Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Deploy client and server side components

Having a different deployment procedure for client and server side components seems crazy to us...

Vamos Deploy not only facilitates the delivery of server side software components to all necessary hosts but it can deliver your client side as well.

Delivery of the client side UI can often be a time consuming cumbersome task that requires the input from a dedicated team. It can also be painful to rollback.

Vamos Deploy removes this inefficiency from your software releases.

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

Have a chat with Vamos Deploy

A Slack chat between nathancope and vamosbot

Imagine being able to have a chat with your deployment tool. With Vamos Deploy it's an easy conversation.

Promote an application or kick off a deployment. Just tell Vamos Deploy what to do in plain English.

Take 4 mins to look at the demo featuring Slack integration : http://bitlq.com/mHfOR

Friday, 30 October 2015

Creating a Vamos Grid

In a previous article we added an application to Vamos so lets move to the next step of creating a Vamos grid.

First, a Vamos grid is an association of applications, libraries, properties and a list of hosts they are to be deployed to. We frequently think of a Vamos grid as an environment.

Lets create a grid, add an application, a property and a repo:

 $ vamos grid Jupiter_dev create
 $ vamos grid Jupiter_dev addapp JupiterServer 1.0.1
 $ vamos grid Jupiter_dev addproperty jupiter_http_port 8091
 $ vamos grid Jupiter_dev addrepo arepo-vm-barcelona-alpha

Lets look at a grid I prepared earlier:

 $ vamos grid Jupiter_dev info
 Gridname       : Jupiter_dev - For Jupiter developer testing purposes
 Edit status    : Unfrozen
 Change status  : Unchanged
 Owner group    : developers
 Release group  : developers
 Applications   : JupiterServer             1.0.32     dev        Linux
                : JupiterUI                 1.0.17     prod       Windows
                : PythonDjango              1.7.1      prod       ALL
                : PythonGoogleFinance       0.7.0      prod       ALL
                : PythonLinux               3.4.lin32  prod       Linux64
                : PythonRequests            2.5.1      prod       ALL
                : PythonRestFramework       3.0.1      prod       ALL
                : PythonWindows             3.4.win32  prod       Windows64
 Properties     : jupiter_http_host =
                : jupiter_http_port = 8091
                : jupiter_window_title = JupiterUI-Version:1.0.17-Build:#73
 Repos          : arepo-nathan-pc           ALL        Vamos      Windows    Windows64
                : arepo-vm-barcelona-alpha  ALL        Linux      Linux64    Vamos

Here we have a collection of applications including python libraries, python itself and the 2 Jupiter applications. There are three environment specific properties being set and two repos one Linux host and one Windows client.

When we deploy this grid Vamos will deliver the applications and properties to both of the repositories. So providing the versions of application binaries to use and the runtime environment including environment specific properties.

This is explained in more detail here and in this YouTube demo http://bitlq.com/R0Joq

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

Auto increment application versioning - MAJOR.MINOR.PATCH

We noticed that many teams implement a mechanism to increment their application version. Frequently, a script is used to look at the previous version used and increment. With Vamos Deploy this is built-in.
Vamos recommends the use of semantic versioning for your application versions.To use, simply embed '++' in the version pattern to indicate if MAJOR, MINOR or PATCH is to be incremented.

To increment the patch level from 1.0.0 use '1.0.++' as in example below:

 $ vamos application JupiterServer 1.0.++ create --directory=$HOME/JupiterServer
Successfully registered application JupiterServer 1.0.1 and copied to repo at /vamos/myrepo/applications/JupiterServer/1.0.1

To increment the minor level from 1.0.0 use '1.++' as in example below:

 $ vamos application JupiterServer 1.++ create --directory=$HOME/JupiterServer
Successfully registered application JupiterServer 1.1.0 and copied to repo at /vamos/myrepo/applications/JupiterServer/1.1.0

To increment the major level from 1.0.0 use '++' as in example below:

 $ vamos application JupiterServer ++ create --directory=$HOME/JupiterServer
Successfully registered application JupiterServer 2.0.0 and copied to repo at /vamos/myrepo/applications/JupiterServer/2.0.0

Other styles of versioning can be used but semantic versioning is the style we have implemented with an auto increment mechanism. This can be changed, by developing a new auto increment plugin for Vamos Deploy.

