Raise a Stein for OpenStack: Latest release brings faster containers, cloud resource management

But adds just one new module, and even that is more of a transplant

The latest OpenStack release is out in the wilds. Codenamed Stein, the platform update is said to allow for much faster Kubernetes deployments, new IP and bandwidth management features, and introduces a software module focused on cloud resource management – Placement.

In keeping with the tradition, the 19th version of the platform was named Stein after Steinstraße or "Stein Street" in Berlin, where the OpenStack design summit for the corresponding release took place in 2018.

OpenStack is not a single piece of software, but a framework consisting of an integration engine and nearly 50 interdependent modules or projects, each serving a narrowly defined purpose, like Nova for compute, Neutron for networking and Magnum for container orchestration, all linked together using APIs.

With the latest release, Magnum adds improvements that considerably reduce the time it needs to launch a Kubernetes cluster, from about 10 to 12 minutes per node (because it was done sequentially) to five minutes – irrespective of the number of nodes.

A large portion of the work on Magnum was done by a team from CERN – the European physics laboratory is a massive fan of OpenStack, running the cloud platform across 300,000 cores, with more than 36,000 VMs and 445 Kubernetes clusters in operation (as of February 2019).

"CERN is using OpenStack to drive 99 per cent of their compute needs," Thierry Carrez, veep of engineering at the OpenStack Foundation, told The Reg. "They are using both VMs and Kubernetes clusters, depending on the workload, and depending on where exactly the task sits."

The module should find plenty of uses outside of the scientific community - according to the 2018 OpenStack User Survey, 61 per cent of organisations that deploy the open source cloud platform also use Kubernetes.

The open source community also offers a "cloud provider" implementation for Kubernetes, which defines the shared interfaces specific to OpenStack and enables users to launch a fully integrated cluster using functionality from modules like Manila (shared filesystem), Cinder (block storage) and Keystone (authentication).

"There's been a lot of work inside the Kubernetes community to support the OpenStack cloud provider – it's tested and undergoes continuous integration," explained Mohammed Naser, CEO of cloud provider Vexxhost, which specialises in OpenStack.

"And this cloud provider pretty much allows [you] to bridge your Kubernetes clusters with the OpenStack cloud that's beneath it, really similar to how GKE [Google Kubernetes Engine] or PKS [Pivotal Container Service] allow you to provision a Kubernetes cluster that is fully integrated with the underlying cloud."

Neutron, one of the oldest OpenStack modules, has received features that improve container operations, including faster bulk port creation. It has also got a new API extension for dynamic management of segment type ranges and can now set minimum required bandwidth for specific hosts.

A chunk of Nova, OpenStsack's compute service, has been surgically removed to create Placement, the only new OpenStack module to arrive in Stein. Placement is a REST API stack and data model used to track cloud resource inventories and usage – everything from compute, to storage, to your limited cache of IP addresses.

"As cloud gets more capabilities and more differentiation in the kinds of storage that’s available, or the kinds of processors for computing, being able to do more specific scheduling and [track] resource usage is something that has been a real desire, especially for machine learning and telecoms," Jonathan Bryce, executive director of the OSF, told The Reg. "What the community decided to do a couple of releases ago was to turn that function into its own service, so that it can be used separately from Nova."

Other changes in the release include:

  • Better deployment templates for Ironic, the bare metal provisioning service;
  • Blazar, the resource reservation service, has a new resource allocation API;
  • Sahara, a project for provisioning Hadoop clusters, has been refactored into a "core+plugins" architecture for ease of use;
  • Keystone, the OpenStack identity service, has introduced multi-factor authentication receipts;
  • Kolla, which provides production-ready containers, can now perform full and incremental backups of the MariaDB database.

"Clearly, the style of improvements that we're seeing these days with OpenStack is no longer about many new features, but more about operational concerns that are down to development, and improvements that are being called for by people who are already operating the software," Carrez admitted.

The OSF said its software powers more than 75 public cloud data centres and thousands of private clouds. Vexxhost has become one of the first cloud vendors to deploy the new release. "The worn-out complaint that 'OpenStack is hard' simply isn't the case anymore, and as proof we've already delivered Stein to our production customers using OpenStack Ansible, giving them the software's new features and capabilities on launch day," Naser said.

You can see the full breakdown of all new features in Stein here.

The release will be discussed at length later this month, at the upcoming Open Infrastructure Summit in Denver.

It will include a session which will, for the first time, reveal how Blizzard Entertainment used OpenStack to support Overwatch – at one point, the most popular video game in the world. ®

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