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Taikun OCP Guide

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Cells (v2)

16.0.0 (Pike)

This document describes the layout of a deployment with cells v2,
including deployment considerations for security and scale and
recommended practices and tips for running and maintaining cells v2 for
admins and operators. It is focused on code present in Pike and later,
and while it is geared towards people who want to have multiple cells
for whatever reason, the nature of the cells v2 support in Nova means
that it applies in some way to all deployments.

Before reading any further, there is a nice overview presentation
that Andrew Laski gave at the Austin (Newton) summit which may be worth


Cells v2 is different to the cells feature found in earlier versions
of nova, also known as cells v1. Cells v1 was deprecated in 16.0.0
(Pike) and removed entirely in Train (20.0.0).


The purpose of the cells functionality in nova is to allow larger
deployments to shard their many compute nodes into cells. All nova
deployments are by definition cells deployments, even if most will only
ever have a single cell. This means a multi-cell deployment will not b
radically different from a “standard” nova deployment.

Consider such a deployment. It will consists of the following

  • The nova-api
    service which provides the external REST API to users.
  • The nova-scheduler and placement services
    which are responsible for tracking resources and deciding which compute
    node instances should be on.
  • An “API database” that is used primarily by nova-api and nova-scheduler (called
    API-level services below) to track location information about
    instances, as well as a temporary location for instances being built but
    not yet scheduled.
  • The nova-conductor service which offloads long-running
    tasks for the API-level services and insulates compute nodes from direct
    database access
  • The nova-compute service which manages the virt driver
    and hypervisor host.
  • A “cell database” which is used by API, conductor and compute
    services, and which houses the majority of the information about
  • A “cell0 database” which is just like the cell database, but
    contains only instances that failed to be scheduled. This database
    mimics a regular cell, but has no compute nodes and is used only as a
    place to put instances that fail to land on a real compute node (and
    thus a real cell).
  • A message queue which allows the services to communicate with each
    other via RPC.

In smaller deployments, there will typically be a single message
queue that all services share and a single database server which hosts
the API database, a single cell database, as well as the required cell0
database. Because we only have one “real” cell, we consider this a
“single-cell deployment”.

In larger deployments, we can opt to shard the deployment using
multiple cells. In this configuration there will still only be one
global API database but there will be a cell database (where the bulk of
the instance information lives) for each cell, each containing a portion
of the instances for the entire deployment within, as well as per-cell
message queues and per-cell nova-conductor instances. There will also be an
additional nova-conductor instance, known as a super
, to handle API-level operations.

In these larger deployments, each of the nova services will use a
cell-specific configuration file, all of which will at a minimum specify
a message queue endpoint (i.e. transport_url). Most of the services
will also contain database connection configuration information (i.e.
database.connection), while API-level
services that need access to the global routing and placement
information will also be configured to reach the API database (i.e.


The pair of transport_url and database.connection configured for a
service defines what cell a service lives in.

API-level services need to be able to contact other services in all
of the cells. Since they only have one configured transport_url
and database.connection, they look up the
information for the other cells in the API database, with records called
cell mappings.


The API database must have cell mapping records that match the transport_url
and database.connection configuration
options of the lower-level services. See the nova-manage
commands for more information about how to create and examine these

The following section goes into more detail about the difference
between single-cell and multi-cell deployments.

Service layout

The services generally have a well-defined communication pattern that
dictates their layout in a deployment. In a small/simple scenario, the
rules do not have much of an impact as all the services can communicate
with each other on a single message bus and in a single cell database.
However, as the deployment grows, scaling and security concerns may
drive separation and isolation of the services.

Single cell

This is a diagram of the basic services that a simple (single-cell)
deployment would have, as well as the relationships (i.e. communication
paths) between them:

digraph services {

graph [pad=”0.35″, ranksep=”0.65″, nodesep=”0.55″, concentrate=true];
node [fontsize=10 fontname=”Monospace”]; edge [arrowhead=”normal”,
arrowsize=”0.8″]; labelloc=bottom; labeljust=left;

{ rank=same

api [label=”nova-api”] apidb [label=”API Database” shape=”box”]
scheduler [label=”nova-scheduler”]

