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The concept of instance metadata comes from AWS. My definition: Instance metadata is a set of key-value pairs that the instance can query from OpenStack using the metadata API or the config drive. Some of that data can be essential for operating the instance, such as the ssh key, other parts are provided by OpenStack but not necessarily important, such as the instance's UUID, and users can set their own metadata to convey whatever information they need to the instance. You will find some information in the docs such as here, and you may learn how other people use metadata by, for example, searching on ask.openstack.org.