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PaaS with CloudStack

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PaaS with CloudStack

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[This article was originally written by Sebastien Goasguen.]

A few talks from CCC in Amsterdam

In November at the CloudStack Collaboration Conference I was pleased to see several talks on PaaS. We had Uri Cohen (@uri1803) from GigaspacesMarc-Elian Begin (@lemeb) from Sixsq and Alex Heneveld (@ahtweetin) fromCloudSoft. We also had some related talks -depending on your definition of PaaS- with talks about Docker andVagrant.

PaaS variations

The differences between PaaS solutions is best explained by this picture from AWS FAQ about application management. 

There is clearly a spectrum that goes from operational control to pure application deployment. We could argue that true PaaS abstracts the operational details and that management of the underlying infrastructure should be totally hidden, that said, automation of virtual infrastructure deployment has reached such a sophisticated state that it blurs the definition between IaaS and PaaS. Not suprisingly AWS offers services that covers the entire spectrum.
Since I am more on the operation side, I tend to see a PaaS as an infrastructure automation framework. For instance I look for tools to deploy a MongoDB cluster or a RiakCS cluster. I am not looking for an abstract plaform that has Monogdb pre-installed and where I can turn a knob to increase the size of the cluster or manage my shards. An application person will prefer to look at something like Google App Engine and it's open source versionAppscale. I will get back to all these differences in a next post on PaaS but this article by @DavidLinthicum that just came out is a good read.

Support for CloudStack

What is interesting for the CloudStack community is to look at the support for CloudStack in all these different solutions wherever they are in the application management spectrum.

  • Cloudify from Gigaspaces was all over twitter about their support for OpenStack, and I was getting slightly bothered with the lack of CloudStack support. That's why it was great to see Uri Cohen in Amstredam. He delivered a great talk and he gave me a demo of Cloudify. I was very impressed of course by the slick UI but overall by the ability to provision complete application/infrastructure definitions on clouds. Underlying it uses Apache jclouds, so there was no reason that it could not talk to CloudStack. Over christmas Uri did a terrific job and the CloudStack support is now tested and documented. It works not only on the commercial version from Citrix CloudPlatform but also with Apache CloudStack. And of course it works with my neighbors Cloudexoscale
  • Slipstream is not widely known but worth a look. At CCC @lemeb demoed a CloudStack driver. Since then, they now offer an hosted version of their slipstream cloud orchestration framework which turns out to be hosted on exoscale CloudStack cloud. Slipstream is more of a Cloud broker than a PaaS but it automates application deployment on multiple clouds abstracting the various cloud APIs and offering application templates for deployments of virtual infrastructure. Check it out.
  • Cloudsoft main application deployment engine is brooklyn, it originated from Alex Heneveld contribution to Apache Whirr that I wrote about couple times. But it can use OpenShift for additional level of PaaS. I will need to check with Alex how they are doing this, as I believe Openshift uses LXC. Since CloudStack has LXC support, one ought to be able to use Brooklyn to deploy a LXC cluster on CloudStack and then use OpenShift to manage deployed applications.
  • A quick note on OpenShift. As far as I understand, it actually uses a static cluster. The scalability comes from the use of containes in the nodes. So technically you could create an OpenShift cluster in CloudStack, but I don't think we will see OpenShift talking directly to the CloudStack API to add nodes. Openshift bypasses the IaaS APIs. Of course I have not looked at it in a while and I may be wrong :)
  • Talking about PaaS for Vagrant is probably a bit far fetched, but it fits the infrastructure deployment criteria and could be compared with AWS OpsWorks. Vagrant helps to define reproducible machines so that devs and ops can actually work on the same base servers. But Vagrant with its plugins can also help deployment on public clouds, and can handle multiple server definitions. So one can look at a Vagrantfile as a template defintion for a virtual infrastructure deployment. As a matter of fact, there are many Vagrant boxes out there to deploy things like Apache Mesos clusters, MongoDB, RiakCS clusters etc. It's not meant to manage that stack in production but at a minimum can help develop it. Vagrant has a CloudStack plugin demoed by Hugo Correia from Klarna at CCC. Exoscale took the bait and created a set of -exoboxes- that's real gold for developers deploying in exoscale and any CloudStack provider should follow suit.
  • Which brings me on to Docker, there is currently no support for Docker in CloudStack. We do have LXC supporttherefore it would not be to hard to have a 'docker' cluster in CloudStack. You could even install docker within an image and deploy that on KVM or Xen. Of course some would argue that using containers within VMs defeats the purpose. In any case, with the Docker remote API you could then manage your containers. OpenStack already has a Docker integration, we will dig deeper into Docker functionality to see how best to integrate it in CloudStack.
  • AWS as I mentioned has several PaaS like layers with OpsWorks, CloudFormation, Beanstalk. CloudStack has an EC2 interface but also has a third party solution to enabled CloudFormation. This is still under development but pretty close to full functionality, check out stackmate and its web interface stacktician. With a CF interface to CloudStack we could see a OpSWork and a Beanstalk interface coming in the future.
  • Finally, not present at CCC but the leader of PaaS for enterprise is CloudFoundry. I am going to see Andy Piper (@andypiper) in London next week and will make sure to talk to him about the recent CloudStack support that was merged in the cloudfoundry community repo. It came from folks in Japan and I have not had time to test it. Certainly we as a community should look at this very closely to make sure there is outstanding support for CloudFoundry in ACS.

It is not clear what the frontier between PaaS and IaaS is, it is highly dependent on the context, who you are and what you are trying to achieve. But CloudStack offers several interfaces to PaaS or shall I say PaaS offer several connectors to CloudStack :)

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