all limitations removed and support for Intel ethernet operator, which allows you to update firmware on adapters throughout a cloud without the need to directly log into each device. The team improved communication between sub-clouds and central clouds, to allow the user more flexibility to reconfigure the sub-clouds after install.
Contributors integrated a new Wireless FEC operator, which users can now configure through standard Kubernetes APIs; configuration can be applied at cluster level or node level and device level.
Future work items will include more work on Precision Time Protocol (PTP) and other components. Session attendees noted that there have been a lot of activity targeting PTP overall as it’s critical for RAN and other applications.
This team is maintaining the containerized OpenStack services. Their biggest work item during the 9.0 release cycle was to integrate the Antelope version of OpenStack into the StarlingX platform. They started the integration and testing on a feature branch that they now merged back into the master branch. This approach was needed due to tasks such as decoupling the related manifests from the platform manifest, which required changes to the build systems. The builds and sanity testing with the newer OpenStack version are now running successfully. The team is currently focusing on testing the different StarlingX configurations including AIO-Simplex and AIO-Duplex, along with working on containerizing remaining client services that they couldn’t get to before.
In the 10.0 release cycle the team is planning to move to OpenStack Bobcat, which should be an easier switch due to all the enhancements they made to the platform and build system recently. The team is also working on developer documentation to capture what is required for the upgrade work and other tasks, to help established and new contributors alike.
The community utilized the time at the event to talk about the 9.0 release, for which the development is currently ongoing. Contributors checked on the upcoming milestones to make the new version ready by March, 2024. The team also discussed the scope of the release including highlighting some of the bigger work items that the teams have been working on, such as integrating the Antelope version of OpenStack and updates to further components of the platform, sub-cloud error root-cause analysis, and more. While the community talked about roadmap items further out in the future during the project team segments, they did not cover detailed timeline for the 10.0 release cycle this time, as it would've been too early to set plans for that.
Security was a hot topic during the community’s PTG sessions at the event.
The security team, which gained new contributors recently, has been working on performing CVE scanning and hardening on the StarlingX codebase, while also handling vulnerability management for the community. The team has also been working on security related features, such as adding the ability to set an AppArmor profile for applications to protect the overall system from untrusted apps. Many security related components are getting an upversion to leverage the new features and bug fixes in the current and upcoming releases.
Contributors also talked about penetration testing, which was performed on a StarlingX-based commercial platform recently. The results triggered new features, such as adding support for the LUX filesystem along with adding encryption capabilities to the platform on multiple layers.
Future work items include certificate management enhancements, signature validation and further work on encryption to be able to provide that for applications as well along with platform services.
The above items are only a few highlights of the full roadmap of the StarlingX project. For further notes of the discussions at the PTG please refer to the session etherpad or check out the recordings of the discussions.
If you would like to learn more about the project and get involved check the website for more information or download the code and start to experiment with the platform. If you are already evaluating or using the software please fill out the user survey and help the community improve the project based on your feedback.
Stay tuned for the next event where you can meet the StarlingX community!