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DevOps and PaaS - Friend or Foe?

DevOps, which I will arbitrarily define here as "automating SysAdmin tasks to streamline application lifecycle management," raises important questions about the cloud.

  • Developers may ask: "if I have a self-service portal for deploying applications (aka PaaS), do I need SysAdmins at all?"
  • SysAdmins may ask: "isn't PaaS just a monstrous black box that prevents me from provisioning the specific services we need to deploy real-world apps?"
  • VMware asks: "what if you could get a PaaS that wasn't black box, enabling developers to deploy apps easily while still giving SysAdmins the ability to provision any services they needed (aka Cloud Foundry)?

I had a good conversation recently with John Willis of DTO Solutions (twitter feed here) in which he waxed eloquent on how DevOps and Cloud Foundry can live together in harmony. Here were the key points I took away:

  • SysAdmins distrust the black box nature of PaaS: Typical sysadmin thinks that they can get to 75% of PaaS functionality with DevOps tools like Chef without giving up any systems architecture flexibility. In contrast, PaaS solutions like Heroku provide developers an easy to use PaaS but gives SysAdmins zero ability to add services that Heroku doesn't support.
  • Cloud Foundry solves the SysAdmin aversion to cloud vapor: CloudFoundry runs anywhere, incuding on your laptop. Cloud Foundry's service container concept is particularly strong, kind of an appliance on steroids.

There is a strong natural between DevOps and PaaS. Products like Chef and Puppet are strongest for installing and configuring the OS and middleware stack. PaaS solutions like Cloud Foundry excel it deploying application architectures.

The holy grail is to use Chef or Puppet provisioning Cloud Foundry services that can then be easily consumed by developers. DTO Solutions is putting on events to show SysAdmins how to make this happen.

You can also register for the a DevOps HackDay featuring CloudFoundry. The first one is being put on at VMware, September 8, 2011.

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