Openstack vs Openshift : Head to head comparison


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When you are choosing an open-source platform for your organization, you must understand its capabilities and options well. Openstack and Openshift are very powerful tools used by multiple organizations, but they focus on different features. Openshift majorly focuses on various features, while Openstack offers different components for various services. For example, openshift has a web console, command line tools, IDE support, application templates, continuous integration, etc., whereas openstack has different components suggest Cinder for block storage service, Horizon for dashboard service, Nova for provisioning resources such as VM, Neutron for enabling networking APIs. In the article, I will discuss about these two tools, openstack and openshift, and their key differences.

What is OpenShift?

RedHat has created a platform as a service over the Kubernetes deployment called RedHat OpenShift. OpenShift is a Kubernetes platform for deploying your applications. OpenShift was created by the Red Hat software company in 2011. It is an enterprise-grade Red Hat container application platform that is written in Go and AngularJS. It is built for both traditional and cloud-native applications. Using Openshift, you can run containerized applications and workloads that is powered by Kubernetes. OpenShift has multiple flavors, and it’s an offering that comes with Red Hat support. It provides both CLI and web interface dashboards which help developers in building their application codes and operations team in managing and monitoring the Kubernetes cluster.

You don’t have to learn Kubernetes completely and you don’t have to bother about knowing the nuances of the Kubernetes environment because RedHat solves those problems by abstracting out the complete container orchestration beneath the platform. You can still deploy docker containers inside OpenShift, but you don’t have to handcraft each and everything inside the Kubernetes cluster imagine. OpenShift as a fully managed platform as a service where you will be deploying containers.

Openshift is the best choice for Kubernetes for customers. There are 1000+ customers and the largest amount of reference customers who are running Openshift in production. They now have years of experience running openshift online and openshift dedicated services. Reh Hat is a leading Kubernetes developer and contributor with google since day one. They make container development easy, reliable, and more secure. Openshift has strong partnerships with the cloud providers like AWS, Azure, GCP, etc. Openshift gives you a comprehensive portfolio of container products and services for the enterprise, including developer tools, security, application services, storage, and management.

Below are Red Hat OpenShift advantages:

  • Faster builds and deployments with agility and confidence
  • Easy to use with on-premises (bare metal) or any cloud providers (virtual hardware)
  • Easy integration with multiple DevOps tools
  • Implements and enforces policies through a unified console on Red Hat
  • Provides security checks for the builds throughout the application lifecycle
  • Monitors the cluster easily using built-in tools like Prometheus and Grafana

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 as 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.

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.

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.

Below are the benefits of using OpenStack:

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

Openstack vs Openshift: Key Differences

Cloud Service Model

The most fundamental difference between openstack and openshift is their cloud service model. Openstack is used as infrastructure as a service (IaaS), so it is infrastructure-based. In contrast, openshift is used as Platform as a service (PaaS). It provides you with a platform to work on.

In openstack, the organization themselves manage servers and their services on their private data center because of cost or security concern. For example, an organization like Ericsson they have their own data centers with openstack. In openshift, you need not think about servers or their configuration, you just need the platform. For example, in Google App Engine, the developers develop and test their app and then containerize the application.

Usage of Containers

Openstack does offer support for containers, but its usage is very minimal. It focuses more on virtual machines called as hypervisors such as VMWare, KVM, and XEN. You can still run containers on these virtual machines.

On the other hand, openshift has a container centric model, so you must know the core concepts of Docker and Kubernetes. You can run these containers on a virtual machine or even on a bare metal. Openshift often uses docker as it is the most popular container based technology.

Distributed Environment

Openstack is a single point platform, and it can control distributed data centers.   It can provide support for distributed storage using third-party storage components such as Ceph and Glusterfs, but openstack does not completely rely on them.  In comparison to Kubernetes, openstack is not capable enough to handle the data centers in a global cluster.

On the other hand, openshift is a distributed system, very similar to Kubernetes. It has a master slave architecture where the controller node is the master node, and worker nodes are the slave nodes, which are controlled by the master node. Between the master and slave nodes, there is a network layer encapsulated for communication between them.


OpenShift and Red Hat try to fill the gaps where the open-source community maybe hasn’t done so in terms of security. By working with real enterprise customers, they realize that by creating best security practices from scratch, they can tackle some of the problems that the customers need in order to use Kubernetes.

In OpenShift, when you create a project, you just have to add the users, and it will handle things like Kubernetes namespaces and creating different security policies with the best practices, and you can get all of that from scratch. However, there is a small trade-off. For example, in Kubernetes, you can pretty much take any image out there in Docker Hub and expect that it will run as expected, but in OpenShift, there are restricted permissions where the containers don’t run as root. So, sometimes images don’t run as expected.

On the other hand, 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 protect your sensitive business information.

Final Thoughts

So that was all about openshift, openstack, and the differences between them. Both of them are open source, based on the Linux platform, and are used by multiple customers across the globe. They both give tough competition to other cloud based platforms such as Amazon AWS, Microsoft Azure, and Google cloud platforms. You can also use both openstack in an openshift hand in hand. For example, your private cloud services can be built on openstack, and your public cloud services can run using openshift on different cloud providers. Go ahead and start using open shift and open stack today and explore their features.


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