Preconditions for Common OpenStack Client Library

OpenStack client packages have a long history. It begins in November 2009 when Rackspace Cloud Servers package started. It provided a Python API (the cloudservers module) and a command-line script (cloudservers). Initially, the script was just a stub, but it became a useful CLI utility able to launch, stop, and resize virtual machines.

cloudservers package introduced a library architecture that is used till now. All entities can be split into five groups.

  1. Resources, e.g., a flavor, a server, or an image. Technically, a resource is a Python object and its class is a descendant of the Resource class.
  2. Managers – they provide operations on resources, for example, “list all flavors” or “delete an image”. So, we have a flavor manager, an image manager, and so on. As you may guess, manager’s classes are descendants of the Manager class.
  3. HTTP client provides a convenient interface for managers that send HTTP requests to the server. The HTTP client is also responsible for authentication process that changed a lot after introducing a new Keystone service, so, the newer HTTP clients are a bit more complicated.
  4. Exceptions are normal Python exceptions raised by HTTP client for HTTP error codes. This is a more or less rich hierarchy with exceptions such as Unauthorized, BadRequest, or NotFound.
  5. Client (not to be confused with HTTP client!) puts HTTP client and various managers together (using class composition: HTTP client and managers are members of a client). As a user, you create a client and can immediately perform any API calls:
    # this is the client
    # client.flavors is a manager
    all_flavors = client.flavors.list()
    # and all_flavors is a list of resources
    print all_flavors                                         

The oldest of currently alive clients (novaclient) was born in January 2011 as a fork of Rackspace Cloud Servers package. Since that time, cloudservers library and CLI script were renamed to novaclient. They support new Nova API that was growing all the time, but these two main functions (a Python API and a command line client) remain unchanged.

About a year later, a new OpenStack client project called keystoneclient was started. It was a flesh of novaclient’s flesh with almost the same architecture with a small difference: client was a child class of HTTP client thus using inheritance, not composition. And, of course, keystoneclient has its own managers and resources (tenant, user, etc.).

Al lot of code required in the new client package was already written in novaclient (the base Resource and Manager and HTTP client). But this code was copied, not imported in keystoneclient. On the one hand, it made these packages independent: you haven’t to install novaclient if you would like to use keystoneclient. On the other hand, the story of duplicated classes diverged and they gained different features available in one package and absent in another.

glanceclient used the same copying approach with the same benefits and pitfalls. However, quantumclient and swiftclient are completely different and I won’t discuss them here.

So, what do we have now?

  1. Keystone server provides tokens with limited time to live. So, that’s natural to obtain an “Unauthorized” error after a series of successful calls. Nova and Keystone clients handle this situation correctly: they do one call to obtain a new fresh token and repeat the fallen query. glanceclient just raises an exception.
  2. Keystone server supports two ways of authentication on a tenant: with user name and password and with an unscoped token. As a response to successful authentication, it returns a scoped token and a catalog of all OpenStack service endpoints (nova, glance, keystone, swift etc.). So, keystoneclient supports both authentication ways while novaclient handles only authentication with user name and password. glanceclient is even less prompt: it requires a scoped token and a Glance server endpoint. It knows nothing about clever Keystone service and you have to do the dirty job. By the way, glanceclient’s shell uses keystoneclient to issue this initial call to Keystone.
  3. All client constructors use different parameters. For example, the thing that is called password in keystoneclient is an api_key in novaclient for historical reasons: it was called apikey (without underscore!) in cloudservices three years ago.
  4. clients have not only different constructors but also diverse behavior: keystoneclient authenticates immediately when you create the client object while novaclient does it lazily during first API call.
  5. Often you would like to make calls to different services. A dashboard or a common command line tool usually requests tenant list from Keystone, image list from Glance, and sends a “launch an instance” command to Nova. With current clients it’s different to share the same token and service endpoint catalog. A simple ways could be just to use a common HTTP client object, but it’s impossible because of incompatible architectures in different client packages.

To solve these problems, we could move the common code to a separate library that would be imported in all three clients. The common library would contain:

  • the base Resource class;
  • the base Manager class;
  • a rich Exceptions hierarchy;
  • a feature rich HTTP client that supports all ways of authentication, handles outdated token faults, and saves the whole service catalog returned by Keystone;
  • the base client class that contains an instance of HTTP client as a member: this way, several clients (e.g., a client for Nova and a client for Keystone) can share the same HTTP client.

I developed a sample implementation of this library and called it python-openstackclient-base. The library is used in Altai Private Cloud, a project of Grid Dynamics. python-openstackclient-base is easy to use:

from openstackclient_base.client import HttpClient
http_client = HttpClient(username="...", password="...", tenant_name="...", auth_uri="...")

# Nova Compute API client
from openstackclient_base.nova.client import ComputeClient
# create a client class and use servers manager
print ComputeClient(http_client).servers.list()   

# Identity (Keystone) Public API client
from openstackclient_base.keystone.client import IdentityPublicClient 
# use the same HTTP client as above
print IdentityPublicClient(http_client).tenants.list()

Now I’m going to put this library to oslo-incubator project and use it in all three clients. When oslo-incubator will be mature, it will be imported in OpenStack projects as I want, but now its code will be just copied literally to other projects. However, it’s also quite satisfiable since it will reach all the goals mentioned above.

5 thoughts on “Preconditions for Common OpenStack Client Library

  1. Thierry Carrez

    Sounds like this should be tied to the UnifiedCLI effort (a single CLI that would use all libraries and would provide an abstraction over their differences)

    1. aababilov

      Yes, and I would like to contribute to UnifiedCLI (i.e. openstackclient) as well, but I must emphasize that unifying the libraries will eliminate the need of an extra abstraction level that’s seen in modern openstackclient.

  2. Alejandro Cabrera

    I learned about this common library while working on the python-marconiclient project. I love the idea of having a single http client that can be composed into other clients. That’s awesome!

    Thanks for writing this post. I especially appreciate the definition of Managers, Resources, Exceptions, and such, as I’ve noticed this to be common conventions in Openstack.


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