OpenStack Havana Heats Up the Cloud

By Sean Michael Kerner  |  Posted 2013-10-17

OpenStack Havana Heats Up the Cloud

The open-source OpenStack Foundation is out today with its latest milestone release, code-named Havana. The OpenStack Havana release includes new projects for cloud orchestration and monitoring and improves on existing compute, storage and networking capabilities.

Increased participation in the open-source project has led to new features being contributed and developed, Jonathan Bryce, executive director of the OpenStack Foundation, explained to eWEEK. OpenStack got its start three years ago as a joint effort of NASA and Rackspace and has since grown to include the participation and support of such leading IT vendors as IBM, HP, Cisco and Dell, among others. For the Havana release, more than 900 contributors from 145 organizations were part of the development effort.

One of the key new additions in the OpenStack Havana release is the inclusion of the Heat cloud orchestration project. Bryce explained that Heat enables a cloud administrator to describe a set of services that need to be deployed.

"Heat lets an application describe what it needs at a high level within a Heat descriptor file," Bryce said. "Heat descriptor files can then be fed into an OpenStack cloud to provision the required resources."

Different groups have already begun to experiment with Heat templates to rapidly provision and deploy cloud services, he said.

"You basically get a file, it tells you what software images are needed, identifies what installation commands must be issued, and it's all packaged up in a single file," Bryce said. "So you can now have a set of standard OpenStack clouds, take a Heat template, and you can now deploy the same application across all the clouds—it's pretty powerful."


Another new project that is being included in the OpenStack Havana release is the Ceilometer monitoring effort. OpenStack already had a dashboard component, known as Horizon, that provided visibility into cloud operations. Bryce explained that Ceilometer is a totally new service that is exposed right into the Horizon dashboard.

"What Ceilometer provides is a very high level of visibility into storage, compute and networking metrics," Bryce said. "It aggregates all the information so an administrator can query an entire OpenStack cloud for information."

With all that data, an enterprise or service provider can then pull usage data to bill users and customers for the services they have used. Going a step further, Ceilometer data can be pulled into the Heat orchestration system to enable auto-scaling of an OpenStack cloud based on usage and demand.

"Ceilometer provides a lot of really useful information that ties into many other systems," Bryce said.


OpenStack Havana also introduces support for an increasingly popular form of virtualization known as Containers. Until now, OpenStack supported virtualization hypervisor technology including KVM, Xen, VMware ESX and Microsoft's Hyper-V.

"Containers provide a less segregated virtualization environment that is more efficient and requires less system overhead than hypervisors," Bryce said. "Containers also offer the promise of improved performance."

OpenStack Havana Heats Up the Cloud

OpenStack Havana supports the Docker container technology, which includes tools that enable administrators to easily move workloads around a system. Docker is backed by commercial vendor dotCloud and recently entered into a development partnership to support Red Hat-based Linux platforms.

"Docker is a portable application runtime that can … sometimes handle the underlying platform differences a little more smoothly than some of the other virtualization environments," Bryce explained.


With OpenStack Havana, a critical step forward is being made to secure the open-source cloud. For the first time, the project is including widespread support for Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) encryption for data transport.

As to why OpenStack is just now including SSL support, which is an industry standard used to support security, Bryce said it was a matter of timing and maturity.

"The focus was first on getting functionally running through unencrypted HTTP and not necessarily determining how to run it on SSL," Bryce said. "Some people saw SSL as less of a priority as they were running on private networks that already had security measures in place."

What's Next?

Although OpenStack has enjoyed great success in its brief three-year life, challenges still remain. Mark Collier, chief operating officer of the OpenStack Foundation, told eWEEK that education is a core focus to help continue growing OpenStack cloud deployments. One of the OpenStack Foundation's education efforts got started in September, with the debut of a new OpenStack training marketplace.

"From the very beginning, we have based our community on sharing code and sharing knowledge," Collier said. "As OpenStack adoption grows, it becomes increasingly important to share knowledge all the way to the end-user level."

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at eWEEK and Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist.


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