Click here to close now.




















Welcome!

Linux Containers Authors: Carmen Gonzalez, Esmeralda Swartz, Elizabeth White, VictorOps Blog, Liz McMillan

Related Topics: Linux Containers

Linux Containers: Article

Managing an Open Source Application Stack with Aduva OnStage

A user case study

One of the most serious problems facing larger organizations considering using Linux and Open Source application stacks is managing the software environment.

The basic Linux system has adequate tools to manage a single machine, or even a small group of machines, but once the population of these machines reaches into the tens and hundreds and spreads across multiple application areas and multiple locations the management task becomes harder.

When the complete system configuration includes items not directly supported by the Linux distribution, the tools provided with the system are often not enough.

Management tasks that become non-trivial for larger installations typically are:

  • Configuration management: In larger deployments it's usual to have multiple defined configurations, each specific to a given task. Each configuration will typically have loaded only those components required for the task for which the configuration is defined, and configuration parameters in various files defined to tune the system to its specific class of task.
  • Application deployment: New application deployment, or an upgrade of an existing application, in itself not typically a difficult task, can have implications for other parts of the system if any changes to the configuration are required due to dependency requirements of the new/upgraded application. Usually not particularly difficult to manage when the application is one directly supported by the Linux distribution vendor, which will ensure that dependencies are met without disrupting the rest of the system, but potentially much more complex when it's not directly supported.
  • Loading the software on to multiple (potentially hundreds) of machines, often having to take into account factors such as performing the task when no user is present, stopping and starting system services, and possibly needing to reboot the system if any OS components are modified.
In this article, we take a look at how one large user of Linux systems handles these problems with Aduva OnStage.

Jefferson County in Colorado makes heavy use of Linux where F/OSS makes good sense. With around 60 servers to manage, the systems administrator Jeff Falgout and the team of systems engineers that he leads need all the help they can get in automating and managing configurations used for multiple purposes.

The servers run mainly Red Hat Linux 8, with a small number of SuSE servers thrown into the mix, but are slowly transitioning to Red Hat ES and AS. The application stack includes Novell e-Directory and some test installations of Fedora Directory Server (the ex-Netscape/AOL directory server closely related to Sun's JES directory server). Other services include e-mail with sendmail and SpamAssassin in conjunction with mail-scanner providing spam and virus filtering. These provide front-end filtering and routing for Novell GroupWise. Apache Web servers are used in conjunction with Tomcat application servers. Proxying/caching of user Web access is covered by Squid with appropriate anti-virus components installed. Add in a few in-house developed applications and the result is a very capable software stack, but one that if not managed correctly could give any systems administrator, as well as the IT manager, sleepless nights.

Using Aduva OnStage to manage these configurations takes a lot of the hard work out of the process and lets Jeff sleep comfortably at night.

Jeff has few worries about those components supported in the base distribution of any of the systems. With the focus that Aduva puts on the base Linux distributions, the Aduva KnowlegeBase, which OnStage depends on to ensure that all dependency requirements are met correctly, faithfully tracks the changes that distributions make as new revisions of various components are released and, especially importantly, as security issues arise. The Aduva KnowlegeBase contains all the required information to keep distributions up-to-date, avoiding known security issues or warning where avoidance might not be possible with currently available packages, while maintaining correct dependencies throughout the system.

The tracking between the Aduva KnowlegeBase and the Linux distributors' own dependency/update systems is so good that Jeff feels comfortable using them interchangeably, but in practice uses OnStage as a replacement for Linux distributors tools, such as Red Hat's to maintain a complete and accurate record of the current state of every machine. On systems that have the Red Hat applet that warns that there are system updates available from Red Hat, the applet will occasionally show red, indicating pending updates, but after the next run of OnStage, those same applets will once again show green, illustrating the close tracking between OnStage and the Linux distribution's own systems.

For stack components not directly handled in distribution base systems, Jefferson County maintains its own private extension to the KnowlegeBase, containing information on dependency requirements of those components and a repository of the RPMs containing them. All the in-house applications are managed this way, as is Tomcat, which is not part of the Red Hat base system and so not automatically included in the Aduva KnowlegeBase for Red Hat.

OnStage handles the configuration management and automatic updates of components in that configuration as they become available. Not only are system and application binaries managed, so are the various associated configuration files. OnStage can be used to build a system "from bare metal" based on any one of these configurations, or for the transformation of a system in one configuration to another. Changes are recorded and, if required, can be backed out very simply. Configurable rules can be used to schedule updates to specific machine groups and can take account of requirements such as waiting until there's no user and doing a system reboot at the end.

The ability to clone a configuration on a machine is something that Jeff uses when major updates have to be tested. The new configuration can be tested and tuned, then that identical configuration is applied to specific groups of machines once testing is complete. OnStage uses the KnowlegeBase, both the central Aduva copy and Jefferson County's own, to determine exactly which packages to remove and which to install to ensure that existing systems end up being identical to the staging/test system(s).