} { rank=same mq [label=”MQ” shape=”diamond”] conductor
[label=”nova-conductor”] } { rank=same cell0db [label=”Cell0 Database”
shape=”box”] celldb [label=”Cell Database” shape=”box”] compute
[label=”nova-compute”] }

api -> mq -> compute conductor -> mq -> scheduler

api -> apidb api -> cell0db api -> celldb

conductor -> apidb conductor -> cell0db conductor ->


All of the services are configured to talk to each other over the
same message bus, and there is only one cell database where live
instance data resides. The cell0 database is present (and required) but
as no compute nodes are connected to it, this is still a “single cell”

Multiple cells

In order to shard the services into multiple cells, a number of
things must happen. First, the message bus must be split into pieces
along the same lines as the cell database. Second, a dedicated conductor
must be run for the API-level services, with access to the API database
and a dedicated message queue. We call this super conductor to
distinguish its place and purpose from the per-cell conductor nodes.

digraph services2 {

graph [pad=”0.35″, ranksep=”0.65″, nodesep=”0.55″, concentrate=true];
node [fontsize=10 fontname=”Monospace”]; edge [arrowhead=”normal”,
arrowsize=”0.8″]; labelloc=bottom; labeljust=left;

subgraph api {

api [label=”nova-api”] scheduler [label=”nova-scheduler”] conductor
[label=”super conductor”] { rank=same apimq [label=”API MQ”
shape=”diamond”] apidb [label=”API Database” shape=”box”] }

api -> apimq -> conductor api -> apidb conductor -> apimq
-> scheduler conductor -> apidb


subgraph clustercell0 {

label=”Cell 0″ color=green cell0db [label=”Cell Database”


subgraph clustercell1 {

label=”Cell 1″ color=blue mq1 [label=”Cell MQ” shape=”diamond”]
cell1db [label=”Cell Database” shape=”box”] conductor1
[label=”nova-conductor”] compute1 [label=”nova-compute”]

conductor1 -> mq1 -> compute1 conductor1 -> cell1db


subgraph clustercell2 {

label=”Cell 2″ color=red mq2 [label=”Cell MQ” shape=”diamond”]
cell2db [label=”Cell Database” shape=”box”] conductor2
[label=”nova-conductor”] compute2 [label=”nova-compute”]

conductor2 -> mq2 -> compute2 conductor2 -> cell2db


api -> mq1 -> conductor1 api -> mq2 -> conductor2 api
-> cell0db api -> cell1db api -> cell2db

conductor -> cell0db conductor -> cell1db conductor -> mq1
conductor -> cell2db conductor -> mq2


It is important to note that services in the lower cell boxes only
have the ability to call back to the placement API but cannot access any
other API-layer services via RPC, nor do they have access to the API
database for global visibility of resources across the cloud. This is
intentional and provides security and failure domain isolation benefits,
but also has impacts on some things that would otherwise require this
any-to-any communication style. Check upcall below for the most up-to-date information about
any caveats that may be present due to this limitation.

Database layout

As mentioned previously, there is a split between global data and
data that is local to a cell. These databases schema are referred to as
the API and main database schemas, respectively.

API database

The API database is the database used for API-level services, such as
nova-api and, in a
multi-cell deployment, the superconductor. The models and migrations
related to this database can be found in nova.db.api, and
the database can be managed using the nova-manage api_db commands.

Main (cell-level) database

The main database is the database used for cell-level nova-conductor instances.
The models and migrations related to this database can be found in
nova.db.main, and the database can be managed using the
nova-manage db


As noted previously, all deployments are in effect now cells v2
deployments. As a result, setup of any nova deployment – even those that
intend to only have one cell – will involve some level of cells
configuration. These changes are configuration-related, both in the main
nova configuration file as well as some extra records in the

All nova deployments must now have the following databases available
and configured:

  1. The “API” database
  2. One special “cell” database called “cell0”
  3. One (or eventually more) “cell” databases

Thus, a small nova deployment will have an API database, a cell0, and
what we will call here a “cell1” database. High-level tracking
information is kept in the API database. Instances that are never
scheduled are relegated to the cell0 database, which is effectively a
graveyard of instances that failed to start. All successful/running
instances are stored in “cell1”.