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Adding a new application to Vamos Deploy

This post will show you how to use the CLI to add a new application to Vamos Deploy.

Let's assume that you have your application code in an SCM (git, svn etc..) and you have the ability to build any parts, that you need, into the artifacts that will be deployed. 

What directory structure is best to use for our package? With Vamos you are free to decide on this yourself. The only rule is that you have a directory called 'bin'. Vamos will give all contents execute permissions.

 $ vamos application JupiterServer 1.0.0 create --directory=$HOME/JupiterServer

The above command will create the application in the Vamos database and copy the code to the local repository. It will instantly be useable on this host. File permissions will be set to be read-only with executable permissions being given to all contents of the 'bin' directory. The local repository will be at the following location:

 /vamos/<our department>/applications/JupiterServer/1.0.0/  

The status of this application will be 'local' and it only exists locally on the host we created it on. We can commit this application to the Vamos filestore so it can be used by other hosts. This will also change the status to 'dev':

 $ vamos application JupiterServer 1.0.0 commit  

We need to add a subscription to the application. More details on this in another post but they are used to specify what operating system applications were built on and hence what this application is compatible with. For now let's set to ALL to indicate it can run on any o/s:

 $ vamos application JupiterServer 1.0.0 addsub ALL  

Let's now see the details of what we have created:

 $ vamos application JupiterServer 1.0.0 info  
 Application   : JupiterServer 1.0.0  
 Status        : dev  
 Owner group   : developers  
 Subscription  : ALL  

The owner group will be set to the default group that your userid was registered with. In this case the user is in the developers group. Vamos uses a simple group ownership model for all objects it creates. If you created it then your group owns it and your group can do whatever it wants with it.

What do you need to learn in order to use Vamos Deploy?

No Git knowledge is needed, no Ruby or Python knowledge is needed, no YAML knowledge is needed. No writing of modules is required. Anyone can learn to use Vamos Deploy in 15 mins.

At Vamos Deploy we don't think you should have to learn a new language to be able to deploy your applications. We think a deployment tool should be simple to use which makes it easy to learn. 

Creating great software is hard so give yourself a break and make your deployments as easy as possible.   

Vamos Deploy consists of: 
  • Vamos CLI which is designed for you to embed into your own scripts or simple call on the command line
  • Vamos Dashboard is a web based application to view data about applications that have been deployed via Vamos.
  • Vamos Jump which runs on clients desktops to facilitate the starting of your application UIs.

Friday, 2 October 2015

First Steps in Automation

If you have got this far you are probably already thinking that your application deployments needs improvement. Maybe you have one or more of the following deployment 'smells':
  • home grown 'release' scripts that differ between applications
  • manually scp/sftp/rsync software
  • manually edit property files in production
  • complex release notes
These can result in slow, unreliable, unrepeatable deployments which will not scale. But where do we start in transforming a release process? The key to an effective release process is consistency. Before we get to discussing Vamos Deploy there are areas that can be tackled in preparation which will reap rewards later on.

Vamos does not enforce a packaging methodology, its very open. The only rule is that there needs to be a ‘bin’ directory and all of its contents will be granted execute permissions. You have the flexibility to build, as you require, on top of this single rule. Though we do recommend setting a basic standard layout so most packages have the same look and feel.

Naming conventions, with a little thought, can make life much easier in the long run. A common mistake is to embed the management structure rather than the business into the name. The management structure can change frequently so can make naming obsolete.

A good naming standard would contain the business name, the application suite, application name and application instance. You should end up with names in the region of 10-15 chars in length. CamelCase is a good idea also.

Version numbers used for applications should follow the semantic versioning pattern of MAJOR.MINOR.PATCH. See http://semver.org/

If you have packages that are very large they will take a long time to deploy. If you change just 5% of a large package then 95% will be redeployed for no gain. So, try to split up large packages into smaller ones. We will use a Vamos Grid to link them together. As a rule of thumb, a package of more than 250Mb sounds large.

How many is the right number of packages? This varies hugely but a good rule of thumb is to have between 10 and 50. More packages, will mean more to manage. Its a balancing act between speed and manageability.