When asked if he trusted OnStage enough to consider skipping the verification staging build of significant changes before deployment, Jeff responded like any systems administrator faced with applying untested patches to many production system would, saying, "No, I have faith in the system, but not that much!" Then after reflection, he added, "Actually, we do allow the system updates to go straight through without testing and have never has any issues, so I guess I do trust it after all."

More Stories By Philip Peake

Philip Peake is a professional services consultant, and has worked for a variety of companies including Netscape, AOL, Sun Microsystems and OSDL.
With over 25 years experience of UNIX based systems in Internet and
Intranet enterprise environments, using Linux has been a natural evolution.
Philip has a Batchelor of Science degree in computer science from
the University of Keele in the United Kingdom.

Comments (3) View Comments

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


Most Recent Comments
Fraser Campbell 01/13/06 01:09:18 PM EST

Hi Philip,

I am in a position where we have 100s of SuSE servers and that number is expected to grow by leaps and bounds as virtualization begins to take hold.

I agree that higher level management tools are critical to managing this infrastructure.

I am curious as to what tools you may have used yourself, have you for example considered cfengine. My bias is weighted heavily towards open source tools despite the fact that we are using SLES servers.

news desk 12/27/05 11:43:26 PM EST

One of the most serious problems facing larger organizations considering using Linux and Open Source application stacks is managing the software environment. The basic Linux system has adequate tools to manage a single machine, or even a small group of machines, but once the population of these machines reaches into the tens and hundreds and spreads across multiple application areas and multiple locations the management task becomes harder.

news desk 12/27/05 11:32:19 PM EST

One of the most serious problems facing larger organizations considering using Linux and Open Source application stacks is managing the software environment. The basic Linux system has adequate tools to manage a single machine, or even a small group of machines, but once the population of these machines reaches into the tens and hundreds and spreads across multiple application areas and multiple locations the management task becomes harder.

