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One easy way to get started is to go get some pre-build Software appliances. There are lots of them out there but the biggest repository I have found is Turnkey Appliances. They have full Wiki images, Apache web servers, LDAP, etc ... and you can down load them in KVM format for OpenStack. They also have the Appliance image builder available so if you want to build you own XYZ appliance ... they give you the tools to do it. You will be amazed at the selection of stuff they have.

http://www.turnkeylinux.org/

You can of course do this by hand with a bar bones image, but to get a quick start to understand how agile OpenStack is get a OS with a Application built in, then you can spin it up in OpenStack as a Software service ...

There are many more tools out there - Another one that actually lets you on the fly build appliances is Uforge - its a client app that interacts with a website to build images with your specs. I had limited luck with this tool, some images boot fine, so don't.

Hope this helps ... at least from a software perspective.