March 15, 2016

Getting Started With OpenStack: Your Questions Answered

Blog OpenStack 200x200 v2Adoption of OpenStack, the open source cloud platform, continues to grow but challenges do remain. Although many enterprise companies have taken the leap, a recent SUSE report indicates that a lack of skilled IT professionals is making other organizations reluctant to implement OpenStack.

To help you learn more about OpenStack and determine whether it’s the right choice for your organization, we recently produced “Getting Started with OpenStack,” a free webinar with Tim Serewicz, who teaches OpenStack and Linux performance and tuning courses for The Linux Foundation. In the webinar, Tim addressed some of the most common OpenStack questions and concerns, such as:

  • I think I need OpenStack, but where do I start?

  • What problems does OpenStack solve?

  • What are the hurdles?

  • Why is it worth the effort?

However, more than 100 additional questions were submitted during the webinar, so we followed up with Tim to provide more answers. Many of the questions overlapped in theme, so we’ve grouped them here into eight general questions summarizing the main topics.

Question 1: Can OpenStack be integrated with other solutions, such as AWS (Amazon Web Services)?

Answer: Yes. OpenStack has been developed to work with other cloud providers. The ability to maintain a smaller private cloud that can easily scale through a private/public connection,  or to meet temporary demand for resources, is very attractive to new business projects. While more expensive in the short term, using a metric like CPU-hour, the overall cost of access to resources is much lower.  

Currently, AWS is the largest public cloud provider and seems to be the focus for compatibility, but other options exist. Because OpenStack is an open source project, new connections can be easily implemented.

Question 2: How does OpenStack compare to other technologies?

Answer: OpenStack provides Infrastructure as a Service (Iaas), of which there are other open and proprietary options. In the open source area, OpenStack has been widely implemented. The number of developers is second only to the Linux kernel. With so much effort and attention being given, it has become the best choice for production. Other open source projects, in contrast, may lack the development and use necessary to discover and fix issues.  Several small and large technology companies offer support for OpenStack, removing vendor lock-in while maintaining dedicated support.

There are several proprietary cloud, or cloud-like, solutions available. When unable to view or change the software, a user becomes locked into working with the vendor in addition to paying high license fees. If a new feature is necessary or an issue is discovered, the user can only make a request and hope something will be done in a timely manner, if done at all.

Question 3: What are the options for high availability (HA) with OpenStack?

Answer: This area of OpenStack is under a lot of development. With a distributed cloud architecture, many users find they don’t need to have HA as they did with traditional vendor products, and implement an HA database like Galera with MariaDB and a load balancer to avoid loss of access to cloud services after a failure.

You can achieve full HA with open solutions, but there is not currently an easy-to-use or implement procedure. Most of the full HA solutions currently in production are third party and proprietary.

Question 4: What’s the link between Linux and OpenStack?

Answer: OpenStack is an open source federation of software projects to provide infrastructure as a service. It was developed on Linux. Just as there are several Linux distributions using the same open source code, there are several OpenStack distributions. OpenStack can work with other operating systems for compute hosts, but the vast majority of nodes will be running some flavor of Linux.  

Question 5: How does software-defined networking (SDN) relate to OpenStack?

Answer: OpenStack provides IasS so users can virtualize every aspect of a datacenter. Networking is a big part of any datacenter. The Neutron project provides SDN, which one can use to configure networking equipment -- open or proprietary. The OpenDaylight platform is one possible SDN option, which aims to remove proprietary software on network equipment and which includes support for a wide range of network protocols and an ease for adding new functionality.  

The OpenDaylight project has some overlap with OpenStack. OpenStack is focused on virtualization and automation, whereas OpenDaylight is focused on decoupling the control plane of the network. Both projects are actively developed and will most likely become more complementary.

Question 6: What are the security implications of OpenStack?

Answer: Security is an area which has not had as much attention as other projects. OpenStack potentially has the same exposure as a traditional datacenter. Often, an OpenStack deployment was not exposed to Internet traffic, and security was handled exterior to the cloud. New projects have been created to handle various issues, such as Congress for policy enforcement. A good place to start looking at security is with the OpenStack security guide.

Question 7: What are the hardware/environment requirements for OpenStack?

Answer: OpenStack can be deployed in many different ways, and can scale up as necessary. Even small shops, or home use, can benefit.  While it can run on even small VMs it may not be very fast. The “How To Get Started With OpenStack” guide is a good place to see some of your options. DevStack easily runs in a VM, and the “All-In-One Single VM” guide provides the steps for doing so.

Question 8: What is the relationship between VMware, virtualization, and OpenStack?

Answer: OpenStack uses virtualization and automation to provide IaaS. It supports a large number of hypervisors including KVM, Hyper-V, LXC, and VMware. You could use it with VMware or to replace VMware -- among other proprietary vendors. Because OpenStack can manage VMware resources, it is quite easy to grow your OpenStack cloud and transition so that eventually you no longer need any VMware licenses.

The original OpenStack webinar can be seen in its entirety through The Linux Foundation’s online webinar portal (registration is required).

To learn even more about OpenStack, check out the following Linux Foundation training courses:

OpenStack Administration Fundamentals (online, self-paced)

Essentials of OpenStack Administration (live instructor-led)

Click Here!