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OpenStack gets 'Folsom' release out on time

Block storage and virty networking for cloud control freak

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The OpenStack project has delivered the promised "Folsom" release of its cloud controller on time – ahead of the OpenStack Design Summit in the middle of next month – and delivering a much-improved implementation of OpenStack that sports many features that cloud builders need.

The Folsom release had over 330 developers hammering away on the core OpenStack Nova compute and Swift object-storage facilities, as well as a swelling number of adjacent projects that have come under the OpenStack umbrella as the control freak gets more fully fleshed out.

As you can see from the release notes, there were a few tweaks for Swift, including moving efforts to provide compatibility with Amazon's S3 object storage on its AWS cloud to a different project, and some important changes for Nova, including the ability to manage Hyper-V hypervisors on x86-based server clusters, and lots of improvements to the Nova scheduler to decide what work goes where.

Interestingly, Nova now has a host aggregation feature that can look at the pools of CPUs and coprocessors in your cloud and dispatch work to the right kind of hardware within a pool. So, for example, if you have a lot of heavy calculation and the application has been updated to support GPU coprocessors, then OpenStack can sniff the GPUs out and fire up virtual machines where they are plugged in and dispatch those number-crunching applications to the nodes with the GPUs.

But the big changes in the Folsom release of OpenStack, of course, are the addition of the "Cinder" block-storage alternative to Swift, and the "Quantum" interface to manage virtual networks on clouds.

The Quantum project is driven by Nicira, a maker of the Open vSwitch virtual switch and the NVP OpenFlow controller for software-defined networks, which was acquired by VMware for $1.26bn back in July. Quantum is a generic interface that plugs into OpenStack and lets it talk to all kinds of virty networking and manage it from within OpenStack.

Quantum supports the Open vSwitch software championed by Nicira (and used by Citrix Systems inside of XenServer), the Ryu open source network operating system, bridge networking in Linux operating systems, the Nexus 1000v virtual switch from Cisco Systems, and the OpenFlow controller created by NEC. It does not yet have hooks into VMware's vSwitch virtual switch, but you can bet that now that VMware owns Nicira and is a member of OpenStack, some sort of link will be made there for customers who want vSwitch instead of Open vSwitch.

Alternatively, VMware may just move to Open vSwitch and be done with it, and the company has not said yet what the plan is.

Up until now, block storage was a feature of the Nova compute controller (nova-volume, to be precise), but with the Folsom release, block storage is being separated out and beefed up as the Cinder sub-project at OpenStack. While object file storage is important for all of the garbage we collect in our daily lives, those object file systems and the services that are provided to take advantage of them on clouds are not particularly well suited to store databases and applications.

Of course, just as servers and storage are converging, block and file storage are converging and some arrays can switch hit. In any event, OpenStack needs to be able to manage both block and object storage types.

The OpenStack Dashboard management console, Identity authentication service, and Image Service were all updated during the Folsom release, and we can expect for all of the core modules to get a lot of work as OpenStack matures, much as happened with the Linux kernel and its surrounding projects during the early years of that operating system's development.

That said, OpenStack is a control freak, not a kernel and operating system layer with apps stacked on it, as is a Linux distribution, and you have to remember that OpenStack only has 550,000 lines of code. A Windows stack of OS and apps has about 100 million lines of code, just for comparison's sake – and admitting that this is a very rough way to measure complexity.

The Folsom release is packaged up on the current 12.04 and impending 12.10 releases of Ubuntu Linux from Canonical, and in the Fedora 17 and still-percolating Fedora 18 development Linuxes from Red Hat. If you want to take it out for a spin, you can download the OpenStack components here.

The next OpenStack release, code-named "Grizzly," is expected in April 2013, and exactly what will be included in that release will be hammered out at the OpenStack Design Summit in San Diego in the middle of next month. The "Heat" cloud orchestration and "Ceilometer" metering projects have not yet been formally added to the OpenStack project, but that could happen between now and next April, as well. ®

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