Book Review – OpenStack Cloud Computing Cookbook

In December 2012, I participated in a contest on Scott Lowe’s blog and won a copy of Kevin Jackson’s OpenStack Cloud Computing Cookbook. I’ve been reading it to progress my OpenStack lab and have a few thoughts on it.

The most important thing to keep in mind about this book is that it is not about the design philosophy or goals of OpenStack. If you are looking for an OpenStack 101 book, this is not the one. It is very simply, a cookbook with precise recipes or tasks to set up and manage OpenStack cloud environments, and doesn’t pretend to be anything other than that. Hence, it is very difficult for it to be a meaningful and long-lasting book. This is unlikely to be on my bookshelves in a year or two. OpenStack has been evolving very rapidly and at the time the book was published, in September 2012, OpenStack came out with a new release – Folsom. The book was developed on the Essex platform, which was around April 2012. Folsom is a major release as it contains the Quantum networking component. Consequently, the book only covers Nova Networking (Chapter 10), which supports Flat networking, Flat networking with DHCP, and VLAN Manager. With, Quantum, users are presented a backend platform from which they can leverage plugins to pick network services from many vendors. Similarly, there is no mention of Cinder, the full-blown component that covers block storage. Instead, the book only talks about Nova Volumes (Chapter 8) for block storage support.

The OpenStack components present in Essex receive coverage in the following chapters:

  • Nova (Compute) – Chapters 1 (Starting) and 2 (Administering)
  • Keystone (Identity) – Chapter 3
  • Swift (Storage) – Chapters 4 (Installing), 5 (Using), and 6 (Administering)
  • Glance (Image) – Chapter 7
  • Horizon (Dashboard) – Chapter 9

Chapter 11 discusses how to provision OpenStack in Data Centers and discusses the tools and techniques for automating tasks. The absence of DevStack is notable here.

Chapters 12 and 13 cover Monitoring and Troubleshooting respectively.

Most of the 100-odd tasks are written in a three-tiered Getting ready / How to do it / How it works format. It is not a book you would read from start to finish; instead you would pick tasks that are important to you. However, though there are several screenshots and code snippets, there is not a single diagram, either block or network. This is another major shortcoming in the book. One would expect at least a few of the How it works sections to have diagrams to illustrate, conceptually, how the task was realized, such as the flow of packets between VMs in Chapter 10 (OpenStack Networking).

However, it is a good resource for monitoring and troubleshooting tasks and might serve your needs there. Otherwise, my biggest complaint of OpenStack Cloud Computing Cookbook was that it was largely obsolete on the day it was released.

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