Chef and Openstack Part 2B – Install a Chef (Version 12) Server, Workstation and Client

Things change. Technology changes fast. Here is an updated installation guide for Chef version 12. There are two notable differences in this post compared to a previous guide for Chef version 11, Install a Chef (Version 11) Server, Workstation and Client. First, this installation is all done via command line whereas we used the user interface in the previous post. Second, version 12 defaults to using authentication keys to communicate between a Chef Workstation and a Chef Server. There are also a number of other changes, such as the new Chef Development Kit. Note that this guide uses Enterprise Linux 6.5 instead of Ubuntu 12.04. This guide will also provide instructions on how to setup Chef when the environment is behind a http proxy. (more…)

Does simplicity give Ansible an edge over similar tools?

What took me three blog posts for Chef, I can describe in one for Ansible. Like Chef and Puppet, Ansible is a configuration management tool that helps us with automating repetitive tasks like deploying packages or applications to groups of servers. Ansible was released in 2012 and is relatively new compared to Puppet, released in 2006, and Chef, released in 2009.

A few years makes a big difference in technology nowadays. For a frame of reference, consider how many new tools have come out recently. In this week’s New York Cloud Expo, a speaker from CoreOS described 18 new and potentially very useful tools that have become available in the past two years. With so many cloud tools available, which ones will gain traction? This post discusses Ansible, which may gain in popularity because of its simplicity. (more…)

Lessons Learned from Nebula and an Updated Perspective on how to Assess Enterprise Clouds

I invested 14 months of my life working at Nebula after having worked 14 years at IBM. What a contrast. Nebula’s leaders and founders changed the IT universe by creating OpenStack Nova. Perhaps there was too much focus on changing the world than on making money, but it was awesome to work with the people who pioneered OpenStack. The mentality was very different than my prior experience, where the clear emphasis was sales. This blog post captures lessons learned from my Nebula experience.

The biggest takeaway might be best summarized by a question posed by one prospect. Do you have an equivalent of a “Hello World” program for cloud? What this prospect needed was something rare in today’s enterprise, applications well-suited for the cloud. Many enterprises and vendors have prioritized building and providing IaaS and PaaS (Platform-as-a-Service). If you read my very first blog post, “How to assess the maturity and growth potential of an enterprise cloud”, you will see that I had focused on IaaS and PaaS too. I have now updated the assessment method to include applications, as described later in this post.


Create a DNS in a cloud

The previous post, “Are meaningful server names just for tradition in a cloud?”, talked about how Enterprises want to use server naming conventions. What happens, however, when a cloud service provider uses its own scheme, typically hard-to-remember unique? This post will talk about one possible solution, creating an alternative DNS-in-a-cloud.

Let us assume that we want a naming convention with hostnames like:

but our cloud provider uses a scheme like this:


Are meaningful server names just for tradition in a Cloud?

In today’s “AWS re:Invent” keynote, Andy Jassy, Senior VP of AWS (Amazon Web Services), said that 90% of their roadmap is driven directly by client feedback. For the other 10%, they listen to what the clients say but have to think about what the client really wants and invent on their behalf to solve the problem. Is server name convention one such scenario where those of us in the cloud space need to innovate?

One of my clients is so invested in their DNS naming convention that their applications and security protocols expect servers to follow a specific convention. They have requested that an IaaS (Infrastructure-as-a-Service) solution needs to conform to their DNS naming standard because it would be so difficult to move away from their convention.

Can we build clouds that scale and meet existing DNS naming conventions? Do we want to? In the long-term, when enterprises have fully embraced cloud, my belief is that we will move away from server naming conventions to server tagging and search. Such a transition will neither be quick nor easy. As Mark Twain wrote in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, “the less there is to justify a traditional custom, the harder it is to get rid of it”. We will need interim solutions.


Chef and OpenStack Part 2A – Install a Chef (Version 11) Server, Workstation and Client

Whereas the last post introduced Chef and its key concepts, this post talks about how to install it. Afterall, perhaps the best way to learn a technology is to use it. So let’s take a look at how to install a Chef Server, Workstation and Clients. This guide also includes instructions on how to install the “knife-openstack” plugin. Note, this guide is for Chef version 11. See the post “Install a (Version 12) Chef Server, Workstation and Client” for a guide on installing Chef version 12.


Chef and OpenStack Part 1 – Key Concepts

Similar to OpenStack, Chef is a tool that brings technologies used by web-scale companies to the mainstream. OpenStack enables us to dynamically deploy thousands of virtual machine instances. Chef enables the automated configuration of those instances and is inspired by the automation long used at both Amazon and Google. Chef has become one of the more popular configuration management tools and cloud services like Amazon OpsWorks support Chef. Alternatives to Chef are Puppet, Ansible and Salt.

Chef provides a way to code infrastructure in “recipes”. The code, or recipes, can automate the setup, configuration, deployment and management of virtual servers in a cloud. To better understand the value of Chef, consider the operational tasks a system admin would have to do. These tasks become daunting as the number of VMs increases. (more…)

Does Docker’s hype signal the next phase of cloud computing?

While enterprises might say they have cloud computing, most are just exploring it. At least that is what one prospective client told me today at his office, perched some 50 floors above Manhattan’s busy streets overlooking the Hudson River and newly constructed Freedom Tower. Many enterprises have cloud pilots or first phase implementations but few have truly adopted cloud computing. I have, however, observed significant changes this year. One of those is a lot of discussion on Docker. I believe that the hype that we see with Docker, which only recently released its version 1.0, signals a transition from cloud exploration to adoption.

The conversation is changing from cost efficiency to time-to-market (more…)

Install Hadoop on an OpenStack Cloud

June 17, 2014 – Added instructions to use block storage instead of instance storage

It is one thing to talk about technology. It is another thing to get it to work. Whereas my last blog post talked about the value of running Hadoop on a cloud, this one talks about my experience with implementing it. I used a Nebula appliance to deploy an OpenStack cloud and used Hortonworks Apache Ambari to setup a Hadoop cluster. (more…)