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Using OpenStack 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.

How would we define the open-source software stack by the name of OpenStack? And what does it consist of? What are its main components? These two questions are to be thoroughly answered in this lesson.

A Cloud coming from Space!

It was the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and Rackspace Inc., an American company, who created OpenStack. Now what really is OpenStack? It is a software stack, free and open-source, which houses cloud computing resources for anyone and everyone to use. A Cloud coming from Space then!

What's more, many very well-known companies have come to support OpenStack and make contributions to the Project, thus creating their own OpenStack-based software. IBM, Ericsson, Intel, Deutsche Telecom, NEC are just some of the companies backing OpenStack. Moreover, with regard to management, OpenStack is managed by the OpenStack Foundation. OpenStack has very much to offer to its users and in this lesson we will look into its great capabilities and potential.

OpenStack definition and main functions

OpenStack come out of a collaboration of NASA and Rackspace in 2010.NASA contributed more generic computing software, namely the Nebula platform, while Rackspace brought their storage-related ''Cloud Files'' to the table. The blending of the two resulted in the very first incarnation of OpenStack. OpenStack is a cloud computing platform, a ''software stack'' which offers the ability to deploy a complete Infrastructure Cloud Service (IaaS). OpenStack is there to build both enterprise/private and public clouds.

One may claim that the main distinct offerings of OpenStack are the following:

  • Management of Virtual Machines
  • Data/Static objects storage
  • Virtual Machines components storage (Images, Virtual Disk, Kernels)

These services do have their corresponding ones in Amazon' Cloud (Amazon Web Services) and their corresponding components in the OpenStack architecture, as we will see in the next paragraph.

OpenStack main components

OpenStack is made of a multitude of interrelated software projects which make up its various components. In research, OpenStack is considered to consist of seven basic components. There are the following:

  • Object storage

OpenStack Object Storage or ''Swift'' is the service through which any user may store or retrieve their saved data. User data is stored as Objects and may be anonymously read by the corresponding user. The Storage interface is built on HTTP. It is in fact more of an open-source equivalent of Amazon Simple Storage Service (S3).

  • Image

The Image or ''Glance'' component provides storage room for virtual machines images. Through Image, virtual machine images may be managed or retrieved. Image is usually thought of as a very fundamental part of OpenStack.

  • Compute

OpenStack Compute or ''Nova'' offers a user a virtual server, or Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) to manage. Compute is yet another core component of OpenStack and also a very complex one. User access, Virtual Machine instances, specific projects etc. are all managed through the ''Nova'' API. If Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) comes to your mind, it is a perfect analogy!

  • Dashboard

OpenStack Dashboard or ''Horizon'' is the basic OpenStack User Interface to work on. It is comprised of three partial dashboards:

a) ''User Dashboard'',

b) ''System Dashboard'' and

c) ''Settings''

Via ''Horizon'', one may access the aforementioned components, such as ''Nova'', ''Swift'' etc.

  • Identity

Identity or ''Keystone'' is OpenStack's authentication and authorization service. ''Keystone'' is considered as consisting of four different parts which correspond to a set of interrelated internal services: identity, token, catalog, and policy. For example, when authentication is performed in OpenStack, a user's identity is verified. The successful authentication then returns a ''token'' which in turn has only got to do with a specific project.

  • Network

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