Since Nova services make use of both configuration file and some
databases records, starting or restarting those services with an
incomplete configuration could lead to an incorrect deployment. Only
restart the services once you are done with the described steps


The following examples show the full expanded command line usage of
the setup commands. This is to make it easier to visualize which of the
various URLs are used by each of the commands. However, you should be
able to put all of that in the config file and nova-manage will use
those values. If need be, you can create separate config files and pass
them as nova-manage --config-file foo.conf to control the
behavior without specifying things on the command lines.

Configuring a new deployment

If you are installing Nova for the first time and have no compute
hosts in the database yet then it will be necessary to configure cell0
and at least one additional “real” cell. To begin, ensure your API
database schema has been populated using the nova-manage api_db sync
command. Ensure the connection information for this database is stored
in the nova.conf file using the api_database.connection config

connection = mysql+pymysql://root:secretmysql@dbserver/nova_api?charset=utf8

Since there may be multiple “cell” databases (and in fact everyone
will have cell0 and cell1 at a minimum), connection info for these is
stored in the API database. Thus, the API database must exist and must
provide information on how to connect to it before continuing to the
steps below, so that nova-manage can find your other databases.

Next, we will create the necessary records for the cell0 database. To
do that we will first use nova-manage cell_v2 map_cell0 to create and map
cell0. For example:

$ nova-manage cell_v2 map_cell0 \
    --database_connection mysql+pymysql://root:secretmysql@dbserver/nova_cell0?charset=utf8


If you don’t specify --database_connection then the
commands will use the database.connection value from your
config file and mangle the database name to have a _cell0


If your databases are on separate hosts then you should specify
--database_connection or make certain that the nova.conf being used has the
database.connection value pointing to
the same user/password/host that will work for the cell0 database. If
the cell0 mapping was created incorrectly, it can be deleted using the
nova-manage cell_v2 delete_cell command before
running nova-manage cell_v2 map_cell0 again with the
proper database connection value.

We will then use nova-manage db sync to apply the database schema
to this new database. For example:

$ nova-manage db sync \
    --database_connection mysql+pymysql://root:secretmysql@dbserver/nova_cell0?charset=utf8

Since no hosts are ever in cell0, nothing further is required for its
setup. Note that all deployments only ever have one cell0, as it is
special, so once you have done this step you never need to do it again,
even if you add more regular cells.

Now, we must create another cell which will be our first “regular”
cell, which has actual compute hosts in it, and to which instances can
actually be scheduled. First, we create the cell record using nova-manage cell_v2 create_cell. For example:

$ nova-manage cell_v2 create_cell \
    --name cell1 \
    --database_connection  mysql+pymysql://root:[email protected]/nova?charset=utf8 \
    --transport-url rabbit://stackrabbit:secretrabbit@mqserver:5672/


If you don’t specify the database and transport urls then nova-manage will use the
transport_url and database.connection values from the
config file.


It is a good idea to specify a name for the new cell you create so
you can easily look up cell UUIDs with the nova-manage cell_v2 list_cells command later if


The nova-manage cell_v2 create_cell command will print
the UUID of the newly-created cell if --verbose is passed,
which is useful if you need to run commands like nova-manage cell_v2 discover_hosts targeted at a
specific cell.

At this point, the API database can now find the cell database, and
further commands will attempt to look inside. If this is a completely
fresh database (such as if you’re adding a cell, or if this is a new
deployment), then you will need to run nova-manage db sync on it to initialize the

Now we have a cell, but no hosts are in it which means the scheduler
will never actually place instances there. The next step is to scan the
database for compute node records and add them into the cell we just
created. For this step, you must have had a compute node started such
that it registers itself as a running service. You can identify this
using the openstack compute
service list

$ openstack compute service list --service nova-compute

Once that has happened, you can scan and add it to the cell using the
nova-manage cell_v2 discover_hosts command:

$ nova-manage cell_v2 discover_hosts

This command will connect to any databases for which you have created
cells (as above), look for hosts that have registered themselves there,
and map those hosts in the API database so that they are visible to the
scheduler as available targets for instances. Any time you add more
compute hosts to a cell, you need to re-run this command to map them
from the top-level so they can be utilized. You can also configure a
periodic task to have Nova discover new hosts automatically by setting
the scheduler.discover_hosts_in_cells_interval
to a time interval in seconds. The periodic task is run by the nova-scheduler service,
so you must be sure to configure it on all of your nova-scheduler hosts.


