REST API Microversion Support

We need a way to be able to introduce changes to the REST API to both fix bugs and add new features. Some of these changes are backwards incompatible and we currently have no way of doing this.

Problem description

As a community we are really good at evolving interfaces and code over time via incremental development. We’ve been less good at giant big bang drops of code. The Nova API has become sufficiently large, and constantly growing through new extensions, that it’s not likely to be able to ever do a new major version of the API because of the impact on users and overhead for developers of supporting multiple implementations.

At the same time the current situation where we allow innovation in the API through adding extensions, has grown to the point where we now have extensions to extensions, under the assumption that the extension list is a poor man’s versioning mechanism. This has led to large amounts of technical debt. It prevents us from making certain changes, like deprecating pieces of the API that are currently non sensible or broken. Or fixing other areas where incremental development has led to inconsistencies in the API which is confusing for new users.

We must come up with a better way that serves the following needs:

  • Makes it possible to evolve the API in an incremental manner, which is our strength as a community.

  • Provides backwards compatibility for users of the REST API.

  • Provides cleanliness in the code to make it less likely that we’ll do the wrong thing when extending or modifying the API.

A great interface is one that goes out of it’s way to makes it hard to use incorrectly. A good interface tries to be a great interface, but bends to the realities of the moment.

Use Cases

  • Allows developers to modify the Nova API in backwards compatible way and signal to users of the API dynamically that the change is available without having to create a new API extension.

  • Allows developers to modify the Nova API in a non backwards compatible way whilst still supporting the old behaviour. Users of the REST API are able to decide if they want the Nova API to behave in the new or old manner on a per request basis. Deployers are able to make new backwards incompatible features available without removing support for prior behaviour as long as there is support to do this by developers.

  • Users of the REST API are able to, on a per request basis, decide which version of the API they want to use (assuming the deployer supports the version they want).

Project Priority

The kilo priorities list is currently not defined. However under the currently proposed list of priorities it would fall under “User Experience” as it significantly increases the ability for us to improve the Nova API.

Proposed change

Design Priorities:

  • How will the end users use this, and how to we make it hard to use incorrectly

  • How will the code be internally structured. How do we make it:

    • Easy to see in the code that you are about to break API compatibility.

    • Make it easy to make backwards compatible changes

    • Make it possible to make backwards incompatible changes

    • Minimise code duplication to minimise maintenance overhead

  • How will we test this both for unittests and in integration. And what limits does that impose.


For the purposes of this discussion, “the API” is all core and optional extensions in the Nova tree.

Versioning of the API should be a single monotonic counter. It will be of the form X.Y where it follows the following convention:

  • X will only be changed if a significant backwards incompatible API change is made which affects the API as whole. That is, something that is only very very rarely incremented.

  • Y when you make any change to the API. Note that this includes semantic changes which may not affect the input or output formats or even originate in the API code layer. We are not distinguishing between backwards compatible and backwards incompatible changes in the versioning system. It will however be made clear in the documentation as to what is a backwards compatible change and what is a backwards incompatible one.

Note that groups of similar changes across the API will not be made under a single version bump. This will minimise the impact on users as they can control changes that they want to be exposed to.

A backwards compatible change is defined as one which would be allowed under the OpenStack API Change Guidelines

A version response would look as follows

     "versions": [
            "id": "v2.1",
            "links": [
                    "href": "http://localhost:8774/v2/",
                    "rel": "self"
            "status": "CURRENT",
            "version": "5.2"
            "min_version": "2.1"

This specifies the min and max version that the server can understand. min_version will start at 2.1 representing the v2.1 API (which is equivalent to the V2.0 API except for XML support). It may eventually be increased if there are support burdens we don’t feel are adequate to support.

Client Interaction

A client specifies the version of the API they want via the following approach, a new header:

X-OpenStack-Nova-API-Version: 2.114

This conceptually acts like the accept header. This is a global API version.

Semantically this means:

  • If X-OpenStack-Nova-API-Version is not provided, act as if min_version was sent.

  • If X-OpenStack-Nova-API-Version is sent, respond with the API at that version. If that’s outside of the range of versions supported, return 406 Not Acceptable.

  • If X-OpenStack-Nova-API-Version: latest (special keyword) return max_version of the API.

This means out of the box, with an old client, an OpenStack installation will return vanilla OpenStack responses at v2. The user or SDK will have to ask for something different in order to get new features.

Two extra headers are always returned in the response:

X-OpenStack-Nova-API-Version: version_number, experimental Vary: X-OpenStack-Nova-API-Version

The first header specifies the version number of the API which was executed. Experimental is only returned if the operator has made a modification to the API behaviour that is non standard. This is only intended to be a transitional mechanism while some functionality used by cloud operators is upstreamed and it will be removed within a small number of releases..

The second header is used as a hint to caching proxies that the response is also dependent on the X-Openstack-Compute-API-Version and not just the body and query parameters. See RFC 2616 section 14.44 for details.

