Houston, we have an OpenStack problem

I have always wanted to look deeper into OpenStack, but I never got around to it. However, last week, something about NASA and OpenStack caught my attention … something about NASA pulling out of OpenStack development.

The spin was that “OpenStack has come on its own” is true, because OpenStack today has 180 (at last count on June 20th 2012) companies participating and contributing to the development, deployment and marketing of the highly popular Infrastructure-as-a-Service cloud computing project. So, the NASA withdrawal was not as badly felt as to what NASA had said next.

When NASA CIO Linda Cureton announced that NASA has shifted to Amazon Web Services (AWS) for their enterprise cloud-based infrastructure and they have saved almost a million dollars in costs, that was a clear and blatant impalement to the very heart and soul of OpenStack. NASA, one of the 2 founders of OpenStack in 2009, has switched sides to announce their preference to OpenStack’s rival, AWS. It pains me to just listen to the such a defection.


Yes, it is true that OpenStack is coming out on its own. IBM and RedHat had pledged their support for OpenStack. So has many other big boys such as AT&T, Canonical, SuSE, NetApp, Dell, Cisco and many others, all contributing at different levels. And it is heart-warming to see HP putting their confidence and belief in OpenStack by launching their HP Cloud into public betaHP Cloud today offers HP Cloud Compute, HP Cloud Object Storage, HP Cloud CDN (Content Delivery Network), in public beta and HP Cloud Block Storage, HP Cloud Relational Database for MySQL in private beta.

The stable release for OpenStack is Essex which was just announced on 5th of April 2012. For a slow hog like me, who has been really slow in keeping with Cloud technology right now, I have been frequenting the old OpenStack Reference Architecture website to get my fodder of information.

The logical architecture of OpenStack, from a high level overview, is in the diagram below:


OpenStack consists of 3 main components:

  • OpenStack Compute (Nova)
  • OpenStack Object Storage (Swift)
  • OpenStack Image Service (Glance)

A brief description of each component is described below (copied in verbatim):

OpenStack Compute (Nova)

OpenStack Compute (code-name Nova) is open source software designed to provision and manage large networks of virtual machines, creating a redundant and scalable cloud-computing platform. It provides the software, control panels, and APIs required to orchestrate a cloud, including running instances, managing networks, and controlling access through users and projects. OpenStack Compute strives to be both hardware and hypervisor agnostic, currently supporting a variety of standard hardware configurations and major hypervisors.

OpenStack Object Storage (Swift)

OpenStack Object Storage (code-named Swift) is open source software for creating redundant, scalable object storage using clusters of standardized servers to store petabytes of accessible data. It is not a file system or real-time data storage system, but rather a long-term storage system for a more permanent type of static data that can be retrieved, leveraged, and then updated if necessary. Primary examples of data that best fit this type of storage model are virtual machine images, photo storage, email storage and backup archiving. Having no central “brain” or master point of control provides greater scalability, redundancy and permanence.

Objects are written to multiple hardware devices in the data center, with the OpenStack software responsible for data replication and integrity across the cluster. Storage clusters can scale horizontally by adding new nodes. Should a node fail, OpenStack works to replicate its content from other active nodes.

OpenStack Image Service (Glance)

OpenStack Image Service (code-named Glance) provides discovery, registration, and delivery services for virtual disk images. The Image Service API server provides a standard REST interface for querying information about virtual disk images stored in a variety of back-end stores, including OpenStack Object Storage. Clients can register new virtual disk images with the Image Service, query for information on publicly available disk images, and use the Image Service’s client library for streaming virtual disk images.

A multi-format image registry, OpenStack Image Service allows uploads of private and public images in a variety of formats, including Raw, Machine (kernel/ramdisk outside of image, also known as AMI), VHD (Hyper-V), VDI (VirtualBox), and qcow2 (Qemu/KVM).

All these services are available through a self-service GUI as a web-based dashboard.

Clearly, OpenStack has its value and place in the IaaS space in cloud infrastructure space. It is open source and is a game changer.

But the boon and bane of open source is that it is all about choices. Citrix, an early and previous fervent supporter of OpenStack, has also decided to part ways with OpenStack. While they still have developers in the OpenStack project, Citrix’s new direction is with CloudStack. Citrix acquired Cloud.com and inherited CloudStack in July 2011.

The NASA withdrawal will hurt, but I believe that OpenStack is maturing fast enough to overcome the significance of NASA. And it seems to be a viable alternative against Amazon AWS and VMware.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

About cfheoh

I am a technology blogger with 30 years of IT experience. I write heavily on technologies related to storage networking and data management because those are my areas of interest and expertise. I introduce technologies with the objectives to get readers to know the facts and use that knowledge to cut through the marketing hypes, FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt) and other fancy stuff. Only then, there will be progress. I am involved in SNIA (Storage Networking Industry Association) and between 2013-2015, I was SNIA South Asia & SNIA Malaysia non-voting representation to SNIA Technical Council. I currently employed at iXsystems as their General Manager for Asia Pacific Japan.

4 Responses to Houston, we have an OpenStack problem

  1. Pingback: Houston, we have an OpenStack problem « Storage Gaga

  2. marcello says:

    are you sure that you just don’t “swapped” the swift with glance funtionalities? the RESful http api are for swift, as doc says…
    my 2c 🙂

  3. marcello says:

    are you sure that you just don’t “swapped” the swift with glance funtionalities? the RESful http api are for swift, as doc says…
    my 2c 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.