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Everything you need to know about OpenStack modules

OpenStack continues to evolve in an effort to compete with AWS. The modules that are available now make OpenStack a viable enterprise option.

OpenStack is moving quickly to cover all the cloud computing bases, from databases to security to containers. It's a blessing and a curse for IT; as the list of OpenStack modules gets longer, deployment and operations complexity increase.

OpenStack modules range in maturity, from newbies to the established core set. Storage administrators can use the OpenStack Project Navigator to browse modules and see scores for their maturity levels.

Tools such as Red Hat's Platform Director simplify deployment and take away many of the risks associated with manual deployment in a scale-out cloud, so tucking into the smorgasbord of features can be a fun learning experience. Here's what OpenStack has to offer.

The core

At the center of OpenStack is a set of modules that provide basic orchestration, platform management and networking, together with object and block storage. These tools are all very mature, though they still see healthy evolution and bug fixing. These tools are a working set for OpenStack, but most deployments today go much further.

Nova

Manages the instances, creating and deleting as required.

Neutron

Allows instances to connect to each other and to other storage.

Keystone

Authentication service for accessing the rest of OpenStack's service securely.

Swift

Object storage, similar to Amazon Web Services Simple Storage Service.

Cinder

Block storage, similar to a SAN.

Glance

Image storage and management; simplifies keeping a synchronized set of images across nodes.

Most OpenStack deployments use Ceph for object storage, instead of Swift. This is due to Ceph's API compatibility with Amazon Web Services (AWS) Simple Storage Service, as well as a bigger feature set and simplified ease of use.

The management group

This group of OpenStack modules enhances the management capabilities of the core set. It consists of two subgroups, which are based on maturity. The following are all mature projects, though they're still evolving.

Horizon

Provides a dashboard for OpenStack and is used in around 90% of deployments.

Heat

Handles orchestration of applications across instances based on templates.

Ironic

A bare-metal provisioning tool.

And the new projects include:

Ceilometer

Provides telemetry of the cloud and helps find scalability and performance issues.

Congress

Provides a policy-based governance framework.

The security group

This group includes key management and the domain name system (DNS), as well as an application catalog that is aimed, in part, at keeping malware out of the cloud. They are all relatively new OpenStack modules and works in progress, especially Murano.

Barbican

A key manager; to be used with Keystone authentication and internal app security.

Designate

A DNS service intended to point apps to safe data sources.

Murano

Provides a repository for approved applications within OpenStack to ensure revision-level consistency.

Big data and database services

This is a catch-all category for databases, MapReduce and shared file systems. All fit specific use cases rather than more generalized deployments. These are relatively new.

Trove

Provides a database service deployable across multiple instances.

Sahara

Delivers Elastic MapReduce for handling big data.

Manila

A shared file system service, creating NAS-like storage access.

Zaqar

Messaging between instances.

Containers

Containers are still new, and cloud software is working to catch up. OpenStack has an aggressive set of projects to bring containers to its clouds. The maturity of Magnum -- the umbrella containers project -- is still only 2 of 8, so it's not ready for prime time yet. But it provides containers and container orchestration for Docker, Kubernetes and Apache Mesos, with a variety of provisioning models.

OpenStack is playing in the big leagues, and it's worth comparing the product to the spectrum of services offered by the major cloud service providers. AWS is currently in the lead, with a very broad set of useful services and, in many ways, this is the benchmark for where OpenStack must end up. 

Next Steps

OpenStack containers for hybrid cloud containers

OpenStack support for container orchestration tools

How OpenStack Ocata promotes scalability

This was last published in July 2017

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