OpenStack or Kubernetes

OpenStack or Kubernetes

When considering a cloud deployment, the choice of cloud architecture is critical for the success of your project. OpenStack and Kubernetes are popular choices for cloud applications, but which technology is the best fit for your individual use case? Learn about the differences between OpenStack and Kubernetes and for which use cases they are great.

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What is OpenStack?

OpenStack is an open source, enterprise-grade software project for creating a private cloud for offering virtual machines and cloud storage. OpenStack also has several add-ons for providing other cloud services beyond virtual machines, like databases-as-a-service, load balancers-as-a-service, and container orchestration.

If you want to learn more about OpenStack, check out our article on “What is OpenStack?”

What is Kubernetes?

Kubernetes is an open source, enterprise container orchestration platform. Kubernetes is used to deploy containerized applications with self-healing, automation, high-availability, and dynamic deployments. Containerized applications are applications that are developed to run inside of Docker, Podman, or other container technologies instead of directly on servers.

Our support center has an excellent introduction to Kubernetes if you would like to find out more.

Do I use OpenStack or Kubernetes?

OpenStack and Kubernetes are actually suited for different use cases, but they have lots of similar features and functionality. The key to deciding which one to use is understanding your use case and your skill level. The following questions should help you decide which cloud solution is a good fit for your business needs.

Are my applications containerized?

This question is probably the most important one to ask yourself when deciding whether to use OpenStack or Kubernetes. If your applications are not containerized, you are not going to really be able to use Kubernetes. If you currently deploy your applications to traditional dedicated servers, virtual private servers, or virtual machines, OpenStack will likely be a better fit for you because its main purpose is providing a flexible platform for provisioning and managing virtual machines and bare metal (i.e. dedicated) server resources.

Containerizing your applications can be difficult and time-consuming to achieve. Some applications may not ever be able to be containerized because of their requirements or architecture. Making an application run in a container is a critical part of getting the most value out of Kubernetes and cloud platforms, but you often have to rewrite your application entirely to work in a container.

Are my deployments automated?

Automation is extremely important for getting the most value out of your cloud platform. Kubernetes is arguably meant to be used primarily with well-automated deployments and infrastructure. Many of its features are specifically designed to support and empower you to deliver dynamic, scaleable, highly available services quickly and efficiently, but you have to have your infrastructure and architecture automated and designed to utilize these features.

OpenStack has its own powerful automation features and support for popular automation tools like Terraform and Ansible, but it has much better support for manually managed and deployed applications and infrastructure.

If you do not have good automation workflows and pipelines already or are looking to work on developing those things, OpenStack is probably the right fit for you. OpenStack will give you the best of both worlds – you can manually provision highly available and flexible resources and start using automation tools to handle your deployments for you.

What is your team’s skill level?

Kubernetes is a powerful, but complex tool for managing and running your applications and infrastructure. It is extremely well-suited for teams that are “cloud native” and already understand and regularly use containerization, continuous integration, continuous deployment, automated testing and quality assurance, canary deployments, version control, and other advanced technologies and skills for the cloud. Kubernetes can be significantly more flexible and adaptable than OpenStack, and Kubernetes can extend these benefits through its powerful automation.

OpenStack, on the other hand, is a much better tool for teams that are coming from more traditional, non-cloud platforms and techniques. As discussed earlier in this article, if you are used to manually provisioning servers, downloading your code, and configuring your applications you will find OpenStack to be a much smoother transition into cloud technologies and cloud architectures than Kubernetes. If you purchase your OpenStack private cloud from an OpenStack Powered provider, you can quickly and easily enjoy all of the functionality and features of OpenStack without having to worry about the complexity and difficulty of building your own private cloud from scratch.

Many teams from non-cloud backgrounds have found great success using OpenStack as an introduction to cloud concepts and doing their work the “cloud native” way. OpenStack gives teams the right mix of tools and capabilities to update their skills for the 21st century as technology shifts more and more into the cloud.

OpenStack and Kubernetes

OpenStack is actually a popular platform for deploying Kubernetes for teams that cannot or do not want to use the large Kubernetes platforms of public cloud providers like Google or Amazon. There are several projects that automate deploying Kubernetes on top of OpenStack, like OpenShift, OpenStack Magnum, KubeSpray, and Airship.

Many teams that do use Kubernetes choose to deploy Kubernetes onto OpenStack so they can enjoy all the great features and automation of Kubernetes for their “cloud native” applications while using OpenStack for their non-cloud applications. 

OpenStack can be a great path for you to start becoming more “cloud-native” and to start adapting your processes and applications to work with cloud technologies and cloud architectures. Once you are comfortable with OpenStack and the cloud, you can start to introduce Kubernetes and more advanced cloud techniques and automation into your infrastructure.


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