OpenStack: Shooting star in the cloud

Assembly Kit

Cloud Storage: Swift Dashboard

Almost all the components presented in this article deal with the topic of virtualization. However, conventional wisdom says that a cloud must also provide additional, on-demand storage, which users can access when needed using a simple interface. Services such as Dropbox or Google Drive are proof that such services enjoy a large fan base. In OpenStack, Swift [9] ensures that users have cloud storage.

Swift, which is developed by hosting provider Rackspace, gives users the ability to upload or download files to or from storage via a ReSTful protocol. Swift is interesting for corporations because it is an object store, which stores data in the form of binary objects and scales seamlessly on a horizontal axis.

If space becomes scarce, companies simply add a few storage nodes with fresh disk space to avoid running out of storage space. Incidentally, you can operate Swift without the other OpenStack components – this OpenStack service thus occupies a special position, because the other services are mutually interdependent.

The Front End: Horizon

The final component I'll describe for this tour is the front end for the actual users: The most beautiful cloud environment in the world would be worth nothing if novice users could not control it without prior knowledge. Horizon makes OpenStack usable: The Django-based web interface allows users to start and stop virtual machines as well as configure various parameters associated with the use of the cloud (Figure 7). When somebody needs to start a new VM, users turn to Horizon, as they do when assigning a public IP to a VM [10].

Figure 7: The dashboard lets users control the services they use in the cloud, such as virtual machines.

The Community

OpenStack set much store in being a community project. Unlike Eucalyptus or OpenNebula, OpenStack is not backed by a corporation that steers the development of the platform. OpenStack has been a community project from the outset. It grew out of a collaboration between NASA and Rackspace, which is also famous as the host behind GitHub. NASA contributed the part that dealt with virtualization; Rackspace threw in Swift as a storage solution.

Since then, much has happened: NASA is not involved in OpenStack development, but hundreds of other companies have joined OpenStack movement, including the likes of Red Hat, Intel, and HP.

The project still attaches great importance to the community; for example, there is an OpenStack Foundation, some of whose board members are elected directly by project members. Each of the components described in this article has a Project Technical Lead (PTL), who is democratically elected.

OpenStack also attaches great importance to allowing anyone to contribute. If you want to, you will definitely find something meaningful to contribute to OpenStack. At the OpenStack design summits, which are held twice a year, the project celebrates its roots in the community and invites developers to listen to keynotes, poring over design concepts that will lay down the future roadmap for development.

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