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OpenStack 101: The parts that make up the project

Brandon Butler | May 20, 2014
OpenStack is a platform, but it's made up of pieces. Here are the big ones.

Block StorageCode-name: Cinder
Unlike Swift, Cinder allows for blocks of storage to be managed. They're meant to be assigned to compute instances to allow for expanded storage. The Cinder software manages the creation of these blocks, plus the acts of attaching and detaching the blocks to compute servers. The other major feature of Cinder is its integration with traditional enterprise storage systems, such as Linux Server storage and other platforms such as Ceph, NetApp, Nexenta, SolidFire and Zadara, among others. This is the equivalent of AWS's Elastic Block Storage (EBS) feature. More information.

Identity and access managementCode-name: Keystone
OpenStack has a variety of components that are OpenStack shared services, meaning they work across various parts of the software, such as Keystone. This project is the primary tool for user authentication and role-based access controls in OpenStack clouds. Keystone integrates with LDAP to provide a central directory of users and allows administrators to set policies that control which resources various users have access to. Keystone supports traditional username and password logins, in addition to token-based logins.

DashboardCode-name: Horizon
This is the primary graphical user interface for using OpenStack clouds. The web-based tool gives users and administrators the ability to provision and automate services. It's the primary way for accessing resources if API calls are not used.

Image serviceCode-name: Glance
One of the key benefits to a cloud platform is the ability to spin up virtual machines quickly when users request them. Glance helps accomplish this by creating templates for virtual machines. Glance can copy or snapshot a virtual machine image and allow that to be recreated. That means administrators can set up a catalog of virtual machine templates that users can select from and self-provision. Glance can also be used to back up existing images to save them. Glance integrates with Cinder to store the images.

Usage data and orchestration
Two of the newest projects in OpenStack are Ceilometer and Heat. Ceilometer is a telemetry system that allows administrators to track usage of the OpenStack cloud, including which users accessed which resources, as well as aggregate data about the cloud usage as a whole.

Heat is an orchestration engine that allows developers to automate the deployment of infrastructure. This allows compute, networking and storage configurations to be automatically assigned to a virtual machine or application. This allows for easier onboarding of new instances. Heat also has an auto-scaling element, which allows services to add resources as they are needed.

On the way: Databases, bare metal management, messaging and Hadoop
There are a number of projects that are still incubating, which means they are in development and not yet full-fledged components of OpenStack. These include Trove, which is a MySQL database as a service (think of this as an equivalent to AWS's Relational Database Service (RDS). Another is Sahara (formerly named Savanah) which is meant to allow OpenStack software to control Hadoop clusters. Ironic is a project that will allow OpenStack to manage bare metal servers. And Macaroni is a messaging service.

These projects will continue to be developed by the OpenStack community and will most likely be integrated more fully into the project in the coming releases.


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