In the future, whenever you add new compute hosts, you will need to
run the nova-manage cell_v2 discover_hosts command after
starting them to map them to the cell if you did not configure automatic
host discovery using scheduler.discover_hosts_in_cells_interval.

Adding a new cell
to an existing deployment

You can add additional cells to your deployment using the same steps
used above to create your first cell. We can create a new cell record
using nova-manage cell_v2 create_cell. For example:

$ nova-manage cell_v2 create_cell \
    --name cell2 \
    --database_connection  mysql+pymysql://root:[email protected]/nova?charset=utf8 \
    --transport-url rabbit://stackrabbit:secretrabbit@mqserver:5672/


If you don’t specify the database and transport urls then nova-manage will use the
transport_url and database.connection values from the
config file.


It is a good idea to specify a name for the new cell you create so
you can easily look up cell UUIDs with the nova-manage cell_v2 list_cells command later if


The nova-manage cell_v2 create_cell command will print
the UUID of the newly-created cell if --verbose is passed,
which is useful if you need to run commands like nova-manage cell_v2 discover_hosts targeted at a
specific cell.

You can repeat this step for each cell you wish to add to your
deployment. Your existing cell database will be re-used – this simply
informs the top-level API database about your existing cell

Once you’ve created your new cell, use nova-manage cell_v2
to map compute hosts to cells. This is only
necessary if you haven’t enabled automatic discovery using the scheduler.discover_hosts_in_cells_interval
option. For example:

$ nova-manage cell_v2 discover_hosts


This command will search for compute hosts in each cell database and
map them to the corresponding cell. This can be slow, particularly for
larger deployments. You may wish to specify the --cell_uuid
option, which will limit the search to a specific cell. You can use the
cell_v2 list_cells
command to look up cell UUIDs if you are going
to specify --cell_uuid.

Finally, run the nova-manage cell_v2 map_instances command to map
existing instances to the new cell(s). For example:

$ nova-manage cell_v2 map_instances


This command will search for instances in each cell database and map
them to the correct cell. This can be slow, particularly for larger
deployments. You may wish to specify the --cell_uuid
option, which will limit the search to a specific cell. You can use the
nova-manage cell_v2
command to look up cell UUIDs if you are going to
specify --cell_uuid.


The --max-count option can be specified if you would
like to limit the number of instances to map in a single run. If
--max-count is not specified, all instances will be mapped.
Repeated runs of the command will start from where the last run finished
so it is not necessary to increase --max-count to finish.
An exit code of 0 indicates that all instances have been mapped. An exit
code of 1 indicates that there are remaining instances that need to be

Template URLs in Cell

Starting in the 18.0.0 (Rocky) release, the URLs provided in the cell
mappings for --database_connection and
--transport-url can contain variables which are evaluated
each time they are loaded from the database, and the values of which are
taken from the corresponding base options in the host’s configuration
file. The base URL is parsed and the following elements may be
substituted into the cell mapping URL (using

Cell Mapping URL Variables
Variable Meaning Part of example URL
scheme The part before the :// rabbit
username The username part of the credentials bob
password The password part of the credentials s3kret
hostname The hostname or address myhost
port The port number (must be specified) 123
path The “path” part of the URL (without leading slash) nova
query The full query string arguments (without leading question mark) sync=true
fragment Everything after the first hash mark extra

Variables are provided in curly brackets, like
{username}. A simple template of
rabbit://{username}:{password}@otherhost/{path} will
generate a full URL of rabbit://bob:s3kret@otherhost/nova
when used with the above example.


The database.connection and transport_url
values are not reloaded from the configuration file during a SIGHUP,
which means that a full service restart will be required to notice
changes in a cell mapping record if variables are changed.


The transport_url option can contain an
extended syntax for the “netloc” part of the URL (i.e.
In this case, substitions of the form username1,
username2, etc will be honored and can be used in the
template URL.

The templating of these URLs may be helpful in order to provide each
service host with its own credentials for, say, the database. Without
templating, all hosts will use the same URL (and thus credentials) for
accessing services like the database and message queue. By using a URL
with a template that results in the credentials being taken from the
host-local configuration file, each host will use different values for
those connections.

