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OpenStack Primer

OpenStack is an open-source project with the goal of providing a full-service cloud-computing platform for compute, storage and network. IBM has embraced the OpenStack project and has begun to provide products that incorporate OpenStack services with IBM enhancements to deliver robust cloud-computing solutions. In addition, IBM is developing drivers that let IBM hardware and software work with existing OpenStack installations.

OpenStack Modules

OpenStack can be thought of as an Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) layer for building private and public clouds. OpenStack is delivered through modules that provide specific functions that support the deployment and operation of a cloud environment. The collection of modules lets you create a software-defined compute, network and storage environment for your applications. OpenStack currently offers the following modules:


  • Nova is used to deploy virtual machines (VM), define VM network addresses, provision storage and apply security.
  • Glance provides VM image management including registration, templates, catalog services and retrieval.


  • Neutron provides IP address allocation (fixed/floating, private/public), master network server/controller and an agent to run on compute node hypervisors.


  • Swift is designed to store unstructured data like VM images, backups and Web content using a two-to-many node design to provide a reliable storage environment.
  • Cinder provides the infrastructure to manage block storage disk volumes.

Other Modules

  • Keystone provides authentication services for OpenStack users and services.
  • Ceilometer provides monitoring and usage billing services.
  • Heat is the orchestration element. It uses templates to describe the compute, storage, networking and other resources required to run a cloud application.
  • Trove is an interface to relational and non-relational databases. It provides a simple method for provisioning and using relational databases.
  • Horizon provides a Web-based GUI to OpenStack services.
  • Oslo is a set of Python libraries for code that’s shared across the OpenStack project modules.

You can build your own OpenStack environment by installing each of the modules or you can purchase a fully integrated OpenStack environment from a third-party provider. This is similar to the deployment model for Linux.

OpenStack Release Name and Number

The first release of OpenStack, called Austin, was delivered in 2010. OpenStack is currently in its ninth release (Icehouse), which was released April 2014. Each OpenStack release from Austin to Icehouse starts with the next sequential letter of the alphabet. The series of development names are Austin, Bexar, Cactus, Diablo, Essex, Folsom, Grizzly, Havana and Icehouse. Planned releases are Juno (late 2014) and Kilo (spring 2015). These names are often seen in release and support documentation.

Official OpenStack release numbering is based on the calendar year and the number of major releases within that year. For example, Icehouse was the first major release in 2014, so its version number is 2014.1. If Juno is delivered later this year, its version number will be 2014.2.

Regarding ongoing support, security updates are currently being provided for the Icehouse and Havana releases. All earlier versions are now marked as end-of-life (EOL).

PowerVC and IBM SmartCloud Integration With OpenStack

Hardware and software developers can access OpenStack modules through software development kits (SDKs), command line interfaces (CLIs) and application programming interfaces (APIs). This lets companies like IBM build solutions that incorporate OpenStack modules. Companies can also create drivers that let their products work with an existing OpenStack environment. Two examples of this are IBM Power Virtualization Center (PowerVC) and IBM SmartCloud Orchestrator.

PowerVC is an offering that works with IBM Power Systems running PowerVM or PowerKVM virtualization. PowerVC is complete solution that incorporates OpenStack modules Nova, Glance, Cinder, Keystone and Neutron along with additional IBM-developed services. By taking advantage of the functionality provided by the OpenStack modules, IBM can focus its development efforts on providing additional services. These include:

  • Validator provides a validation check for the PowerVC environment. This includes verification that servers and storage are supported models, checks to make sure that the VIO server release and configuration is valid, and checks to make sure storage and SAN switches are correctly configured.
  • Ego is the IBM Enterprise Grid Orchestrator for VM deployments and movement. It provides more intelligence and active scheduling than the base OpenStack scheduler.
  • RAS (Reliability, Availability, Serviceability) provides logging.
  • Health monitors the health of storage and compute resources.

PowerVC runs on a Red Hat REL 6.4 or 6.5 Linux, which can be installed on a Power Systems LPAR or an x86 server. The primary software-defined functions provided by PowerVC are compute and storage. To get started, the managed Power Systems servers must first have functional VIO servers and some initial AIX and/or Linux images installed. PowerVC can then use the IBM Virtual Server Activation Engine (VSAE) to capture installed images in Open Virtualization Format (OVF). These can then be used for future image deployments through the PowerVC user interface. Linux images can also be captured/deployed using CloudInit. For storage, PowerVC integrates with IBM SVC products, which include SVC, V3500, V3600, V5000 and V7000. PowerVC doesn’t provide software-defined networks. The VMs will make use of existing VLANs on your installed network and VIO server infrastructure.

IBM SmartCloud Orchestrator (SCO) is another IBM offering that packages OpenStack modules with significant IBM enhancements. SCO is a fully integrated solution that provides cloud services for compute, storage and network resources. It is multivendor solution that supports a variety of hypervisors, including KVM, VMware and PowerVM. An example of a driver plugin is the IBM Storage Driver for OpenStack, which lets XIV storage to be integrated into an OpenStack environment using an iSCSI connection. It interfaces with the OpenStack block storage module Cinder.

Getting Started

Up to now, the deployment of cloud computing was something that many see as a specific goal or objective. Over time, computing environments will gradually move toward a cloud-like infrastructure with software-defined compute, storage and networking. This will happen through cloud services tools, like OpenStack, which are being integrated into the offerings from a variety of companies. PowerVC and IBM SmartCloud are two good examples of this.

Charlie Cler supports customers in a solutions-architect role at Forsythe Technology Inc. He can be reached at

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