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What is OpenStack?

OpenStack is an open-source cloud platform that manages distributed compute, network and storage resources, aggregates them into pools, and allows on-demand provisioning of virtual resources through a self-service portal.

OpenStack is a cost-effective extension of the existing public cloud infrastructure and a reasonable alternative to proprietary virtualisation solutions. It enables organisations to optimise their cloud costs and service providers to build an infrastructure competitive to hyperscalers.

Move from VMware to OpenStack

OpenStack ensures TCO reduction

Since more and more organisations are using hybrid multi-cloud architecture, implementing an own cloud is a natural step once the number of workloads grows. Although CapEx costs associated with an initial deployment of OpenStack are high, its OpEx costs are significantly lower compared to hyperscalers. As a result, the aggregated total cost of ownership (TCO) is lower when running workloads in the long term and at scale. This allows businesses to optimise their cloud maintenance costs and service providers to build an infrastructure competitive to hyperscalers.

Learn how much you can save with OpenStack ›

OpenStack is more than virtualisation

Unlike traditional virtualisation management platforms, such as VMware vSphere or Red Hat Virtualization Manager, OpenStack is a fully functional cloud platform as defined by the National Institute of Standards and Technology. This means that OpenStack basically resembles the behaviour of public clouds. Users can request compute, network and storage resources on-demand through a self-service portal. Although they are provided in the form of virtual machines, virtual networks and virtual disks, exactly as in the traditional virtualisation management platforms, they are defined through the APIs. For businesses, the ability to define virtualised resources programmatically enables fast-paced infrastructure automation and cloud-style operations.

But there are more differences between OpenStack and traditional virtualisation management platforms. Refer to the following table for more information:

OpenStack Virtualisation management platforms
TCO Low High
Resource management methodology “Cattle” “Pets”
Resource provisioning mechanism Template-based Image-based
Hardware Commodity Specialised
Scalability Scale-out Scale-up
Workload Stateless Stateful
Open source Yes Mostly no

Learn how to prepare for a migration ›

How does OpenStack work?

OpenStack is an open-source cloud platform designed to manage distributed compute, network and storage resources in the data centre. In principle, OpenStack agregates physical resources into one big pool and allocates virtual resources out of this pool to users who can request them on-demand through a self-service portal or application programming interfaces (APIs). But OpenStack itself does not handle virtualisation. Instead, it leverages the existing virtualisation technologies. Therefore, OpenStack is more like a wrapper around traditional virtualisation tools, enabling cloud-native capabilities.

OpenStack components

OpenStack is based on a modular architecture. There are six primary OpenStack components that handle compute, network and storage functions for on-demand VM provisioning. A bunch of other components enable additional features, such as dashboarding, bare metal provisioning, containers, secrets management and telemetry. In order to handle this complexity, organisations often use OpenStack Charms for fully automated OpenStack installation and post-deployment operations.


Nova is the primary compute engine of OpenStack, responsible for instance scheduling, creation and termination. In order to ensure widespread interoperability, Nova supports a wide range of hypervisors, including QEMU/KVM, Hyper-V, VMware ESXi and Xen.


Glance is an image service, responsible for uploading, managing and retrieving cloud images for instances running on OpenStack. Glance works across a variety of stores to provide the most convenient location of images for organisations.


Neutron provides network connectivity between OpenStack instances, enabling multi-VM deployments. For this purpose, Neutron uses various software-defined networking (SDN) technologies, including Open Virtual Network (OVN), Open vSwitch (OVS), Juniper Contrail, Cisco ACI, etc.


Cinder is a storage component that is responsible for provisioning, management and termination of persistent block devices. Those can be later attached to the instances running on OpenStack to enable persistent block storage.


Swift is another storage component that provides a highly available and scalable object storage service similar to Amazon S3. It enables storing and retrieving unstructured data objects using a RESTful API for both OpenStack services and instances running on the cloud.


Keystone serves as an identity service, providing authentication and authorization functions for the users in order to enable multi-tenancy. Keystone can be easily integrated with external identity systems, such as lightweight directory access protocol (LDAP) or Active Directory.

Companies involved in OpenStack

OpenStack was originally launched in July 2010 by Rackspace and NASA as an open-source initiative that combined NASA's Nebula platform and Rackspace's Cloud Files platform.

Today, hundreds of companies contribute to OpenStack code, with many more playing a part in the broader community.

Canonical is the founding member of the foundation, official maintainer and publisher of OpenStack packages on Ubuntu, leader of the OpenStack Charms project and one of the biggest contributors to OpenStack all the time.

Who uses OpenStack?

