CloudStack vs OpenStack: Know the Difference


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Today, every organization is using a cloud provider and its cloud resources. Managing cloud resources is not an easy task and that is why cloud management platforms are used. When we talk about cloud management platforms (CMP), the comparison of CloudStack and OpenStack is obvious. OpenStack and CloudStack are the two most popular cloud management platforms which many organizations use. In this article, I will compare CloudStack and OpenStack and list their key differences. 

Before that, let us understand CloudStack and OpenStack briefly.

What is CloudStack?

Apache CloudStack is one of the most popular open-source cloud management platforms. It is a Java-based solution that helps multiple organizations with their cloud computing requirements. It comes with a user-friendly web-based interface and simple APIs. The service providers use Apache CloudStack to power their infrastructure as a service. It supports VMware, Microsoft HyperV hypervisors, Citrix XenServer and KVM. Organizations with modest goals and resources often prefer Apache CloudStack.

The key components of CloudStack are the cloud management service, cloud usage service and the UI portal. Cloud management service is used to orchestrate virtual machine deployment, cloud management, user management and volume provisioning. Cloud usage service calculates the usage of cloud resources periodically for all the user accounts managed by CloudStack. And the user interface portal of CloudStack is used by users to Sign Up/ Sign In. The portal supports multiple roles like root admin, domain admin and user role. The root admin has all the permissions to manage the physical and virtual infrastructure.

Let me now tell you the main features and benefits of Apache CloudStack, making it a compelling and demanding solution in today’s market. Every organization wants to reduce their IT complexity, cost, time, and CloudStack helps them. With CloudStack, you get all the tools necessary to deploy the projects without worrying about the IT resources, software and hardware. You get all the infrastructure with CloudStack so that you can focus on your application deployment. You can select the computing power, storage capacity and networking services required for your application from the web portal for CloudStack. It will deploy the infrastructure with the specifications given.

Benefits of CloudStack:

  • Focuses on solving business problems
  • Faster infrastructure delivery
  • Provides better resource allocation and usage visibility
  • Easy to use interface
  • Well documents and extensible APIs which also supports Amazon EC2 and S3 APIs
  • Records every interaction of CloudStack APIs and UI as events
  • Built-in support for LDAP authentication

What is OpenStack?

OpenStack is a set of software tools for building and managing cloud computing platforms for both public as well as private clouds. This is also known as infrastructure as a service because it has delivered the infrastructure on top of whatever applications and whatever operating systems that you want to deploy, it is entirely your own choice. OpenStack is a cross-platform software and supports both Linux and Windows platforms. Earlier it supported only Linux platforms, but the contributors and the developers came together and developed OpenStack for Windows.

It is a free open standard cloud computing platform. You can check and deploy the modules in your production environment. It is very suitable for commodity hardware, so the infrastructure here is not very costly. People usually want to go with OpenStack because they don’t want to spend a lot of money on other technologies like VMware or AWS. It also has the same model of the pay-as-you-go. You will provide an OpenStack infrastructure to your customers, which you will be supporting and charging according to the utilizations that they make.

Many contributors have come forward to support OpenStack. Many big organizations like RedHat, PayPal, eBay, HP, Dell, etc., are a few contributors to OpenStack. There is a community of developers for OpenStack where they continuously develop the modules, scripts, configuration files and facilitate you with your infrastructure. One thing that you need to note is that you cannot expect a rental support out of OpenStack because it is an open-source software.

The basic components of OpenStack are compute modules, network modules and storage modules. These modules have a certain set of files that are integrated with the infrastructure to facilitate the cloud. OpenStack offers a web interface that is available for you as a dashboard. It is a stateless GUI model which facilitates you to provide a front-end. The most flexible way to approach OpenStack is via the command line. It is more robust, giving you more openness towards the configurations and management of the tool.

Benefits of OpenStack:

  • Faster and better access to the IT resources
  • Faster deployment of IT resources
  • Boosts scalability and resource utilization
  • Highly scalable read/write access
  • Can scale vertically and horizontally both
  • Very cost-effective with no lock-in period
  • High availability for user accounts, containers and object copies

CloudStack vs OpenStack: Key Differences

Ease of Use

The usage and deployment of OpenStack has become much easier than before in last few years whereas the usage of CloudStack has always been straightforward and simple.