Assuming you have two service hosts that are normally configured with
the cell0 database as their primary connection, their (abbreviated)
configurations would look like this:

connection = mysql+pymysql://service1:foo@myapidbhost/nova_cell0


connection = mysql+pymysql://service2:bar@myapidbhost/nova_cell0

Without cell mapping template URLs, they would still use the same
credentials (as stored in the mapping) to connect to the cell databases.
However, consider template URLs like the following:




Using the first service and cell1 mapping, the calculated URL that
will actually be used for connecting to that database will be:



Prior to the introduction of cells v2, when a request hit the Nova
API for a particular instance, the instance information was fetched from
the database. The information contained the hostname of the compute node
on which the instance was currently located. If the request needed to
take action on the instance (which it generally would), the hostname was
used to calculate the name of a queue and a message was written there
which would eventually find its way to the proper compute node.

The meat of the cells v2 feature was to split this hostname lookup
into two parts that yielded three pieces of information instead of one.
Basically, instead of merely looking up the name of the compute
node on which an instance was located, we also started obtaining
database and queue connection information. Thus, when asked to take
action on instance $foo, we now:

  1. Lookup the three-tuple of (database, queue, hostname) for that
  2. Connect to that database and fetch the instance record
  3. Connect to the queue and send the message to the proper hostname

The above differs from the previous organization in two ways. First,
we now need to do two database lookups before we know where the instance
lives. Second, we need to demand-connect to the appropriate database and
queue. Both of these changes had performance implications, but it was
possible to mitigate them through the use of things like a memcache of
instance mapping information and pooling of connections to database and
queue systems. The number of cells will always be much smaller than the
number of instances.

There were also availability implications with the new feature since
something like a instance list which might query multiple cells could
end up with a partial result if there is a database failure in a cell.
These issues can be mitigated, as discussed in handling-cell-failures. A
database failure within a cell would cause larger issues than a partial
list result so the expectation is that it would be addressed quickly and
cells v2 will handle it by indicating in the response that the data may
not be complete.

Comparison with cells v1

Prior to the introduction of cells v2, nova had a very similar
feature, also called cells or referred to as cells v1 for
disambiguation. Cells v2 was an effort to address many of the perceived
shortcomings of the cell v1 feature. Benefits of the cells v2 feature
over the previous cells v1 feature include:

  • Native sharding of the database and queue as a first-class-feature
    in nova. All of the code paths will go through the lookup procedure and
    thus we won’t have the same feature parity issues as we do with current
  • No high-level replication of all the cell databases at the top. The
    API will need a database of its own for things like the instance index,
    but it will not need to replicate all the data at the top level.
  • It draws a clear line between global and local data elements. Things
    like flavors and keypairs are clearly global concepts that need only
    live at the top level. Providing this separation allows compute nodes to
    become even more stateless and insulated from things like
    deleted/changed global data.
  • Existing non-cells users will suddenly gain the ability to spawn a
    new “cell” from their existing deployment without changing their
    architecture. Simply adding information about the new database and queue
    systems to the new index will allow them to consume those
  • Existing cells users will need to fill out the cells mapping index,
    shutdown their existing cells synchronization service, and ultimately
    clean up their top level database. However, since the high-level
    organization is not substantially different, they will not have to
    re-architect their systems to move to cells v2.
  • Adding new sets of hosts as a new “cell” allows them to be plugged
    into a deployment and tested before allowing builds to be scheduled to



Many of these caveats have been addressed since the introduction of
cells v2 in the 16.0.0 (Pike) release. These are called out below.

Cross-cell move operations

Support for cross-cell cold migration and resize was introduced in
the 21.0.0 (Ussuri) release. This is documented in /admin/configuration/cross-cell-resize. Prior to this
release, it was not possible to cold migrate or resize an instance from
a host in one cell to a host in another cell.

It is not currently possible to live migrate, evacuate or unshelve an
instance from a host in one cell to a host in another cell.

Quotas are now calculated live at the point at which an operation
would consume more resource, instead of being kept statically in the
database. This means that a multi-cell environment may incorrectly
calculate the usage of a tenant if one of the cells is unreachable, as
those resources cannot be counted. In this case, the tenant may be able
to consume more resource from one of the available cells, putting them
far over quota when the unreachable cell returns.


Starting in the Train (20.0.0) release, it is possible to configure
counting of quota usage from the placement service and API database to
make quota usage calculations resilient to down or poor-performing cells
in a multi-cell environment. See the quotas documentation
for more details.