There are thousands of OpenStack users across a broad range of industries. Particularly favoured for its stability, security and interoperability. Apart from telecommunications service providers, financial institutions, enterprises, governments, militaries, universities and research institutions all over the world, further adoption of OpenStack has been also seen in healthcare, retail and industrial.

In 2023, KADOKAWA Connected — a subsidiary of leading Japanese media conglomerate KADOKAWA Corporation, delivering digital transformation, infrastructure development, and ICT services to the wider KADOKAWA Group — engaged Canonical to build a new, open-source private cloud as a replacement for their legacy proprietary virtualisation platform.

Read the case study ›

In 2022, Firmus — Australian cloud infrastructure provider — announced that it has built an ultra-efficient and sustainable public cloud using an innovative immersion cooling solution and open-source technologies. Those included Canonical's Charmed OpenStack and Charmed Kubernetes.

Read the case study ›

In 2022, Pacific Textiles Holdings Limited — one of the world's largest fabric mills — announced that it's going to use Canonical’s Charmed OpenStack and Charmed Kubernetes to give its developers easy access to technologies like cloud-native apps, Kubernetes, AI/ML, and others alike.

Read the announcement ›

In 2022, Nayatel — one of Pakistan's leading telecom providers — announced that it completed the deployment of Pakistan’s first local public cloud. Aiming to meet the demand for a homegrown public cloud service, Nayatel partnered with Canonical to build an enterprise-grade OpenStack platform.

Read the case study ›

OpenStack is big

According to the 451 Research Market Monitor (Open Source Software, OpenStack) from September 2019, OpenStack's combined market size worldwide is $7.7B. It also continues to be one of the top three open-source projects in the world in terms of active contributions, along with the Linux kernel and Chromium. In 2020 OpenStack reached its 10-year anniversary which proves its maturity as a software project. Governed by the Open Infrastructure Foundation, more than 34,000 individual contributors and 550 companies participate in OpenStack development. It is also the most popular open-source private cloud platform and its adoption continues to grow.

What can I do with OpenStack?

Private cloud

OpenStack allows organisations to bootstrap their own private cloud infrastructure, benefitting from maximum cost optimisation in multi-cloud environments.

Read more about private clouds ›

Public cloud

Not all countries all over the world can leverage on the hyperscalers. OpenStack is an obvious choice for local service providers willing to build their own public cloud infrastructure.

Read more about public clouds ›

Telco NFV

All over the world, service providers use OpenStack as a foundation for network function virtualisation infrastructure (NFVI) implementation.

Read more about NFV ›


OpenStack can be easily extended with a container layer running on top of it for better workloads granularity as required by cloud-native applications.

Read more about containers ›

Why Canonical's Charmed OpenStack?

Wondering which OpenStack platform to choose? This is why Canonical's Charmed OpenStack is the answer:

  • Price-performance guaranteed

    Engineered for price-performance, Canonical's Charmed OpenStack delivers TCO reduction while maximising the performance of the cloud.

  • Predictable pricing structure

    Fixed-price design & delivery and per-machine support subscription ensures pricing structure transparency and enables predictable budgeting.

  • Full-stack enterprise support

    One subscription for all infrastructure components includes phone and ticket support, production-grade service level agreements (SLAs), hardening and compliance programmes.

  • Fully-managed service option

    The most cost-effective approach up to 300 nodes where the cloud is maintained and operated by Canonical’s team of experts 24x7.

  • Total bottom-up automation

    Not just OpenStack, but the entire cloud platform, including bare metal layer, is fully automated for the initial installation as well as post-deployment operations.

  • Every OpenStack version supported

    A new version of OpenStack comes every six months; Canonical provides support for all new versions within two weeks from the upstream release.

  • Clear and fully automated upgrade path

    Users can upgrade between consecutive OpenStack versions in a fully automated way, benefitting from new features brought by the latest release.

  • Interoperability across various platforms

    From hardware vendors to open source communities, Canonical cooperates with various partners to ensure platform interoperability and flexibility.

  • Up to ten years of security updates

    Canonical provides up to ten years of security updates under the Expanded Security Maintenance (ESM) programme available for enterprise customers.

Continue reading

OpenStack is easier than you thought

Looking for the most straightforward installation instructions for OpenStack?

MicroStack allows you to install a fully functional OpenStack on your workstation in just two commands. The entire process takes around twenty minutes.

Get started with OpenStack today ›

All the pieces you need to start using OpenStack

Ubuntu Server

Ubuntu is the most popular Linux distribution across public clouds, data centres, edge and IoT with a built-in security and compliance for enterprise customers.

Learn more about Ubuntu Server ›

Public cloud costs increasing?

Do not worry! Using multi-cloud architecture allows you to optimise your infrastructure costs. Our team of cloud experts will bootstrap and manage OpenStack private cloud for you.

Contact us

Further reading

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