OpenStack vs AWS

Having your own data center and mainframes is no longer the only way to deal with huge amounts of data; thanks to the advancement of technologies, cloud-computing services are now accessible to business customers. Instead of planning and building your own mega system, you can instead subscribe to a cloud-computing service, like OpenStack or AWS. That’s much more efficient in time, money, and effort. You can now deal with huge data sets and processes without having to bother about procurement and maintenance issues.

Right now, OpenStack and AWS are two of the most popular cloud-computing services. Many companies have been implementing OpenStack, AWS, or both. So, how different from each other are the two? Should a business owner use OpenStack or AWS? How about the IT staff, should we be learning OpenStack or AWS? Find out below!

OpenStack Overview

OpenStack is a cloud operating system that handles and controls large pools of computation, storage, and networking resources, all of which can be managed via a dashboard that enables admins to control things and provisioned via a web interface. It is a free, open-source software platform that is widely employed as an infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS). It was initially released in 2010 as a joint project between Rackspace Hosting and NASA and is currently managed by the OpenStack Foundation. Today, more than 500 companies have joined in the usage and development of the project. Some other notable things about OpenStack are: There are EC2 API and GCE API projects driven by some of the members, developed for compatibility with Amazon EC2 and Google Compute Engine; Debian, Red Hat, Canonical, and SUSE Linux are all supporters and active contributors; and OpenStack is the only cloud platform that supports mixed hypervisor and bare metal server environments.

AWS Overview

AWS stand for Amazon Web Services; it is a cloud service platform offering computation power, database storage, content delivery, as well as other functionalities to aid businesses scale and expand. It is currently among the most popular cloud-computing solutions, having millions of customers that have been using AWS to construct sophisticated applications with enhanced flexibility, reliability, and scalability. However, AWS is a private technology – it is not open-source. There was Eucalyptus, which is essentially an open-source copy of AWS using the same APIs, but Eucalyptus has gone a bit to obscurity due to the difficulty of keeping up with AWS’s innovations.

OpenStack vs. AWS: Multi-Tenancy

The first conceptual difference between these two services is multi-tenancy. OpenStack comes with a multi-tenant layer mechanism with domains and projects. A domain refers to a collection of users, groups, and projects, similar to AWS’ account. A project in OpenStack is a container of virtual resources such as virtual machines, networks, volumes. You can establish several isolated, independently controlled groups of resources for different objectives. Though not compulsory, it is a common practice to limit a project to just one router and one IP block.

AWS is a multi-tenant cloud by nature due to having to accommodate millions customers; howsoever, at the account level, a single user only receives a single tenant experience. Still, there is Virtual Private Cloud (VPC) that is somewhat similar to OpenStack’s project, allowing the user to provision a logically isolated cloud section where the user can launch resources in a defined virtual network. Note that Amazon EC2’s virtual networking capabilities are only available via VPC. AWS’s VPC is limited to one router and one IP block.

There is another thing to consider. OpenStackdoes offer VPN capabilities through the Neutron project, but it is still experimental and lacks end-to-end integration. One the other hand, AWS’s VPC also offers extremely valuable tools that can greatly simplify the establishment of a secured connection between VPCs, and between VPC with on-premise resources. Through the API, you can establish a VPN connection and control the gateways – very valuable if you do choose the hybrid path, especially since Amazon integrated their VPN gateway with market-leading VPN CPEs.

OpenStack vs. AWS: Networking

OpenStack gives control over the L2 elements of the virtual network. It gives you granular control of the elements, such as ports and VLAN ID allocations. AWS, on the other hand, only exposes subnets. Nevertheless, for the Layer 3 networking, OpenStackand AWS conceptually have comparable capabilities, such as subnet creation and elastic/floating IP addresses (public IP addresses reachable from the Internet). They also have comparable routing and security capabilities.

The Cases

AWS is a great choice if you are a startup with just a small IT staff. The many convenient offerings, as well as flexible customer support, will be the most prudent and effective choice. Given that there are more and more players in the field, AWS is just going to double-down its efforts in providing the best hosting, data management, backup, and analytics services.

Even though OpenStack lacks some preconfigured services, having to configure the components manually is not necessarily a disadvantage. Given that OpenStack is a free, open-source solution, it can increase profitability and resiliency. Of course, if there is some service that OpenStack does not include, you can go for the hybrid path.

Learn OpenStack or AWS?

If you are an IT guy currently not sure whether to focus learning either OpenStack or AWS, then the truth is you will be safe either way. Many companies are now looking for hybrid solutions and thus will run both OpenStack and AWS.

However, there are still some things to consider. AWS has very foundational technologies that don’t change often, such as the EC2, EBS, S3, ELB. The downside is that there are tons of things to learn due to them having a huge number of services. On AWS, you are going to spend more time on things like architecting and security.

OpenStack, on the other hand, will require you to keep up to changes. A lot of changes happen quickly, and everything can be outdated in six months or so. With OpenStack, you will get your hands dirtier with actual orchestration systems.

- Free, open-source- Private
- Multi-tenant layer mechanism with domains and projects- Single tenant experience at the account level
- VPN is still experimental and lacks end-to-end integration- Powerful VPN capabilities
- Gives control over L2 elements- Only exposes subnets
- Great for profitability, with a capable team to manually configure things- Convenient preconfigured services


AWS is a private technology, with various preconfigured services. It can be your choice if you have limited resources or a small IT team. On the other hand, OpenStack can be your choice to emphasize profitability if you have a capable IT team and sufficient time.

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