Exploring Apache CloudStack

Stack Check

User Experience

Most CloudStack features available to end users are available via the GUI, with just a few of the more advanced, newer features accessible only through the API. CloudStack's easy-to-learn GUI lets new users get their first VMs up and running within a matter of minutes.

The process for creating a new VM is handled by a very intuitive graphical wizard, which steps you through the process in six easy steps. Choose a zone, select a pre-built ISO template, and choose a compute offering (a bundle of properties that defines the amount of CPU, RAM, network bandwidth, and storage tier). Then, add an additional data volume, configure the network, choose a hostname, and launch the VM.

Once users have their VMs up and running, they can start to explore the other features available to them (see the box titled "Additional Features."

Additional Features

Snapshots provide a simple and effective way for a user to protect their VMs by capturing the state of any disk volume. You can automate snapshots by configuring them to occur at predefined intervals (hourly, daily, weekly, etc.).

Custom private templates can be created from any root volume or its associated Snapshot, enabling quick and easy replication of a particular VM should multiple instances be required. Data volumes can easily be unmounted from one VM and mounted to another VM in a matter of seconds.

You can export volumes, snapshots, and templates from the cloud and then use them to re-create the user environment within another cloud.

Why Choose CloudStack?

CloudStack has a proven track record in both the enterprise and service provider space with some of the world's largest clouds. I have personally been involved in a large number of CloudStack implementations on three different continents, and while any large IT project will hit a few bumps along the road, all the implementations came in on time.

Unlike some open source cloud technologies, CloudStack is truly a single project, with a common set of objectives and goals, driven by a very active and passionate community. See the box titled "In Process" for a list of some new features currently in development.

In Process

CloudStack developers are currently working on adding the following new features:

  • A new storage framework, bringing better control over storage and allowing primary storage to stretch across a whole data center.
  • XenServer XenMotion, enabling live migration of VM volumes.
  • Dedicated resources, which will let the admin dedicate a subset of the infrastructure to a particular user.
  • Support for Cisco's Virtual Network Management Center (VNMC).
  • Multiple IPs per virtual NIC – ideal for web server VMs with multiple SSL certificates.
  • S3-backed secondary storage, enabling secondary storage to stretch across a whole region.
  • Dynamic scaling of CPU and RAM, which will enable a user to increase or decrease dynamically the amount of CPU and RAM available to a VM.
  • Support for Midokura Software Defined Networking.
  • Additional Isolation within a VLAN using either PVLANs (VMware) or Security Groups (Xen and KVM). Admins will be able to isolate VMs on a common VLAN, enabling multi-tiered guest networks on a single VLAN.

The Author

Geoff Higginbottom is an Apache CloudStack committer and CTO of ShapeBlue, a strategic cloud consultancy. Geoff spends most of his time designing private and public cloud infrastructures for telcos, ISPs, and enterprises based on CloudStack and Citrix CloudPlatform.

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