One idea is to split packages, instead of by function, by the frequency of change. Package independently, parts that change frequently. Then your deployment is fast and you have few moving parts.

Standardisation of runtime environments can bring huge benefits. Most of the next points sound obvious and simple, which they are, but it’s amazing how frequently it’s not done.

All software you need should be deployed. Don’t rely on any software being present on a host! Don’t rely on someone else to put it there for you! It's worth listing what you rely on so later you can create them all as Vamos applications.

All applications should be good citizens. Applications should be able to run alongside any other application with no conflict. It shouldn’t need a dedicated user to run.

The scripts used to start and stop your application should be shipped with your application. No ‘support’ scripts should be held locally. They should all be held with your source code and deployed in the same manner.

Make sure when your application is running on a host that it is easily identifiable from the process list. Makes support much easier.

Select a standard area for placing the logs of your application. This should be agreed so all applications supported by one team use a standard directory layout. Make the log filename unique so you can identify the instance running.

Use a dedicated scheduler to start and stop your application using the scripts you deploy. It should be the only tool that does this in a production environment. The schedule needs to be tested before it’s used in production!

Keep all your environments clean. There no excuse for untidiness. Have an automated job that zips old logfiles and delete them after a configurable number of days. Remove all old core files. Only keep files on your system that you need - put the rest in the trash.

Application configuration:
A simple approach that works well in most cases is to categorise your properties into:
  • Properties that need to change for each environment: Add these properties to a grid. Then use Vamos templatisation to inject them into property files for your application to read.
  • Properties that change across all runtime environments: These can be added to property files and deployed with your application. A code change will be needed to change them.
  • Properties that need to be secret: A common way is to use UNIX permissions to secure a password file owned by the runtime user. We prefer to use RSA to secure passwords. Anyone with the public key can encrypt but only those with the private can decrypt.
Do not have property files that are stored in an environment and changed locally. This is a recipe for disaster!
Now that we have made you aware of some preparation steps we can move onto how to use Vamos Deploy. Starting with the next entry.

Saturday, 26 September 2015

When DevOps used to be called Beer...

Looking back I see a number of phases in how software was deployed. This is largely from my experience of investment banks but may well be relevant in other business areas too.

Pre-2001, a lot of releases where performed by UNIX System Administrators (SAs). Getting approval in some cases was manual. We'd print out the approval form and get the business to sign it. If you wanted an SA to do something for you it helped if you had purchased that person (or his manager) a beer recently. Even better, if you had managed to get this person into a taxi at the end of the night to get them home. Relationships and trust where established in well known City public houses.

After 2001, we all became more professional (which wasn't a bad thing) and this practise changed. Along with it though, we saw 'silo-isation' happening and teams (empires) got created that communicated only through horribly generic request systems. Frequently SAs and DBAs started to be located in different buildings to developers. This built physical and logical walls between teams making 'working together' very tricky.

This got so bad that Technical Project Managers where needed to interface between the developers, application support teams, DBAs and SAs. They needed to understand the language of each team to get the project delivered.

In 2008/09 the business realised that they weren't making as much money as before and that they were spending a lot on IT. In the drive to become more efficient we began the long road to automation of deployments. This involved a lot of untangling of spaghetti processes and unraveling of manual tasks while all the time keeping the business in business. People (especially managers) don't generally like change so a lot of convincing was needed. The result has been a huge drop in the support required for deployments and a reduction in the human errors.

There was a slow reduction in the need for SAs/DBAs in the deployment cycle – which suited them. The separation of SAs/DBAs from developers is still work in progress I think and where DevOps really has the power to change.

As a summary, DevOps, to me, means to do your job as an organisation better, deliver better software more efficiently. The two main tools, as I see it, are:
  1.  Effective and open communication between teams.
  2.  Automating the build, test and deployment of software.
At Vamos Deploy we think deployments should be easy, configurable, auditable and standardised. Deployment should be one of first things to get right, not an annoying afterthought in building your application. Any deployment should just fit in with the existing framework. You should be free to use the language of your choice. You should be looking forward to deploying and the happy smile of gratitude from your users. Vamos was designed and built keeping all of this in mind (and your annual bonus).

