The open-source Apache CloudStack platform is getting a new look — an updated user interface that became generally available in the 4.15 release on Jan. 19.
Apache CloudStack is an infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) technology that has its roots in technology vendor Cloud.com, which in 2010 was acquired by Citrix, which in turn contributed the technology to the Apache Software Foundation in 2012. Apache CloudStack 4.15 is the first update since version 4.14 was released in May 2020 and provides users with a number of new features, among the most noticeable being the new default user interface.
"The existing UI was starting to get dated in design and difficult to maintain when adding new features," Giles Sirett, member of the Apache CloudStack Project Management Committee (PMC), told ITPro Today.
Sirett is also CEO of CloudStack integration vendor ShapeBlue, which is based in the UK and has global operations. Sirett noted that the while the new user interface is a positive development, the paradox for Apache CloudStack as a technology is it is mainly accessed via its API and command-line interface (CLI), so a lot of users, operators and many in the development community don’t place much emphasis on UI development. That said, CloudStack is usually adopted as a turnkey IaaS platform and is increasingly being used by more traditional enterprises, according to Sirett. To that end, a Special Interest Group (SIG) was formed in 2019 within the CloudStack community code-named Project Primate with the goal of improving the user interface for both administrators and users.
Storage Improvements in CloudStack 4.15
Key areas of improvements in Apache CloudStack 4.15 beyond the user interface include changes to the secondary storage subsystem. Secondary storage is lower performance, cheaper storage that cloud operators use for static artifacts such as snapshots and templates, Sirett said.
"The sheer scale of many CloudStack production environments means that their secondary storage pools can often be in the order of petabytes," he said. "The new secondary storage management tools in CloudStack 4.15 are designed to allow operators to more efficiently manage that data at scale."
Sirett added that there is also a lot of work going on with the primary storage subsystem, including some tight integration with Dell EMC PowerFlex hardware. However, those updates were not completed in time for the 4.15 release.
Umanaging Guest VMs with CloudStack
Among the other noteworthy updates in Apache CloudStack 4.15 is a feature that enables the "unmanaging" of guest virtual machines (VMs).
"We are currently seeing a lot of organizations exploiting the fact that CloudStack is hypervisor-agnostic to allow them to remove vendor lock-in from specific virtualization vendors," Sirett said. "A few releases ago, we added an ingestion tool that allowed enterprises to point at an entire VMware vCenter environment and lift it into CloudStack in one hit."
With the unmanaging guest VMs feature, Sirett said it's now possible to reverse the ingestion process and have specific virtual machines exported from CloudStack.
What's Next for CloudStack
Looking forward, the next major release of Apache CloudStack will be version 4.16, which is targeted for the third quarter.
For the 4.16 release, there is a lot of work going into the CloudStack networking model, particularly around letting service provider operators use service-chained appliances from different vendors, Sirett said.
"Longer term, Apache CloudStack will always want to maintain its tightly defined scope," he said. "Our role is to orchestrate infrastructure, abstract it and present that as an API/UI — so don’t expect any big 'wow' moments with Apache CloudStack."