Understanding OpenStack's Success

Its interrelated components control hardware pools of processing, storage and networking resources, all managed through a web-based dashboard, a set of command-line utilities or through a RESTful Application Program Interface (API). Even though OpenStack exports and publishes its own unique API, the project does strive to maintain compatibility with competing APIs, which include Amazon's Elastic Cloud 2 (EC2) and Swift3 (S3), and also the Google Compute Engine (GCE). The idea is to allow developers to migrate their technologies from competing ecosystems into OpenStack with little effort.

Some of the more commonly used components or modules to OpenStack include:

  • Nova (Compute): to manage both bare metal and Hypervisor image deployments.

  • Neutron (Networking): to manage networks and IP addresses.

  • Cinder (Block Storage): to manage the creation, attachment and detachment of block storage devices to computing server nodes.

  • Keystone (Identity): to enable a common authentication system for all users across the cloud.

  • Glance (Image): to manage disk and server images while also maintaining backups.

  • Swift (Object Storage): to manage object data sets across a horizontally distributed storage cluster.

  • Horizon (Dashboard): is the graphical interfaces used to manage all OpenStack cloud-based resources.

Many hardware vendors received the memo. It wouldn't take long for those same vendors to adapt their products so that they could plug into the OpenStack framework and through one or more of its supported components. For instance, block storage vendors supported Cinder, and Hypervisor-focused vendors supported Nova.

So, what is the secret to OpenStack's success? Convergence. OpenStack brought order back to almost unmanageable ecosystems. By providing a single and standardized framework, multi-vendor deployments now are able to coexist within the same network. OpenStack's popularity should come as no surprise. I predict more success for this project and look forward seeing it thrive in the industry.


Petros Koutoupis is a software developer at IBM for its Cloud Object Storage division (formerly Cleversafe). He is also the creator and maintainer of the RapidDisk Project. Petros has worked in the data storage industry for more than a decade.