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Containers and Kubernetes ease OpenStack lifecycle management pain

OpenStack has turned to Docker containers to help simplify its lifecycle management, as it also works to find ways to run containers itself.

OpenStack proponents are embracing containers and container orchestration to help smooth out the lifecycle management...

challenges that come with the open source cloud computing platform.

Using Kubernetes -- as Mirantis Inc. has recently done to run its OpenStack lifecycle management tool, Fuel, in Docker containers -- reflects a broader acknowledgment of the role containers will play in the future management and evolution of OpenStack, running key pieces of it in containers to better handle release management and technology evolution.

Today, enterprises are mostly running containers inside or on top of virtual machines, which gives enterprises the speed and simplicity of containers, coupled with the familiarity of VMs. That puts OpenStack in a good place, because it can manage VMs and containers, said Jay Lyman, research manager for cloud management and containers at 451 Research.

More enterprises aim to function like web-scale data center operators, and both will want to use system containers and run containers on bare metal, Lyman said.

With OpenStack moving into containers, it will be interesting how OpenStack handles compute payloads in containers, since that is where developers are headed with modern applications, said Al Hilwa, program director at IDC.

Refactoring Fuel into containers orchestrated by Kubernetes is designed to address "the most acute pain point" with OpenStack -- keeping it up and running, patching it and updating its fabric in a nondisruptive way, said Boris Renski, co-founder of Mirantis, based in Sunnyvale, Calif.

The work was all done upstream in the OpenStack and Kubernetes communities, and it will be available as open source through an Apache license, Renski said, and will be included in Mirantis OpenStack 10, which will be available in early 2017.

OpenStack providers agree on architecture changes

Other OpenStack players said they have employed a similar architecture -- putting OpenStack lifecycle management in containers using orchestration -- to help ease operations.

Rackspace Inc., which recently marked 1 billion server hours operating production-ready OpenStack clouds, similarly made an architectural change to a container-based framework with its flavor of OpenStack, with version 9 in 2014, said Bryan Thompson, general manager of OpenStack private cloud at Rackspace, a managed cloud computing company based in San Antonio. Deploying in Canonical LXD containers helps reduce the complexity of OpenStack deployments and scale in a repeatable and consistent way. It also allows Rackspace to optimize OpenStack for certain workloads, and scale Glance and Neutron independently, and then tear them down.

Using a container framework helps reduce the barrier to entry and adoption of OpenStack, and it reduces how "invasive" an upgrade can be, Thompson said.

IBM has worked with the Kubernetes community and owns Blue Box Group Inc., a managed private cloud provider built on OpenStack. The company has made core contributions to Mesos and Kubernetes as part of its work, trying to integrate the best characteristics of a hybrid cloud, said Todd Moore, vice president of open technology at IBM.

For now, containers and VMs together

Moving Fuel to Kubernetes will help solve "day-two operations problems" using standards-based technology, such Docker and Kubernetes, but it will also allow users to manage VMs on OpenStack or use the native Kubernetes API to manage containers.

Since containers are relatively new and the technology is still nascent for most enterprises, most cloud-native systems are mixed workloads systems, and using Kubernetes for OpenStack will allow users to run hybrid VM container systems on the OpenStack-Kubernetes substrate, Renski said.

There's extensibility there, where OpenStack can support all these things. And this helps them more fully support containers, as well.
Jay Lymanresearch manager, 451 Research

Nevertheless, running Fuel with Kubernetes highlights how OpenStack will begin to compete with container platforms and lightweight operating systems, such as CoreOS, according to Lyman.

"There's extensibility there, where OpenStack can support all these things. And this helps them more fully support containers, as well," Lyman said.

Kubernetes wasn't Mirantis' only option for container orchestration, Lyman said, noting that CoreOS incorporates Kubernetes in Tectonic, and there is significant user interest in Mesophere and Amazon Web Services' EC2 Container Service.

The greatest benefit to using Kubernetes is increased efficiency for IT operations teams who will be able to manage more servers, VMs and infrastructure with fewer people, he said.

"A lot of enterprises are looking where they need to scale to, and they are realizing they can't have a team of IT ops folks," he said.

Robert Gates covers data centers, data center strategies, server technologies, converged and hyper-converged infrastructure, and open source operating systems for SearchDataCenter. Follow him on Twitter @RBGatesTT or email him at rgates@techtarget.com.

Next Steps

Learn how OpenStack uses containers

When it comes to container orchestration, Kubernetes comes out on top

Discover which container orchestration tools work with OpenStack

Dig Deeper on Emerging IT workload types

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Besides using containers and Kubernetes, what would be another way to ease OpenStack lifecycle management challenges?
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Allowing someone else to manage it for you (e.g. Cisco MetaPod, Rackspace Private Cloud, etc.) 
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Note that LXD focuses on system (or infrastructure) containers, whereas Docker in general is more of an app container, hence the use of LXD rather than libcontainer with OpenStack deployments.
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