Performance of listing

Prior to the 17.0.0 (Queens) release, the instance list operation may
not sort and paginate results properly when crossing multiple cell
boundaries. Further, the performance of a sorted list operation across
multiple cells was considerably slower than with a single cell. This was
resolved as part of the efficient-multi-cell-instance-list-and-sort


With a multi-cell environment with multiple message queues, it is
likely that operators will want to configure a separate connection to a
unified queue for notifications. This can be done in the configuration
file of all nodes. Refer to the oslo.messaging configuration

for more details.

Nova Metadata API service

Starting from the 19.0.0 (Stein) release, the nova metadata API service
can be run either globally or per
cell using the api.local_metadata_per_cell
configuration option.


If you have networks that span cells, you might need to run Nova
metadata API globally. When running globally, it should be configured as
an API-level service with access to the api_database.connection information.
The nova metadata API service must not be run as a
standalone service, using the nova-api-metadata service, in this case.

Local per cell

Running Nova metadata API per cell can have better performance and
data isolation in a multi-cell deployment. If your networks are
segmented along cell boundaries, then you can run Nova metadata API
service per cell. If you choose to run it per cell, you should also
configure each neutron-metadata-agent

service to point to the corresponding nova-api-metadata. The nova metadata API service
must be run as a standalone service, using the nova-api-metadata
service, in this case.

Console proxies

Starting from the 18.0.0 (Rocky) release, console proxies must be run
per cell because console token authorizations are stored in cell
databases. This means that each console proxy server must have access to
the database.connection information for the
cell database containing the instances for which it is proxying console
access. This functionality was added as part of the convert-consoles-to-objects

Operations requiring upcalls

If you deploy multiple cells with a superconductor as described
above, computes and cell-based conductors will not have the ability to
speak to the scheduler as they are not connected to the same MQ. This is
by design for isolation, but currently the processes are not in place to
implement some features without such connectivity. Thus, anything that
requires a so-called “upcall” will not function. This impacts the

  1. Instance reschedules during boot and resize (part 1)


    This has been resolved in the Queens

  2. Instance affinity reporting from the compute nodes to

  3. The late anti-affinity check during server create and

  4. Querying host aggregates from the cell


    This has been resolved in the Rocky

  5. Attaching a volume and
    [cinder] cross_az_attach = False

  6. Instance reschedules during boot and resize (part 2)


    This has been resolved in the Ussuri

The first is simple: if you boot an instance, it gets scheduled to a
compute node, fails, it would normally be re-scheduled to another node.
That requires scheduler intervention and thus it will not work in Pike
with a multi-cell layout. If you do not rely on reschedules for covering
up transient compute-node failures, then this will not affect you. To
ensure you do not make futile attempts at rescheduling, you should set
scheduler.max_attempts to
1 in nova.conf.

The second two are related. The summary is that some of the
facilities that Nova has for ensuring that affinity/anti-affinity is
preserved between instances does not function in Pike with a multi-cell
layout. If you don’t use affinity operations, then this will not affect
you. To make sure you don’t make futile attempts at the affinity check,
you should set workarounds.disable_group_policy_check_upcall
to True and filter_scheduler.track_instance_changes
to False in nova.conf.

The fourth was previously only a problem when performing live
migrations using the since-removed XenAPI driver and not specifying
--block-migrate. The driver would attempt to figure out if
block migration should be performed based on source and destination
hosts being in the same aggregate. Since aggregates data had migrated to
the API database, the cell conductor would not be able to access the
aggregate information and would fail.

The fifth is a problem because when a volume is attached to an
instance in the nova-compute service, and
[cinder]/cross_az_attach=False in nova.conf, we attempt to
look up the availability zone that the instance is in which includes
getting any host aggregates that the instance.host is in.
Since the aggregates are in the API database and the cell conductor
cannot access that information, so this will fail. In the future this
check could be moved to the nova-api service such that the
availability zone between the instance and the volume is checked before
we reach the cell, except in the case of boot from volume <Boot From Volume> where the
nova-compute service itself creates the volume and must tell
Cinder in which availability zone to create the volume. Long-term,
volume creation during boot from volume should be moved to the top-level
superconductor which would eliminate this AZ up-call check problem.