CloudStack provides a single portal that is used to manage resource usage and availability. It is perfect for daily use with centralized management. With CloudStack, it is very easy to manage several servers running across the globe. Whereas OpenStack is not as user-friendly as CloudStack. OpenStack users face a lot of difficulty in architecting and installing OpenStack. It is also time taking in the case of OpenStack.

Differing Concepts

Although both the stacks are trying to solve similar problems, they are still fundamentally different. In OpenStack, you are free to create all the building blocks from scratch customized to your requirements, whereas in CloudStack, you get a ready product to which you can plug and play. 

You can create your own unique cloud by using OpenStack, it is modular and customizable. It gives you complete freedom in creating the infrastructure and scaling it as per the need. Whereas Apache CloudStack is not that flexible when compared to OpenStack. It provides bundled modules with a few exceptions of network controllers.

Speed to Production

Creating a production-ready infrastructure faster is an essential requirement of every organization. Unfortunately, OpenStack is not preferable in this aspect. Deploying an infrastructure with CloudStack may take you just a few hours. But if you are new to OpenStack, it may take a few days because you will have to solve all the errors you get while installing OpenStack. Trust me, it is painful! 

Installation Process

The installation is the biggest problem of OpenStack. There are many components you need to install one by one manually to get an up and running OpenStack infrastructure. You also have to create users and databases in MySQL manually. There is a lot of scope for improvement in OpenStack when it comes to installation. Whereas in CloudStack, you don’t need to do any installation yourself. You just need to provide the specifications you want in your infrastructure, and the CloudStack will do the rest for you.

Forum Support/ Community

OpenStack has an extensive and active community of developers. The community is actively working on releasing new features to OpenStack. But with a lot of developers and new feature developments come a lot of bugs and issues. If you are looking to answer an OpenStack problem, you will find many threads with mixed responses. So, sometimes it becomes confusing to find the correct solution to an issue.

CloudStack has a much smaller community when compared to OpenStack. The number of contributors is much lesser here and so you need to wait for the new features before they are production-ready. They have not been able to attract many contributors and organizations to improve their community interactions and development.


Apache CloudStack uses simplified Encryption (JASYPT) library to protect your documents from unauthorized access. This library encrypts and decrypts all the data using a secret key and stores the key on its internal property files.

Whereas OpenStack uses dm-crypt to keep your files and resources secured from hackers and malware. It is a transparent disk encryption subsystem in Linux operating system which has codes to protects your sensitive business information.

Overall, both have good enough security features.

Pricing Plans

Apache CloudStack is free to use cloud computing platform. There is no cost involved to create, modify or maintain the applications in CloudStack. On the other hand, you need to contact the sales team of OpenStack to get a quote. So, pricing wise CloudStack is more preferable by organizations.

Which One to Choose: CloudStack or OpenStack?

OpenStack is a big product with a lot of support from its community and big firms such as Yahoo, Dell and IBM. It offers flexibility, but the installation is complicated. But still, there are few readymade templates available online which can use used for faster installation. CloudStack is much simpler and has a better user interface. The deployment of infrastructure is much easier than OpenStack. It is very easy to distribute and deployment is smooth. Pricing-wise, CloudStack is preferable for small organizations which have a tight budget, while OpenStack can be more preferable for big organizations as it works on quote-based pricing.

Here is a table with key differences between CloudStack and OpenStack:


Criteria CloudStack OpenStack
Founded On 2008 2010
Written In Java (primarily), Python Python
Developed By Apache Software Foundation OpenStack Foundation and community
Platform Java Cross-Platform
Installation Easy Difficult
Architecture Monolithic controller, Datacenter model, No object storage Fragmented to different  pieces
User Interface User friendly, based on JQuery and JSP Simple, based on Python Django
Deployment Easy to deploy  Need tools like puppet, chef for deployment
Storage Categorized into primary and secondary Block storage and Object storage
Community Large community of developers with support from big organizations Small community of developers

Final Thoughts

In short, both CloudStack and OpenStack are very popular cloud management platforms. Both have their own advantages and disadvantages. If you are looking for flexibility in your infrastructure, go for OpenStack. And if you want the ease of use, go with CloudStack. The best option is to think about the features you want in your infrastructure and which among these two offer those features best.


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