Friday, 25 September 2015

Application Deployment with Vamos Deploy

To demonstrate the ease of deploying applications using Vamos Deploy we have a demo application suite called Jupiter which has a client-server architecture.
Below shows the Jupiter_dev grid that we have setup: 
 $ vamos grid Jupiter_dev info
 Description    : Jupiter development
 Edit status    : Unfrozen
 Change status  : Changed
 Owner group    : developers
 Release group  : developers
 Applications   : JupiterServer             1.0.17      dev
                : JupiterUI                 1.0.37      dev
                : PythonDjango              1.7.1       dev
                : PythonGoogleFinance       0.7         dev
                : PythonLinux               3.4.lin32   dev
                : PythonRequests       dev
                : PythonRestFramework       3.0.0       dev
                : PythonWindows             3.4.win32   dev
 Properties     : jupiter_http_host =
                : jupiter_http_port = 8091
                : jupiter_window_title = JupiterUI-Version:1.0.37-Build:#52
 Repos          : arepo-nathan-pc             

                : arepo-vm-barcelona-alpha
A Vamos grid contains a list of applications, a list of properties and a list of repositories. When we deploy this grid the applications get deployed to the compatible repos with properties providing environment specific settings.
This grid is in a ‘Changed’ status because I updated JupiterServer to 1.0.17 earlier. To deploy this changed grid:

 $ vamos grid Jupiter_dev deploy
 Deploy of grid Jupiter_dev initiated. Release id 55
 Hint: Monitor deploy progress with:
       vamos deploy info --releaseid=55
 Monitor tasks with:      

       vamos task info --releaseid=55
Lets monitor the progress from the command line and from the Vamos Dashboard: 

 $ vamos deploy info --releaseid=55
 ReleaseId : 55
 Gridname  : Jupiter_dev
 Status    : Complete
 Start     : 28 Jul 2015 15:19:10 BST
 End       : 28 Jul 2015 15:19:10 BST

 User      : usera

Vamos Deploy Dashboard showing the grid Jupiter_dev set to Complete.

Now thats completed we can start our new JupiterServer. This command line could be executed from a job scheduler. It doesnt need to change when a version of the application is deployed.

 arepo-vm-barcelona-alpha$ /vamos/ARepo/grids/Jupiter_dev/JupiterServer/bin/start_JupiterServer.sh
We can use VamosJump on my desktop (arepo-nathan-pc) to start JupiterUI:

Vamos Jump having started JupiterUI

In summary Vamos Deploy has delivered the JupiterServer application and its dependants to our Linux server and delivered the Jupiter UI to my laptop. We have environment specific properties set that enable the two to communicate.

Application Deployment Best Practises

Its 11:45pm on a Saturday evening and I’m waiting for the release of my application to the production environment. It was scheduled for 2:30pm but there was some delay with some other application. The production support team are almost ready to do my release but they have been saying that for 3 hours. It doesn’t have to be like this…

Having spent many years streamlining, standardising and simplifying complex deployment processes we have compiled a top 10 of best practises you need from a deployment process:
  1. Automation. Get rid of all those manual tasks.
  2. Consistency. Standardise as much as possible.
  3. Audit trail. You need to be able to look back at who did what and when.
  4. Visibility. You need to see what is happening now - to know the current status.
  5. Promotional lifecycle. Only allow applications through the gate to the next level if they pass the tests.
  6. Segregation of duties (SoD). Developers should not be gatekeepers to production. An access control mechanism should divide duties between different people or teams.
  7. Reduce release notes to a minimum. The more steps in the release notes the more scope for human error. 
  8. Deploy with consistency across all environments. The first time you fully deploy your  application should not in production.
  9. Rollback strategy. Incase it all goes wrong you need to rollback to the previous working version as fast as possible. In reality, what is usually employed is a partial rollback or an emergency release if the fault can be fixed quickly.
  10. Keep it simple and keep it clean!  Complexity is the enemy.

The good news is that Vamos Deploy ticks the box for all the above.

If you are lucky then you will have the time and personnel to redesign your entire release process end to end. In most cases the release process only gets attention when it gets really bad. Maybe the wrong application is deployed or it doesn’t work as expected in production and the delays cross into the unacceptable. So the little resources that does get allocated to improvements needs to be well spent. A deployment tool that can be integrated in phases is essential.