The sixth is detailed in bug
and is similar to the first issue. The issue is that servers
created without a specific availability zone will have their AZ
calculated during a reschedule based on the alternate host selected.
Determining the AZ for the alternate host requires an “up call” to the

Handling cell failures

For an explanation on how nova-api handles cell failures
please see the Handling
Down Cells
section of the Compute API guide. Below, you can find
some recommended practices and considerations for effectively tolerating
cell failure situations.

Configuration considerations

Since a cell being reachable or not is determined through timeouts,
it is suggested to provide suitable values for the following settings
based on your requirements.

  1. database.max_retries is 10 by default
    meaning every time a cell becomes unreachable, it would retry 10 times
    before nova can declare the cell as a “down” cell.
  2. database.retry_interval is 10 seconds
    and oslo_messaging_rabbit.rabbit_retry_interval
    is 1 second by default meaning every time a cell becomes unreachable it
    would retry every 10 seconds or 1 second depending on if it’s a database
    or a message queue problem.
  3. Nova also has a timeout value called CELL_TIMEOUT which
    is hardcoded to 60 seconds and that is the total time the nova-api would
    wait before returning partial results for the “down” cells.

The values of the above settings will affect the time required for
nova to decide if a cell is unreachable and then take the necessary
actions like returning partial results.

The operator can also control the results of certain actions like
listing servers and services depending on the value of the api.list_records_by_skipping_down_cells
config option. If this is true, the results from the unreachable cells
will be skipped and if it is false, the request will just fail with an
API error in situations where partial constructs cannot be computed.

Disabling down cells

While the temporary outage in the infrastructure is being fixed, the
affected cells can be disabled so that they are removed from being
scheduling candidates. To enable or disable a cell, use nova-manage cell_v2 update_cell
--cell_uuid <cell_uuid> --disable
. See the man-page-cells-v2 man page
for details on command usage.

Known issues

  1. Services and Performance: In case a cell is down
    during the startup of nova services, there is the chance that the
    services hang because of not being able to connect to all the cell
    databases that might be required for certain calculations and
    initializations. An example scenario of this situation is if upgrade_levels.compute is set to
    auto then the nova-api service hangs on
    startup if there is at least one unreachable cell. This is because it
    needs to connect to all the cells to gather information on each of the
    compute service’s version to determine the compute version cap to use.
    The current workaround is to pin the upgrade_levels.compute to a particular
    version like “rocky” and get the service up under such situations. See
    for more details. Also note that in general during
    situations where cells are not reachable certain “slowness” may be
    experienced in operations requiring hitting all the cells because of the
    aforementioned configurable timeout/retry values.
  1. Counting Quotas: Another known issue is in the
    current approach of counting quotas where we query each cell database to
    get the used resources and aggregate them which makes it sensitive to
    temporary cell outages. While the cell is unavailable, we cannot count
    resource usage residing in that cell database and things would behave as
    though more quota is available than should be. That is, if a tenant has
    used all of their quota and part of it is in cell A and cell A goes
    offline temporarily, that tenant will suddenly be able to allocate more
    resources than their limit (assuming cell A returns, the tenant will
    have more resources allocated than their allowed quota).


    Starting in the Train (20.0.0) release, it is possible to configure
    counting of quota usage from the placement service and API database to
    make quota usage calculations resilient to down or poor-performing cells
    in a multi-cell environment. See the quotas documentation</user/quotas> for more


  • How do I find out which hosts are bound to which cell?

    There are a couple of ways to do this.

    1. Run nova-manage cell_v2 discover_hosts --verbose.

      This does not produce a report but if you are trying to determine if
      a host is in a cell you can run this and it will report any hosts that
      are not yet mapped to a cell and map them. This command is

    2. Run nova-manage cell_v2 list_hosts.

      This will list hosts in all cells. If you want to list hosts in a
      specific cell, you can use the --cell_uuid option.

  • I updated the database_connection and/or
    transport_url in a cell using the
    nova-manage cell_v2 update_cell command but the API is
    still trying to use the old settings.

    The cell mappings are cached in the nova-api service worker so you will need to
    restart the worker process to rebuild the cache. Note that there is
    another global cache tied to request contexts, which is used in the
    nova-conductor and nova-scheduler services, so you might need to do the
    same if you are having the same issue in those services. As of the
    16.0.0 (Pike) release there is no timer on the cache or hook to refresh
    the cache using a SIGHUP to the service.