Implementation design details

On each request the X-OpenStack-Nova-API-Version header string will be converted to an APIVersionRequest object in the wsgi code. Routing will occur in the usual manner with the version object attached to the request object (which all API methods expect). The API methods can then use this to determine their behaviour to the incoming request.

Types of changes we will need to support:

* Status code changes (success and error codes)
* Allowable body parameters (affects input validation schemas too)
* Allowable url parameters
* General semantic changes
* Data returned in response
* Removal of resources in the API
* Removal of fields in a response object or changing the layout of the response

Note: This list is not meant to be an exhaustive list

Within a controller case, methods can be marked with a decorator to indicate what API versions they implement. For example:

@api_version(min_version='2.1', max_version='2.9')
def show(self, req, id):

def show(self, req, id):

An incoming request for version 2.2 of the API would end up executing the first method, whilst an incoming request for version 3.1 of the API would result in the second being executed.

A version object is passed down to the method attached to the request object so it is also possible to do very specific checks in a method. For example:

def show(self, req, id):
  .... stuff ....

  if req.ver_obj.matches(start_version, end_version):
    .... Do version specific stuff ....

  ....  stuff ....

Note that end_version is optional in which case it will match any version greater than or equal to start_version.

Some prototype code which explains how this work is available here:

The validation schema decorator would also need to be extended to support versioning

@validation.schema(schema_definition, min_version, max_version)

Note that both min_version and max_version would be optional parameters.

A method, extension, or a field in a request or response can be removed from the API by specifying a max_version:

@api_version(min_version='2.1', max_version='2.9')
def show(self, req, id):
  ....  stuff ....

If a request for version 2.11 is made by a client, the client will receive a 404 as if the method does not exist at all. If the minimum version of the API as whole was brought up to 2.10 then the extension itself could then be removed.

The minimum version of the API as a whole would only be increased by a consensus decision between Nova developers who have the ovehead of maintaining backwards compatibility and deployers and users who want backwards compatibility forever.

Because we have a monotonically increasing version number across the whole of the API rather than versioning individual plugins we will have potential merge conflicts like we currenty have with DB migration changesets. Sorry, I don’t believe there is any way around this, but welcome any suggestions!

Client Expectations

As with system which supports version negotiation, a robust client consuming this API will need to also support some range of versions otherwise that client will not be able to be used in software that talks to multiple clouds.

The concrete example is nodepool in OpenStack Infra. Assume there is a world where it is regularly connecting to 4 public clouds. They are at the following states:

- Cloud A:
  - min_ver: 2.100
  - max_ver: 2.300
- Cloud B:
  - min_ver: 2.200
  - max_ver: 2.450
- Cloud C:
  - min_ver: 2.300
  - max_ver: 2.600
- Cloud D:
  - min_ver: 2.400
  - max_ver: 2.800

No single version of the API is available in all those clouds based on the ancientness of some of them. However within the client SDK certain basic functions like boot will exist, though might get different additional data based on version of the API. The client should smooth over these differences when possible.

Realistically this is a problem that exists today, except there is no infrastructure to support creating a solution to solve it.


One alternative is to make all the backwards incompatible changes at once and do a major API release. For example, change the url prefix to /v3 instead of /v2. And then support both implementations for a long period of time. This approach has been rejected in the past because of concerns around maintance overhead.

Data model impact


REST API impact

As described above there would be additional version information added to the GET /. These should be backwards compatible changes and I rather doubt anyone is actually using this information in practice anyway.

Otherwise there are no changes unless a client header as described is supplied as part of the request.

Security impact


Notifications impact


Other end user impact

SDK authors will need to start using the X-OpenStack-Nova-API-Version header to get access to new features. The fact that new features will only be added in new versions will encourage them to do so.

python-novaclient is in an identical situation and will need to be updated to support the new header in order to support new API features.

Performance Impact


Other deployer impact


Developer impact

This will obviously affect how Nova developers modify the REST API code and add new extensions.


  • Does adding a new plugin change the version number? Yes.

  • Do we bump a version number when error status codes change? Yes, its is an API change.



Primary assignee:


Other contributors:

<launchpad-id or None>

Work Items

  • Implement APIVersions class

  • Implement handling of X-OpenStack-Nova-API-Version header

  • Implement routing of methods called based on version header.

  • Find and implement first API change requiring a microversion bump.


  • This is dependent on v2.1 v2-on-v3-api spec being completed.

  • Any nova spec which wants to make backwards incompatible changes to the API (such as the tasks api specification) is dependent on on this change. As is any spec that wants to make any API change to the v2.1 API without having to add a dummy extension.

  • JSON-Home is related to this though they provide different services. Microversions allows clients to control which version of the API they are exposed to and JSON-Home describes that API allowing for resource discovery.


It is not feasible for tempest to test all possible combinations of the API supported by microversions. We will have to pick specific versions which are representative of what is implemented. The existing Nova tempest tests will be used as the baseline for future API version testing.

Documentation Impact

The long term aim is to produce API documentation at least partially automated using the current json schema support and future JSON-Home support. This problem is fairly orthogonal to this specification though.