Overview

OpenShift Online 3 is based on the OpenShift version 3 (v3) architecture, which is very different product than OpenShift version 2 (v2). Many of the same terms from OpenShift v2 are used in v3, and the same functions are performed, but the terminology can be different, and behind the scenes things may be happening very differently. Still, OpenShift remains an application platform.

This topic discusses these differences in detail, in an effort to help OpenShift users in the transition from OpenShift v2 to OpenShift v3.

Architecture Changes

Gears vs Containers

Gears were a core component of OpenShift v2. Technologies such as kernel namespaces, cGroups, and SELinux helped deliver a highly-scalable, secure, containerized application platform to OpenShift users. Gears themselves were a form of container technology.

OpenShift v3 takes the gears idea to the next level. It uses Docker as the next evolution of the v2 container technology. This container architecture is at the core of OpenShift v3.

Kubernetes

As applications in OpenShift v2 typically used multiple gears, applications on OpenShift v3 will expectedly use multiple containers. In OpenShift v2, gear orchestration, scheduling, and placement was handled by the OpenShift broker host. OpenShift v3 integrates Kubernetes into the master host to drive container orchestration.

Applications

Applications are still the focal point of OpenShift. In OpenShift v2, an application was a single unit, consisting of one web framework of no more than one cartridge type. For example, an application could have one PHP and one MySQL, but it could not have one Ruby, one PHP, and two MySQLs. It also could not be a database cartridge, such as MySQL, by itself.

This limited scoping for applications meant that OpenShift performed seamless linking for all components within an application using environment variables. For example, every web framework knew how to connect to MySQL using the OPENSHIFT_MYSQL_DB_HOST and OPENSHIFT_MYSQL_DB_PORT variables. However, this linking was limited to within an application, and only worked within cartridges designed to work together. There was nothing to help link across application components, such as sharing a MySQL instance across two applications.

While most other PaaSes limit themselves to web frameworks and rely on external services for other types of components, OpenShift v3 makes even more application topologies possible and manageable.

OpenShift v3 uses the term "application" as a concept that links services together. You can have as many components as you desire, contained and flexibly linked within a project, and, optionally, labeled to provide grouping or structure. This updated model allows for a standalone MySQL instance, or one shared between JBoss components.

Flexible linking means you can link any two arbitrary components together. As long as one component can export environment variables and the second component can consume values from those environment variables, and with potential variable name transformation, you can link together any two components without having to change the images they are based on. So, the best containerized implementation of your desired database and web framework can be consumed directly rather than you having to fork them both and rework them to be compatible.

This means you can build anything on OpenShift. And that is OpenShift’s primary aim: to be a container-based platform that lets you build entire applications in a repeatable lifecycle.

Cartridges vs Images

In OpenShift v3, an image has replaced OpenShift v2’s concept of a cartridge.

Cartridges in OpenShift v2 were the focal point for building applications. Each cartridge provided the required libraries, source code, build mechanisms, connection logic, and routing logic along with a preconfigured environment to run the components of your applications.

However, cartridges came with disadvantages. With cartridges, there was no clear distinction between the developer content and the cartridge content, and you did not have ownership of the home directory on each gear of your application. Also, cartridges were not the best distribution mechanism for large binaries. While you could use external dependencies from within cartridges, doing so would lose the benefits of encapsulation.

From a packaging perspective, an image performs more tasks than a cartridge, and provides better encapsulation and flexibility. However, cartridges also included logic for building, deploying, and routing, which do not exist in images. In OpenShift v3, these additional needs are met by Source-to-Image (S2I) and configuring the template.

Dependencies

In OpenShift v2, cartridge dependencies were defined with Configure-Order or Requires in a cartridge manifest. OpenShift v3 uses a declarative model where pods bring themselves in line with a predefined state. Explicit dependencies that are applied are done at runtime rather than just install time ordering.

For example, you might require another service to be available before you start. Such a dependency check is always applicable and not just when you create the two components. Thus, pushing dependency checks into runtime enables the system to stay healthy over time.

Collection

Whereas cartridges in OpenShift v2 were colocated within gears, images in OpenShift v3 are mapped 1:1 with containers, which use pods as their colocation mechanism.

Source Code

In OpenShift v2, applications were required to have at least one web framework with one Git repository. In OpenShift v3, you can choose which images are built from source and that source can be located outside of OpenShift itself. Because the source is disconnected from the images, the choice of image and source are distinct operations with source being optional.

Build

In OpenShift v2, builds occurred in application gears. This meant downtime for non-scaled applications due to resource constraints. In v3, builds happen in separate containers. Also, OpenShift v2 build results used rsync to synchronize gears. In v3, build results are first committed as an immutable image and published to an internal registry. That image is then available to launch on any of the nodes in the cluster, or available to rollback to at a future date.

Routing

In OpenShift v2, you had to choose up front as to whether your application was scalable, and whether the routing layer for your application was enabled for high availability (HA). In OpenShift v3, routes are first-class objects that are HA-capable simply by scaling up your application component to two or more replicas. There is never a need to recreate your application or change its DNS entry.

The routes themselves are disconnected from images. Previously, cartridges defined a default set of routes and you could add additional aliases to your applications. With OpenShift v3, you can use templates to set up any number of routes for an image. These routes let you modify the scheme, host, and paths exposed as desired, with no distinction between system routes and user aliases.

Broker vs Master

A master in OpenShift v3 is similar to a broker host in OpenShift v2. However, the MongoDB and ActiveMQ layers used by the broker in OpenShift v2 are no longer necessary, because etcd is typically installed with each master host.

Domain vs Project

A project is essentially a v2 domain.