Introducing OpenStack Heat

OpenStack Heat is the Orchestration service for OpenStack and orchestrates infrastructure resources (such as VMs, floating IPs, volumes, networks etc.) for cloud applications. This is done using templates in the form of YAML files which contain the properties and the relationships between resources.

Heat Templates allow relationships to be defined between difference resources, allowing Heat to call different OpenStack APIs to create different resources such as LBaaS Pools (Octavia), servers and server groups (Nova), alarms (Aodh), volumes (Cinder), networks and security groups (Neutron). Heat manages the lifecycle of the stack and when a stack needs to be updated, an updated template can be applied to the existing stack. These templates can be integrated with software configuration management tools such as Ansible and Puppet.


Heat provides an AWS CloudFormation implementation for OpenStack. Heat provides integration of other core OpenStack components into a one-file template system. This system not only allows resources from most OpenStack Projects to be created in a single template, it also provides more functionality including auto scaling of VMs and nested stacks.

heat: A CLI that communicates with the heat-api to execute AWS CloudFormation APIs. End developer could use heat REST API directly.

heat-api: provides an OpenStack-native REST API that processes API requests by sending them to the heat engine over RPC

heat-api-cfn: provides AWS Query API that is compatible with AWS CloudFormation and processes API requests by sending them to the heat-engine over RPC

heat-engine: orchestrates the launching of templates and provides events back to API consumer.

Heat Commands

To use Heat commands in the command line, we need to install the following package:

pip install python-heatclient

To test that this has installed correctly, and that we are able to access the Heat API, we can run the command:

openstack stack list

#This should return an empty line if there are no stacks in the project or a table similar to the following:

| ID                              | Stack Name                      | Stack Status    | Creation Time        | Updated Time         |
| a00fa2cd-3e29-489f-8d9f-f805956 | software-deployment-test        | CREATE_COMPLETE | 2020-12-09T08:34:15Z | None                 |
| 7d045                           |                                 |                 |                      |                      |
| 1cb66fbd-1336-414b-b112-b0fcffe | spark-standalone-cluster        | CREATE_COMPLETE | 2020-12-07T10:31:58Z | None                 |
| b0645                           |                                 |                 |                      |                      |
| b7263b67-65c4-4333-abd0-7033afa | spark-stack-2                   | CREATE_FAILED   | 2020-12-04T11:42:25Z | None                 |
| 961b6                           |                                 |                 |                      |                      |
| c9c10097-c275-4c44-9324-0eb2f7a | docker-script-test              | CREATE_COMPLETE | 2020-12-02T16:39:54Z | None                 |
| d60cf                           |                                 |                 |                      |                      |

The following list is the list of commands from Heat which can be used in OpenStack:

# Commands provided by Heat are of the form:
openstack stack <command> <options>

stack abandon # abandon a stack and output results
stack adopt # adopt a stack
stack cancel # cancel create or update task for a stack
stack check # check stack and its resources
stack create # create a stack
stack delete  # delete a stack
stack environment show #
stack event list # List stack events
stack event show # View stack event
stack export # export stack data json
stack failures list # List failed resources in a stack
stack file list # show a stack's files map
stack hook clear #clear resource hooks on a given stack
stack hook poll # list resources with pending hook for a stack
stack list # list stacks in the project
stack output list # list stack outputs
stack output show # view stack output
stack resource list # list stack resources
stack resource mark unhealthy # mark one of the stack resources as unhealthy
stack resource metadata # view metadata for stack's resource
stack resource show # view details about a stack's resource
stack resource signal # signal a resource with optional data (JSON data)
stack resume # resume a stack
stack show # view details about a stack
stack snapshot create # create a snapshot of the stack
stack snapshot delete # delete stack snapshot
stack snapshot list # list stack snapshots
stack snapshot restore # restore stack snapshot
stack snapshot show # view details of a stack snapshot
stack suspend # suspend a stack
stack template show # view stack template
stack update # update a stack using an updated template


Stacks: a collection of resources and their associated configuration

Template: A YAML file defining the resources which make up the stack. In OpenStack, templates follow the Heat Orchestration Template (HOT) format.

