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Using CloudStack for Building & Managing Clouds

Instructor: Giorgos-Nektarios Panayotidis

George-Nektarios has worked as a tutor and student consultant for five years and has a 4-year university degree in Applied Informatics.

This lesson will guide you through the basics of the CloudStack software. It includes the fundamental features and components of CloudStack, a valuable tool for creating and managing cloud-based services.

A Wildly Free Cloud Software!

Apache Indians are often described by historians as a wild and free populace. But, surprisingly, this is also the case when it comes to the CloudStack software which was developed by the Apache Software Foundation. A rather wildly free open-source cloud software solution, Apache CloudStack is, naturally, reminiscent of Eucalyptus and the ''Linux of the Cloud'' OpenStack which are open-source too. In this lesson, we will analyze what CloudStack is and what it consists of with regard to basic components such as orchestration, networking, user interface, etc.

CloudStack Definition

How can we describe CloudStack? It is an open-source cloud computing platform which is designed to provide Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS). CloudStack is used for all three conventional cloud types: private, public and hybrid. Within the framework that CloudStack offers, a multitude of virtual machines may be deployed and managed by each of its users. Some of its more generic and important characteristics are:

  • High availability: This means high uptime and implies very little service interruption problems.
  • Multitenancy: This is an attribute of a software architecture which means that multiple users may be served concurrently via a single (cloud-based) software.
  • High scalability: This is achieved through a very wide distribution of cloud-based service resources across multiple locations which may be brought together on will.

CloudStack Components

Orchestration Functionality/Layer

The so-called compute orchestration is considered to be a component of critical importance. Essentially, the orchestration layer/engine renders integration feasible in that it fetches and binds together programming tasks. These tasks have to be carried out in a previously-ordained sequence, thus producing workflows.

Network as a Service

Networking is offered by CloudStack in two standard forms:

  • Basic: very reminiscent of the respective networking service offered by Amazon Web Services, this is usually described as a ''flat layer-2 network''; it is a network providing users traffic isolation via the virtual machine's bridge device at the 3rd layer.
  • Advanced: an important difference from the basic version has to do with the users' traffic isolation that is carried out at level 2. A performance-enhancing element is the inclusion of software-defined networking (SDN), which among many other benefits, greatly facilitates the aforementioned orchestration functionality.

User and Account Management

CloudStack offers a set of options for managing user accounts. An account is usually associated with a multitude of users of different types. Furthermore, sets of accounts constitute a coherent group called a domain. Now, within each account there are three types of users:

  • Generic users with no special privilege whatsoever; users of different accounts are isolated from one another
  • Domain administrators with authority to perform the usual administrative operations for accounts belonging to the domain
  • Root administrators who may perform administrative operations to the totality of the system including templates, access to services and other administrator's accounts

CloudStack is open to user authentication, for example, through external Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP) servers.

Full Native API

Another main component of CloudStack is its native API. This API is based on a query language that is much like REST and produces output either in XML or in JSON. The CloudStack API provides the following functionalities:

  • Authenticating users
  • Provisioning resources
  • Allocating hosts or storage room (as a user with administrator privileges)
  • Obtaining access to user data/metadata

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