It's official. The OpenStack Essex release has hit the wire. The OpenStack 2012.1 release includes two new projects promoted to the core of OpenStack, an Identity Service (Keystone) and OpenStack Dashboard (Horizon), along with a project in "incubation" called Quantum. The phrase around this release is "production-ready."

Just in case you're not familiar with the project, here's the breakdown for this release. The core projects for OpenStack, as of Essex, are:

Demo of the new Essex version of the OpenStack Cloud Operating System from mark collier on Vimeo.

Now that we know the players, let's look at some of the features that come with the Essex release.

Now Production-Ready

Prior to this release, there've been some questions about OpenStack's suitability for deployments, even from folks in the OpenStack community.

So, a major focus for the Essex release boiled down to stability and giving organizations running OpenStack an easier time installing and configuring the software. For instance, the release notes talk about the bug fixing and attention given to stability. The Nova release is characterized as "the most production-ready release of Nova to date."

I spoke to Dan Wendlandt of Nicira about the OpenStack release and inclusion of Quantum, and he noted that the Essex release had a "focus on stability and quality and integration testing."

He noted that, during the Diablo release (the prior OpenStack release), there were complaints about features going in late and a "lack of integration testing." The OpenStack community has tightened up on that with the Essex release.

Other New Features

Stability is good, but there's more in Essex than bug fixes. Swift, for example, now supports object expiry times. This means that files can be set to expire at a certain time, making Swift useful for things like document management systems that have policy requirements for document retention.

Support has also been added for middleware modules that would allow developers to create control panels that allow uploading files directly to swift. This may be important for a range of applications and puts Swift more on par with Amazon S3.

The Nova compute stack has added role-based access control (RBAC), improved orchestration features, a number of features to bring parity between hypervisors, and improved security with a better wrapper for root permissions.

One of the changes in Nova for Essex that's not being promoted by the OpenStack folks is the removal of Hyper-V support. It will be interesting to see whether or not Microsoft or another company actually does the work to re-implement Hyper-V support in Folsom. Note that the initial work for Hyper-V in OpenStack was from Cloud.com, which was acquired by Citrix - and Citrix is unlikely to be doing much OpenStack development in the near future.

That said, there's an impressive amount of work that's gone into Nova in the Essex cycle.

Glance has also picked up RBAC, and now has image protection to keep VM images from being deleted accidentally.

In Essex, Glance has also adopted a configurable number of processes. Previously, Glance was limited to a single CPU, which could cause performance problems.

Horizon finished its incubation period in the Essex cycle and is now a full-fledged project. This means that all OpenStack implementations should now have a Web-based dashboard to manage the main OpenStack components.

Speaking of implementations, OpenStack Essex should be available for OpenSUSE 12.1 and SUSE Linux Enterprise Server (SLES) 11SP2, Fedora 16 and 17, and Ubuntu 12.04 LTS when it's released.

Maturing Quickly

Overall, OpenStack seems to be maturing quickly. That's not surprising, given the number of companies that are contributing. A note: The OpenStack site claims more than 150 companies as part of the project, but only 55 companies were identified as contributors in Essex. Still impressive, but there's obviously some dead weight as well.

The next big piece for OpenStack is Quantum, the virtual network service for OpenStack that will supplant Nova's limited networking features. This is a big one for enterprises that have complicated networking setups.

Much like Linux a decade (or more) ago, open source cloud stacks are still maturing. As Wendlandt mentioned when I talked to him about Quantum and the Essex release, companies are not so much betting on the current state of OpenStack as the state in which they expect it to be in a year or two from now.

It will be interesting to see whether Essex is a release that will drive companies outside the OpenStack community to adopt it. From all appearances, it's come a long way.