  • I have upgraded from Newton to Ocata and I can list instances but
    I get a HTTP 404 (NotFound) error when I try to get details on a
    specific instance.

    Instances need to be mapped to cells so the API knows which cell an
    instance lives in. When upgrading, the nova-manage cell_v2 simple_cell_setup command will
    automatically map the instances to the single cell which is backed by
    the existing nova database. If you have already upgraded and did not use
    the nova-manage cell_v2 simple_cell_setup command, you
    can run the nova-manage cell_v2 map_instances command with the
    --cell_uuid option to map all instances in the given cell.
    See the man-page-cells-v2 man page for details on command

  • Can I create a cell but have it disabled from scheduling?

    Yes. It is possible to create a pre-disabled cell such that it does
    not become a candidate for scheduling new VMs. This can be done by
    running the nova-manage cell_v2 create_cell command with the
    --disabled option.

  • How can I disable a cell so that the new server create requests
    do not go to it while I perform maintenance?

    Existing cells can be disabled by running nova-manage cell_v2
    with the --disable option and can be
    re-enabled once the maintenance period is over by running this command
    with the --enable option.

  • I disabled (or enabled) a cell using the nova-manage cell_v2
    or I created a new (pre-disabled) cell(mapping) using
    the nova-manage cell_v2 create_cell command but the
    scheduler is still using the old settings.

    The cell mappings are cached in the scheduler worker so you will
    either need to restart the scheduler process to refresh the cache, or
    send a SIGHUP signal to the scheduler by which it will automatically
    refresh the cells cache and the changes will take effect.

  • Why was the cells REST API not implemented for cells v2? Why are
    there no CRUD operations for cells in the API?

    One of the deployment challenges that cells v1 had was the
    requirement for the API and control services to be up before a new cell
    could be deployed. This was not a problem for large-scale public clouds
    that never shut down, but is not a reasonable requirement for smaller
    clouds that do offline upgrades and/or clouds which could be taken
    completely offline by something like a power outage. Initial devstack
    and gate testing for cells v1 was delayed by the need to engineer a
    solution for bringing the services partially online in order to deploy
    the rest, and this continues to be a gap for other deployment tools.
    Consider also the FFU case where the control plane needs to be down for
    a multi-release upgrade window where changes to cell records have to be
    made. This would be quite a bit harder if the way those changes are made
    is via the API, which must remain down during the process.

    Further, there is a long-term goal to move cell configuration (i.e.
    cell_mappings and the associated URLs and credentials) into config and
    get away from the need to store and provision those things in the
    database. Obviously a CRUD interface in the API would prevent us from
    making that move.

  • Why are cells not exposed as a grouping mechanism in the API for
    listing services, instances, and other resources?

    Early in the design of cells v2 we set a goal to not let the cell
    concept leak out of the API, even for operators. Aggregates are the way
    nova supports grouping of hosts for a variety of reasons, and aggregates
    can cut across cells, and/or be aligned with them if desired. If we were
    to support cells as another grouping mechanism, we would likely end up
    having to implement many of the same features for them as aggregates,
    such as scheduler features, metadata, and other searching/filtering
    operations. Since aggregates are how Nova supports grouping, we expect
    operators to use aggregates any time they need to refer to a cell as a
    group of hosts from the API, and leave actual cells as a purely
    architectural detail.

    The need to filter instances by cell in the API can and should be
    solved by adding a generic by-aggregate filter, which would allow
    listing instances on hosts contained within any aggregate, including one
    that matches the cell boundaries if so desired.

  • Why are the API responses for GET /servers,
    GET /servers/detail, GET /servers/{server_id}
    and GET /os-services missing some information for certain
    cells at certain times? Why do I see the status as “UNKNOWN” for the
    servers in those cells at those times when I run
    openstack server list or
    openstack server show?

    Starting from microversion 2.69 the API responses of
    GET /servers, GET /servers/detail,
    GET /servers/{server_id} and GET /os-services
    may contain missing keys during down cell situations. See the Handling
    Down Cells
    section of the Compute API guide for more information on
    the partial constructs.

    For administrative considerations, see handling-cell-failures.


A large number of cells v2-related presentations have been given at
various OpenStack and OpenInfra Summits over the years. These provide an
excellent reference on the history and development of the feature along
with details from real-world users of the feature.