Understanding OpenStack

OpenStack® gives you a modular cloud infrastructure that runs off standard hardware—letting you deploy the tools you need, when you need them, all from one place.

What is OpenStack?

OpenStack is a combination of open source tools (known as projects) that use pooled virtual resources to build and manage private and public clouds. Six of these projects handle the core cloud-computing services of compute, networking, storage, identity, and image services, while more than a dozen optional projects can be bundled together to create unique, deployable clouds.

Think about it like this. In virtualization, resources such as storage, CPU, and RAM are abstracted from a variety of vendor-specific programs and split by a hypervisor before being distributed as needed. OpenStack uses a consistent set of application programming interfaces (APIs) to abstract those virtual resources 1 step further into discrete pools used to power standard cloud computing tools that administrators and users interact with directly.

Depending on what resources you're virtualizing and the types of cloud services you need, different projects can be deployed using OpenStack’s modular architecture—letting you design a unique cloud platform that's optimized for a distributed systems environment. It's the foundation of Red Hat® Cloud Infrastructure, a solution which allows your enterprise to break free from the restrictions of traditional infrastructure.

Isn't OpenStack just a virtualization management platform?

Not quite. There are a lot of similarities, but they're not the same.

Yes, OpenStack and virtualization management platforms both sit on top of virtualized resources and can discover, report, and automate processes in vendor-disparate environments.

But while virtualization management platforms make it easier to manipulate the features and functions of virtual resources, OpenStack actually uses the virtual resources to run a combination of tools. These tools create a cloud environment that meets the National Institute of Standards and Technology's 5 criteria of cloud computing: a network, pooled resources, a user interface, provisioning capabilities, and automatic resource control/allocation.1


What can I do with OpenStack?

Private cloud distributions run on OpenStack are better than DIY approaches—and there's proof. 451 Research found that it only takes a 6% increase in the number of virtual machines—facilitated by OpenStack's easy installation and management—for OpenStack distributions to become significantly more valuable than private clouds created on your own.

451 Research found that using OpenStack for network functions virtualization (NFV)—which involves separating a network's key functions so they can be distributed among environments—could very well be the next big thing. It's on the agenda of virtually every global communications services provider surveyed by the analyst.

OpenStack is the leading open source option for building public cloud environments. Whether your company is a multibillion-dollar publicly traded enterprise or a startup, you can use OpenStack to set up public clouds with services that compete with major public cloud providers.

OpenStack is a stable foundation for public and private clouds. Containers speed up application delivery while simplifying application deployment and management. Running containers on OpenStack can scale containers' benefits from single, siloed teams to enterprise-wide interdepartmental operations.

What makes up OpenStack?

OpenStack's architecture is made up of numerous open source projects. There are 6 stable, core services that handle compute, networking, storage, identity, and images while more than a dozen optional ones vary in developmental maturity. Those 6 core services are the infrastructure that allows the rest of the projects to handle dashboarding, orchestration, bare-metal provisioning, messaging, containers, and governance.

Nova is a full management and access tool to OpenStack compute resources—handling scheduling, creation, and deletion.

Neutron connects the networks across other OpenStack services.

Swift is a highly fault-tolerant object storage service that stores and retrieves unstructured data objects using a RESTful API.

Cinder provides persistent block storage accessible through a self-service API.

Keystone authenticates and authorizes all OpenStack services. It's also the endpoint catalog for all services.

Glance stores and retrieves virtual machine disk images from a variety of locations.

Why are there so many distributions of OpenStack?

Though many vendors provide their own OpenStack variations, it's an open source project managed by The OpenStack Foundation. That means that even though there are a bunch of different distributions on the market, they're all derived from the same source code. It also means that you could download, install, and manage an entire OpenStack-based cloud deployment using in-house resources.

But, integrating the project's dozens of components can be tricky, especially given their rapid release cycles. Many companies partner with organizations experienced with OpenStack to help them choose the right tools, optimize hardware resources, and keep operations online.

5 things to know about OpenStack

  1. Standardization is its foundation
  2. It offers less cost and more innovation
  3. It needs industry-wide support
  4. It's sparking internal process changes
  5. It's an evolving technology

Why choose Red Hat?

We think you should start where OpenStack began and continues to grow: in open source code. OpenStack was born in open source communities. Bringing open source to enterprises—and training those enterprises to take full advantage of OpenStack’s features—is what we do best. And we're one of the top corporate contributors to the OpenStack community.

The entire cloud should be open—no lock-in to proprietary code. That's reflected in everything we do. We work closely with cloud providers so you get peak performance no matter what infrastructure you deploy on. This also creates more secure clouds, since organizations and companies across the public and private sectors can test and improve infrastructural security without being bottlenecked by code owned by a sole vendor.

All the pieces you need to start using OpenStack


This is it—a scalable and secure foundation to build and manage an open private or public cloud. Benefit from open source project innovation while maintaining a stable platform for production deployment.


This is what makes OpenStack so effective at creating, deploying, and supporting cloud environments. This is the native operating system OpenStack is designed to run on.

The OpenStack® Word Mark and OpenStack Logo are either registered trademarks / service marks or trademarks / service marks of the OpenStack Foundation, in the United States and other countries and are used with the OpenStack Foundation's permission. We are not affiliated with, endorsed or sponsored by the OpenStack Foundation or the OpenStack community.

There's a lot more to do with OpenStack