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Advanced Configuration

OpenStack is intended to work well across a variety of installation flavors, from very small private clouds to large public clouds. To achieve this, the developers add configuration options to their code that allow the behavior of the various components to be tweaked depending on your needs. Unfortunately, it is not possible to cover all possible deployments with the default configuration values.

At the time of writing, OpenStack has more than 3,000 configuration options. You can see them documented at the OpenStack Configuration Reference. This chapter cannot hope to document all of these, but we do try to introduce the important concepts so that you know where to go digging for more information.

Differences Between Various Drivers

Many OpenStack projects implement a driver layer, and each of these drivers will implement its own configuration options. For example, in OpenStack Compute (nova), there are various hypervisor drivers implemented—libvirt, xenserver, hyper-v, and vmware, for example. Not all of these hypervisor drivers have the same features, and each has different tuning requirements.


The currently implemented hypervisors are listed on the OpenStack Configuration Reference. You can see a matrix of the various features in OpenStack Compute (nova) hypervisor drivers at the Hypervisor support matrix page.

The point we are trying to make here is that just because an option exists doesn’t mean that option is relevant to your driver choices. Normally, the documentation notes which drivers the configuration applies to.

Implementing Periodic Tasks

Another common concept across various OpenStack projects is that of periodic tasks. Periodic tasks are much like cron jobs on traditional Unix systems, but they are run inside an OpenStack process. For example, when OpenStack Compute (nova) needs to work out what images it can remove from its local cache, it runs a periodic task to do this.

Periodic tasks are important to understand because of limitations in the threading model that OpenStack uses. OpenStack uses cooperative threading in Python, which means that if something long and complicated is running, it will block other tasks inside that process from running unless it voluntarily yields execution to another cooperative thread.

A tangible example of this is the nova-compute process. In order to manage the image cache with libvirt, nova-compute has a periodic process that scans the contents of the image cache. Part of this scan is calculating a checksum for each of the images and making sure that checksum matches what nova-compute expects it to be. However, images can be very large, and these checksums can take a long time to generate. At one point, before it was reported as a bug and fixed, nova-compute would block on this task and stop responding to RPC requests. This was visible to users as failure of operations such as spawning or deleting instances.

The take away from this is if you observe an OpenStack process that appears to “stop” for a while and then continue to process normally, you should check that periodic tasks aren’t the problem. One way to do this is to disable the periodic tasks by setting their interval to zero. Additionally, you can configure how often these periodic tasks run—in some cases, it might make sense to run them at a different frequency from the default.

The frequency is defined separately for each periodic task. Therefore, to disable every periodic task in OpenStack Compute (nova), you would need to set a number of configuration options to zero. The current list of configuration options you would need to set to zero are:

  • bandwidth_poll_interval

  • sync_power_state_interval

  • heal_instance_info_cache_interval

  • host_state_interval

  • image_cache_manager_interval

  • reclaim_instance_interval

  • volume_usage_poll_interval

  • shelved_poll_interval

  • shelved_offload_time

  • instance_delete_interval

To set a configuration option to zero, include a line such as image_cache_manager_interval=0 in your nova.conf file.

This list will change between releases, so please refer to your configuration guide for up-to-date information.

Specific Configuration Topics

This section covers specific examples of configuration options you might consider tuning. It is by no means an exhaustive list.

Security Configuration for Compute, Networking, and Storage

The OpenStack Security Guide provides a deep dive into securing an OpenStack cloud, including SSL/TLS, key management, PKI and certificate management, data transport and privacy concerns, and compliance.

High Availability

The OpenStack High Availability Guide offers suggestions for elimination of a single point of failure that could cause system downtime. While it is not a completely prescriptive document, it offers methods and techniques for avoiding downtime and data loss.

Enabling IPv6 Support

You can follow the progress being made on IPV6 support by watching the neutron IPv6 Subteam at work.

By modifying your configuration setup, you can set up IPv6 when using nova-network for networking, and a tested setup is documented for FlatDHCP and a multi-host configuration. The key is to make nova-network think a radvd command ran successfully. The entire configuration is detailed in a Cybera blog post, “An IPv6 enabled cloud”.

Geographical Considerations for Object Storage

Support for global clustering of object storage servers is available for all supported releases. You would implement these global clusters to ensure replication across geographic areas in case of a natural disaster and also to ensure that users can write or access their objects more quickly based on the closest data center. You configure a default region with one zone for each cluster, but be sure your network (WAN) can handle the additional request and response load between zones as you add more zones and build a ring that handles more zones. Refer to Geographically Distributed Swift Considerations in the documentation for additional information.