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OpenStack Grizzly release pushes scalability, high availability

OpenStack Grizzly contains a laundry list of operational improvements, but will it be enough to boost enterprise deployments?

New features in OpenStack deliver sought-after capabilities, but IT pros disagree on whether the updates are enough to make the open source cloud OS ready for prime time.

The latest release of OpenStack, dubbed Grizzly, includes several incremental changes that add up to better scalability and high availability, which some attendees wanted at last year's OpenStack Summit.

On the scalability front, OpenStack Grizzly introduces a concept called Cells, which offers a way to manage a number of distributed OpenStack compute clouds under one interface.

Quantum in Grizzly has come of age.

Josh McKenty,
OpenStack foundation board member and CTO and co-founder, Piston Cloud

Decentralization of services within OpenStack clouds is also a theme with this release. A new feature called NoDB is an update to the architecture that decreases OpenStack's reliance on a central MySQL database for orchestration.

Version 3 of the Keystone identity management application programming interface (API) changes the way identity management is done so it's a more distributed series of "handshakes" rather than having to go through one centralized identity server every time. This makes interactions between services faster, and makes OpenStack more scalable, as well.

In terms of high availability, the Cinder block storage API has matured with this release, and there are now plug-ins from 10 vendors, including EMC Corp. and NetApp Inc., that allow for the creation of pools of clustered, highly available block storage.

Another API, Quantum, now offers five new plug-ins from vendors, including VMware Inc. (Nicira), Brocade, Cisco Systems Inc. and Big Switch Networks, for network virtualization.

"Quantum in Grizzly has come of age," said Josh McKenty, an OpenStack foundation board member and CTO and co-founder of Piston Cloud, an OpenStack independent software vendor. "But we need to get to the point where all plug-ins are equal citizens, and get rid of any kind of reliance on [the open virtual switch]."

Monitoring, which was another wish list item at the OpenStack summit last year, is going to have to wait till the next release and the debut of a project called Ceilometer.

Additionally, Microsoft Corp.'s Hyper-V is supported in this release. Previously, Hyper-V had been booted out of the OpenStack Foundation for a time -- but Foundation officials didn't speak in great detail about new VMware integration, which was talked up at last year's show.

Documentation, another enterprise requirement for production deployment, has improved with the publication of the OpenStack Operations Guide.

OpenStack's incremental progress

The OpenStack Foundation says there are at least a hundred production OpenStack clouds at organizations that include Best Buy and Comcast.

Meanwhile, IT pros are split on whether the Grizzly release is really a tipping point for OpenStack.

The focus on operational issues rather than brand-new features has John Treadway, vice president for Cloud Technology Partners, an IT consulting firm in Boston, convinced that OpenStack is maturing.

"Now you don't have to deal with a single point of failure in your control layer," he said. "Things like that make it safer and more robust for enterprises and service providers to deploy OpenStack."

Meanwhile, another cloud consultant, Jared Reimer, co-founder of Cascadeo Corp., an IT consulting firm located in Mercer Island, Wash., said he's heard a lot of conversation among his clients around OpenStack, but hasn't seen a lot of action in terms of actual deployments.

"Do I think OpenStack is going to be big news in the future? Yes," Reimer said. "Do I think Grizzly is big news? Honestly, no."

Don't let the bugs bite

As Grizzly comes to market, some experts are wary that the new version of the Keystone identity management API popped up relatively late in the development cycle, and point out that last time such a thing happened, the Diablo release in 2011 didn't work right out of the gate (because of a separate problem). Some changes to Quantum are also working their way through the bug fix process.

"Most of the bugs get found when the broader community is working with the product, and we're still not at a point where it's that easy to deploy where we see a whole ecosystem deploying the early betas," said Piston Cloud's McKenty.

Every change to OpenStack goes through automated testing and then human review before any changes are merged into the codebase, said Jonathan Bryce, executive director of the OpenStack Foundation.

"That's actually something that's gotten more rigorous with every release," he said.

OpenStack being an open source project means more transparency about bugs and glitches with new releases, Treadway pointed out.

"Proprietary vendors also rush things to market," he said. "Open source means you know where the risks are."

Beth Pariseau is a senior news writer for SearchCloudComputing and SearchServerVirtualization. Write to her at or follow @PariseauTT on Twitter.

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