Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Managed Clouds with RightScale

Having your head in the clouds and managing virtual machines (VMs) which run there is one thing, really getting there is another. An often neglected step in cloud discussions is the cloud on-ramp, or How does the VM providing the needed functionality get there in the first place? Also frequently ignored is the question of What's inside the VM? Maybe these questions are "ignored" as they are inconvenient and not necessarily easy to answer. Similar to driving a car on the highway - once on the highway going along with the flow of traffic is easy, but navigating the on-ramp poses a set of challenges that make many uncomfortable.

The on-ramp to the cloud can take various shapes. One is to pre-build task specific VMs (eg. a web server), which is easy with SUSE Studio and KIWI. If you have multiple functions that needs to be distributed between multiple instances, you can build one image each and then launch them in the cloud.

Another way to the cloud is to customize the VM on startup - start with a standard base image and then install the necessary packages and configuration on first boot. This is the approach taken by RightScale and we are happy to annouce that these base images are now available in SUSE Gallery, in both 32-bit and 64-bit flavours.

When launched from the RightScale interface, the base image/VM connects to the RightScale servers and pull in any scripts that need to be executed. All connections are outbound only, hence safe from a security perspective and does not require any additional ports or special access.

Here's a step-by-step guide on how to use it:
  1. Upload the RightScale base image (32-bit, 64-bit) to your EC2 account.
  2. Log into your RightScale account and create a "Multi Cloud Image" (MCI) based on the EC2 image.
    Add the "provides:rs_agent_type=right_link" tag to the MCI during creation. 
  3. Create a "Server Template". The template may contain a script that installs the required packages and configuration. The following example shows the basic setup for a web server:

These RightScripts can be written in pretty much any scripting language, as long as it is installed in your base image. With a server template complete you can create a "Deployment" in RightScale. Launch your EC2 image from this deployment and the script in your server template will be automatically executed during boot up.

With RightScale, instead of managing multiple images you manage server templates and their content using the RightScale interface. Thus, on the surface you are just managing a different thing when compared to the approach discussed earlier. Once there are multiple clouds, RightScale does offer a reduced management surface. It is possible to reuse existing server templates and thus the setup of a web server, for example, in cloud A and cloud B does not require a new build once you have a base image in both clouds.

RightScale supports only enterprise Linux distributions. For details, please refer to their support page.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Upgrade your appliances to openSUSE 12.1

Last week we enabled one-click upgrade of old openSUSE appliances to just released openSUSE 12.1. The upgrade works the same way as with previous versions. Just open your old 11.4 (or even 11.3 or 11.2) appliance, go to the Start tab and click on the Upgrade button in the bar at the top.

How does the upgrade magic work? Generally Studio tries to change repositories to their 12.1 equivalents and sometimes adds or removes few packages to ensure everything works smoothly. You can see what exactly was done in the log accessible from the bar at the bottom of the Start tab.

Sometimes the upgraded appliance will need few tweaks to work. Just inspect the log, see what was changed, and apply any additional adjustments. Let us know what you had to do on our forum or mailing list so we can improve the upgrade in the future.

If you are not satisfied with the upgrade, you can always revert to original version by clicking the Undo upgrade link.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

openSUSE 12.1 in SUSE Studio

openSUSE 12.1 is officially released today. This is a major milestone both for its users and developers, mainly because of new GNOME 3.2, systemd integration, and many other exciting features.

In what is becoming a tradition, we are supporting the new openSUSE release in Studio right from day one. We prepared the usual set of appliance templates — just click on the Create appliance link and select the one you like.

openSUSE 12.1 templates in SUSE Studio


If you explore the configuration options for openSUSE 12.1 in Studio, you may notice that the EC2 format and LVM configuration are not available yet. These will be enabled once we are confident that they work flawlessly with this new release.

Also note that there are a couple of minor known issues:
  • Login prompt in text-mode appliances may not be initially visible after boot.
  • Loading the list of modified files in testdrive may hang in some cases.
  • Building an exported appliance in KIWI can fail when installing the libncurses5 package.
We are working on resolving these as soon as possible.

Testdriving openSUSE 12.1 GNOME desktop

Testdriving openSUSE 12.1 KDE desktop

What about upgrade?

With previous openSUSE and SLE releases we offered one-click upgrade of your older appliances to the current version, so that you don’t have to re-create them from scratch. We will have this for openSUSE 12.1 as well and plan to release it next week.

Note that while openSUSE 11.4 templates will be removed soon, the existing 11.4 (and older) appliances will work and you will still be able to create them by cloning. Upgrade to 12.1 is optional.

Big thanks

The SUSE Studio team would like to give big thanks to the awesome openSUSE community. They patiently listened to our problems, quickly fixed them, and helped us ensure that everything works smoothly. It would not have been possible to have same-day release of openSUSE 12.1 in Studio without their support.

Now that you know everything go and have a lot of fun with openSUSE 12.1 on SUSE Studio!
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