Note: While Heat can interpret CFN (CloudFormation) Templates, they are _not_ backwards compatible with Heat Orchestrated Templates. It is recommended to use Heat Orchestrated Templates to create stacks.

Heat Orchestrated Templates

Heat Orchestrated Templates are YAML files that instruct Heat which resources to create and the relationships between resources. Ansible has documentation on how to write YAML files that can be found here:

Heat Templates consist of seven sections:

  1. heat_template_version: (required) Indicates which format and features are used and supported when creating the stack.
  2. description: (optional) Description of the stack template. It is recommended to include a description in templates to describe what users can do with the template.
  3. parameter_groups: (optional) Defines how to group input parameters and the order of the parameters.
  4. parameters: (optional) Defines input parameters. This section can be omitted if there are no input values required.
  5. resources: (required) Defines resources in the template. At least one resource should be defined in a HOT template.
  6. outputs: (optional) Defines output parameters available to users once the template has been instantiated.
  7. conditions: (optional) Includes statements which can be used to apply conditions to a resource, for example a resource is created only when a property is defined or when another resource has been created first.

The structure of a HOT template is given as:

heat_template_version: 2018-08-31 #OpenStack Version we want to use.
                                  #Here, we want to use template for the Rocky release onwards

description: #description of the template

parameter_groups: #declares the parameter group and order.
  #This is not a compulsory section, however it is useful for grouping
  #parameters together when building more complex templates.

parameters: #declares the parameters for resources

resources: #declares the template resources
# e.g. alarms, floating IPs, instances etc.

outputs: #declares the output of the stack

conditions: #declares any conditions on the stack

Please see the documentation Create a Heat Stack for an introduction to creating a stack using a HOT template.

Rocky Heat Templates

Templates which use:

heat_template_version: 2018-08-31


heat_template_version: rocky

Indicate that the template is a HOT template and has features added and/or removed up to the Queens Release. The list of supported functions in a Rocky Heat Template is:

digest    # allows for performing digest operations on a given value
filter      # removes values from list
get_attr    # references an attribute of a resource
get_file    # returns the content of  a file into the template. Use to include files containing scripts or configuration files
get_param   # references an input parameter of a template
get_resource    # references another resource in the same template
list_join   # joins a string with the given delimiter
make_url    # builds URLs
list_concat   # concatenates lists together
list_concat_unique    # behaves identically to list_concat. Only removes repeating items of lists
contains    # checks whether a specific value is in a sequence
map_merge   # merges maps together
map_replace   # performs key/value replacements on existing mapping
repeat    # allows for dynamically transforming lists by iterating over the contents of one or more source lists and replacing list elements in the template
resource_facade   # retrieves data in a parent provider template. A facade is a custom definition of a resource from a provider template
str_replace   # constructs strings by providing a template string with placeholders and a list of mappings to assign values to those placeholders at runtime
str_replace_strict    # similar to str_replace, only an error is raised if any params are not present in template
str_replace_vstrict   # similar to str_replace, only an error is raised if any params are empty
str_split   # allows for a string to be split into a list by providing an arbitrary delimiter
yaql    # evaluates yaql expression on given data
if      # returns corresponding value based on evaluation of a condition

For more details about these intrinsic functions, please see the following documentation:

The list of supported condition functions is:

equals      # compares whether two values are equal
get_param   # references input parameter of a template
not         # acts as a NOT operator
and         # acts as an AND operator
or          # acts as an OR operator
yaql        # evaluates yaql expression on given data
contains    # checks whether a specific value is in a sequence

Pseudo Parameters

As well as parameters defined by the template author. Heat creates three parameters for every stack:

OS::stack_name  # stack name
OS::stack_id    # stack identifier
OS::project_id  # project identifier

These parameters are accessible using get_param function.