On April 17, the OpenStack Foundation announced the availability of the ninth release of OpenStack, the open source, Infrastructure as a Service collaboration. Codenamed Icehouse, the release boasts 350 new features, 2,902 bug fixes and contributions from over 1200 contributors. Icehouse focuses on maturity and stability as illustrated by its attention to continuous integration (CI) systems, which featured the testing of 53 third party hardware and software systems on OpenStack Icehouse. The hallmark of the Icehouse release consists of its support for rolling upgrades in OpenStack Compute Nova. With Icehouse's support for rolling upgrades, VMs need not be shut down in order to install upgrades. Icehouse "enables deployers to upgrade controller infrastructure first, and subsequently upgrade individual compute nodes without requiring downtime of the entire cloud to complete." As a result, upgrades can be completed with decreased system downtime, thereby rendering OpenStack significantly more appealing to enterprise customers that can afford little to no downtime for mission-critical applications and services. Icehouse also features a "discoverability" enhancement to OpenStack Swift that allows admins to obtain data about which features are supported in a specific cluster by means of an API call. On the networking front, OpenStack now contains new drivers and support for the IBM SDN-VE, Nuage, OneConvergence and OpenDaylight software defined networking protocols. Meanwhile, OpenStack Keystone identity management allows users to leverage federated authentication for "multiple identity providers" such that customers can now use the same authentication credentials for public and private OpenStack clouds.
In total, Icehouse constitutes an impressive release that focuses on improving existing functionality as opposed to deploying a slew of Beta-level functionalities. OpenStack's press release claims "the voice of the user" is reflected in Icehouse but the real defining feature of this release is a tighter integration of OpenStack's computing, storage, networking, identity and orchestration functionality. Just when Google Compute Engine, Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure looked set to turn the battle for IaaS market share into a three horse race with some impressive functionality announcements and price cuts, the release of OpenStack Icehouse serves as a staunch reminder that OpenStack continues to innovate aggressively and systematically in its bid to assert feature parity with respect to proprietary IaaS platforms. This release, for example, announced three incubator projects in the form of OpenStack Sahara, OpenStack Ironic and OpenStack Marconi. OpenStack Sahara enables the provisioning of Hadoop clusters within an OpenStack environment, OpenStack Ironic provisions bare metal physical servers as opposed to virtual machines and OpenStack Marconi aims to deliver "highly-available messaging to web applications that run on OpenStack" in ways analogous to the Amazon Simple Queue Service (SQS). The bottom line here is that OpenStack is rapidly catching up to its competitors while making a compelling case for inter-operability given the volume of contributions from Red Hat, IBM, HP, Rackspace, Mirantis, SUSE, OpenStack Foundation, eNovance, VMware and Intel in the Icehouse release. The key thing OpenStack needs now is more production-grade deployments and case studies of customer success that compel even more innovation and credibility within the IaaS space.