@ThingsExpo Stories
Too often with compelling new technologies market participants become overly enamored with that attractiveness of the technology and neglect underlying business drivers. This tendency, what some call the “newest shiny object syndrome,” is understandable given that virtually all of us are heavily engaged in technology. But it is also mistaken. Without concrete business cases driving its deployment, IoT, like many other technologies before it, will fade into obscurity.
With the proliferation of connected devices underpinning new Internet of Things systems, Brandon Schulz, Director of Luxoft IoT – Retail, will be looking at the transformation of the retail customer experience in brick and mortar stores in his session at @ThingsExpo. Questions he will address include: Will beacons drop to the wayside like QR codes, or be a proximity-based profit driver? How will the customer experience change in stores of all types when everything can be instrumented and analyzed? As an area of investment, how might a retail company move towards an innovation methodolo...
Contrary to mainstream media attention, the multiple possibilities of how consumer IoT will transform our everyday lives aren’t the only angle of this headline-gaining trend. There’s a huge opportunity for “industrial IoT” and “Smart Cities” to impact the world in the same capacity – especially during critical situations. For example, a community water dam that needs to release water can leverage embedded critical communications logic to alert the appropriate individuals, on the right device, as soon as they are needed to take action.
Manufacturing connected IoT versions of traditional products requires more than multiple deep technology skills. It also requires a shift in mindset, to realize that connected, sensor-enabled “things” act more like services than what we usually think of as products. In his session at @ThingsExpo, David Friedman, CEO and co-founder of Ayla Networks, will discuss how when sensors start generating detailed real-world data about products and how they’re being used, smart manufacturers can use the data to create additional revenue streams, such as improved warranties or premium features. Or slash...
WebRTC services have already permeated corporate communications in the form of videoconferencing solutions. However, WebRTC has the potential of going beyond and catalyzing a new class of services providing more than calls with capabilities such as mass-scale real-time media broadcasting, enriched and augmented video, person-to-machine and machine-to-machine communications. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Luis Lopez, CEO of Kurento, will introduce the technologies required for implementing these ideas and some early experiments performed in the Kurento open source software community in areas ...
SYS-CON Events announced today that HPM Networks will exhibit at the 17th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 3–5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. For 20 years, HPM Networks has been integrating technology solutions that solve complex business challenges. HPM Networks has designed solutions for both SMB and enterprise customers throughout the San Francisco Bay Area.
While many app developers are comfortable building apps for the smartphone, there is a whole new world out there. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Narayan Sainaney, Co-founder and CTO of Mojio, will discuss how the business case for connected car apps is growing and, with open platform companies having already done the heavy lifting, there really is no barrier to entry.
As more intelligent IoT applications shift into gear, they’re merging into the ever-increasing traffic flow of the Internet. It won’t be long before we experience bottlenecks, as IoT traffic peaks during rush hours. Organizations that are unprepared will find themselves by the side of the road unable to cross back into the fast lane. As billions of new devices begin to communicate and exchange data – will your infrastructure be scalable enough to handle this new interconnected world?
All major researchers estimate there will be tens of billions devices - computers, smartphones, tablets, and sensors - connected to the Internet by 2020. This number will continue to grow at a rapid pace for the next several decades. With major technology companies and startups seriously embracing IoT strategies, now is the perfect time to attend @ThingsExpo, November 3-5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Learn what is going on, contribute to the discussions, and ensure that your enterprise is as "IoT-Ready" as it can be.
The Internet of Things is in the early stages of mainstream deployment but it promises to unlock value and rapidly transform how organizations manage, operationalize, and monetize their assets. IoT is a complex structure of hardware, sensors, applications, analytics and devices that need to be able to communicate geographically and across all functions. Once the data is collected from numerous endpoints, the challenge then becomes converting it into actionable insight.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Micron Technology, Inc., a global leader in advanced semiconductor systems, will exhibit at the 17th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 3–5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Micron’s broad portfolio of high-performance memory technologies – including DRAM, NAND and NOR Flash – is the basis for solid state drives, modules, multichip packages and other system solutions. Backed by more than 35 years of technology leadership, Micron's memory solutions enable the world's most innovative computing, consumer,...
With the Apple Watch making its way onto wrists all over the world, it’s only a matter of time before it becomes a staple in the workplace. In fact, Forrester reported that 68 percent of technology and business decision-makers characterize wearables as a top priority for 2015. Recognizing their business value early on, FinancialForce.com was the first to bring ERP to wearables, helping streamline communication across front and back office functions. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Kevin Roberts, GM of Platform at FinancialForce.com, will discuss the value of business applications on wearable ...
SYS-CON Events announced today that IceWarp will exhibit at the 17th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 3–5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. IceWarp, the leader of cloud and on-premise messaging, delivers secured email, chat, documents, conferencing and collaboration to today's mobile workforce, all in one unified interface
As more and more data is generated from a variety of connected devices, the need to get insights from this data and predict future behavior and trends is increasingly essential for businesses. Real-time stream processing is needed in a variety of different industries such as Manufacturing, Oil and Gas, Automobile, Finance, Online Retail, Smart Grids, and Healthcare. Azure Stream Analytics is a fully managed distributed stream computation service that provides low latency, scalable processing of streaming data in the cloud with an enterprise grade SLA. It features built-in integration with Azur...
SYS-CON Events announced today the Containers & Microservices Bootcamp, being held November 3-4, 2015, in conjunction with 17th Cloud Expo, @ThingsExpo, and @DevOpsSummit at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. This is your chance to get started with the latest technology in the industry. Combined with real-world scenarios and use cases, the Containers and Microservices Bootcamp, led by Janakiram MSV, a Microsoft Regional Director, will include presentations as well as hands-on demos and comprehensive walkthroughs.
17th Cloud Expo, taking place Nov 3-5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. Cloud computing is now being embraced by a majority of enterprises of all sizes. Yesterday's debate about public vs. private has transformed into the reality of hybrid cloud: a recent survey shows that 74% of enterprises have a hybrid cloud strategy. Meanwhile, 94% of enterprises are using some form of XaaS – software, platform, and infrastructure as a service.
SYS-CON Events announced today that the "Second Containers & Microservices Expo" will take place November 3-5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Containers and microservices have become topics of intense interest throughout the cloud developer and enterprise IT communities.
Akana has announced the availability of the new Akana Healthcare Solution. The API-driven solution helps healthcare organizations accelerate their transition to being secure, digitally interoperable businesses. It leverages the Health Level Seven International Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (HL7 FHIR) standard to enable broader business use of medical data. Akana developed the Healthcare Solution in response to healthcare businesses that want to increase electronic, multi-device access to health records while reducing operating costs and complying with government regulations.
Containers are not new, but renewed commitments to performance, flexibility, and agility have propelled them to the top of the agenda today. By working without the need for virtualization and its overhead, containers are seen as the perfect way to deploy apps and services across multiple clouds. Containers can handle anything from file types to operating systems and services, including microservices. What are microservices? Unlike what the name implies, microservices are not necessarily small, but are focused on specific tasks. The ability for developers to deploy multiple containers – thous...
With major technology companies and startups seriously embracing IoT strategies, now is the perfect time to attend @ThingsExpo in Silicon Valley. Learn what is going on, contribute to the discussions, and ensure that your enterprise is as "IoT-Ready" as it can be! Internet of @ThingsExpo, taking place Nov 3-5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, is co-located with 17th Cloud Expo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. The Internet of Things (IoT) is the most profound change in personal an...