While this discussion cannot include an in-depth insight into what OpenStack is and its primary purpose and function, it is essential to consider a brief overview of the product to provide a foundation for a discussion on which Operating System is preferable for a successful OpenStack installation.

Therefore, let’s speak to the experts at Accrets.com for a concise OpenStack definition.

OpenStack is an open-source cloud platform predominantly used by private cloud vendors and commercial companies offering public cloud services that deploy OpenStack as part of their infrastructure.

Because OpenStack is a server-based product, and is used by cloud vendors, both public and private, it has to be installed on computer servers. Therefore, as an OpenStack cloud provider, it is essential to choose a server-OS to serve as a foundation for a successful installation. 

At the outset of this content, it is worth noting that it would seem as though Linux distros are the operating systems most commonly used as a basis for Open-Stack. Statista echoes this sentiment, reporting that CentOS and Ubuntu server-OSes are the two most popular and widely used operating systems running OpenStack cloud deployments worldwide. Ubuntu, CentOS, and RHEL are the three top server operating systems that cloud providers use to run OpenStack.

As a result, let’s take a closer look at CentOS, Ubuntu, RHEL, and a few other server operating systems that are a robust and solid foundation for an OpenStack cloud hosting platform.

1. Ubuntu

According to tecmint.com, Ubuntu is the most popular Linux distribution out there and has support for OpenStack. Figures quoted by Mark Shuttleworth, founder of Canonical, Ubuntu’s parent company, 55% of all OpenStack operating systems are on Ubuntu. This number should not be surprising because Ubuntu has made it its mission to work closely with OpenStack. 

Shuttleworth wrote the following about the relationship between Ubuntu and OpenStack: 

Our focus is on supporting the development of OpenStack… It is a point of pride for us that you can get an OpenStack cloud built on Ubuntu.” 

Ubuntu is a Debian-based Linux operating system with three variants: Desktop, server, and core. And not only have many other distros been derived from it, but the Ubuntu server is “efficient for building top-performance, highly scalable, flexible, and secure enterprise data centres.”

Ubuntu server can run on x86, ARM, and Power architectures. And it offers support for Big Data, containerization, visualization, and IoT. 

While Ubuntu is open source, by signing up for Ubuntu Advantage, you can access additional services like a system management tool for security audits and compliance, customer support, and the live patch service, applying patches to the Ubuntu kernel without rebooting, offered by the developers, Canonical.  

2. CentOS

CentOS is an open-source derivative of Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL). It is a community-supported distribution, supported by an active community, including system and network administrators, Linux distributors, and Linux enthusiasts from across the globe. 

CentOS is operationally compatible with its open-source parent or its upstream source, RHEL. However, if you wish to pay for technical support, you have to use RHEL and vice versa. If you want to use a Red Hat distro without spending large sums of money for licensing and support, you have to use CentOS.

3. Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL)

According to the article published on zdnet.com, 10% of all OpenStack installations are on top of RHEL. 

The Red Hat website describes RHEL as the “world’s leading enterprise Linux platform.” It’s an open-source OS, and it is the foundation from which you can scale existing apps—and roll out emerging technologies—across bare-metal, virtual, container, and all types of cloud environments.

RHEL is based on Fedora, a community-driven product sponsored primarily by Red Hat. In fact, Red Hat adapted and further developed the original Fedora distribution for commercial, enterprise use, and it is what we know as RHL today. Because the Fedora distro still exists today, large parts of RHEL are (and were) first developed and tested on Fedora. 

As an aside, statistics show that infrastructure modernization is the top use for enterprise open-source software like RHEL. 64% of all enterprise users state that IT infrastructure modernization is their top use for open-source software, up from 53% twenty-four months ago.

4. SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 

SUSE Linux Enterprise Server is a modular operating system designed to modernize the cloud providers’, both private and public, IT infrastructure. Because SUSE is modular, it reduces the complexities linked with deploying business-critical workloads across all cloud environments. 

It is also an open-source, stable, and secure server platform, ideal for OpenStack. SUSE also runs on modern server environments such as the ARM system on Chip, Intel, and AMD. Lastly, users can pay for varying levels of technical support, including priority support, by signing up for one of the available SUSE subscriptions.

5. Oracle Linux

Oracle Linux is an open-source Linux distro packaged and distributed by Oracle. Its primary function is to be installed on the open cloud and is well-engineered for small to medium cloud-enabled data centers. Along with the Linux operating system installation set, Oracle has packaged tools for building scalable and reliable Big Data systems and virtual environments. 

While the Linux distribution is open-source and free, support by Oracle engineers is not free. Oracle offers a subscription-based support program with two options, premier support or basic support.

6. Slackware Linux 

Slackware Linux is an open-source (and free) and powerful Linux distribution that strives to be the most Unix-like in its design, robustness, and simplicity. At the outset of this description, it is essential to note that it is not the easiest Linux distro to use. The creator, Patrick Volkerding, states that it is best suited by users who aim for technical competence. 

Consequently, Slackware Linux is not shipped with a GUI installation method, has no auto-dependency of software packages, uses text files and shell scripts for configuration and administration. It also has no public code repository or formal bug tracking service. 

However, as described above, while Slackware is probably not the easiest Linux operating system to install and configure, it certainly has merit as a powerful Linux distro unencumbered by what could be termed as the Linux “nice-to-haves.”

Final thoughts 

In summary, based on the discussion above, there is no doubt that Linux is the most preferred server operating system for OpenStack deployments. In fact, there are no other operating systems mentioned in this article. 

Lastly, it is worth pointing out that Canonical, Ubuntu’s parent company, is not the only Linux company to partner with OpenStack. Both Red Hat and SUSE have also expressed interest in being known as OpenStack’s operating system of choice. As a result, the future is bright for the continued adoption of OpenStack as a key role player in the public and private cloud-based industry.

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