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Infrastucture as Code, or insights into Crowbar, Cloud Foundry, and more

Keith Hudgins / 

Note: This is part 3 of a series on Crowbar and Cloud Foundry and integrating the two. If you haven’t yet, please go back and read part 1 and 2.

Over the last few days I’ve introduced you to Crowbarand Cloud Foundry. Both are fairly new tools in the web/cloud/DevOps orbit, and worth taking a look at, or even better, getting involved in the community efforts to flesh them out into full-featured pieces of kit that are easier to use, more stable, and closer to turnkey. Are either one ready for production? Oh heck yeah, but you’ll have to be able to read the code and follow it well in order to figure out what either project’s doing under the hood: they’re both real new, and the documentation (and architecture, when it comes right down to it) are still being written.

So where are these projects going?

Let’s start with Cloud Foundry:

Cloud Foundry works, right now. It’s rough around the edges yet, and there’s still some tooling and packaging that needs to be done to make it easier to run on your own infrastructure, but the bones are very solid and they work. VMWare is actively engaging partners to help expand the capabilities of the platform. Through its Community Leads program, the project has already gained application support for Python and PHP applications.

Just yesterday, the CF project announced Cloud Foundry Micro, which is a VMWare appliance image that you can use to set up a development box on your desktop. This is a neatly packaged box that allows you to test your applications before you deploy them into the Cloud Foundry PaaS. This is cool, but a little limited: it doesn’t yet support PHP and Python, and it’s a bit of a black box. Great for developers, but if you want to crack the hood and see the shiny engine, you’ll need to roll your own.

You can do that (sort of) with the older developer instance installer, which was documented in my last article. (Link’s here for convenience.) Very soon, VMWare will be releasing more robust Chef cookbooks that hopefully will come closer to a production style install library. The cookbooks inside that install package were the basis of the pending Cloud Foundry barclamp.

Since there are now three beta PaaS products based on Cloud Foundry, the future is looking bright. It’s fully open source, and you can either use it or help build it.

So what about Crowbar?

I’m glad you asked! Crowbar is a much lower-level tool on the stack (Your users and/or customers will never see it!) and is being put together by a smaller team (for now), but it solves a very interesting problem (how do you go from a rack of powered-down servers to a running infrastructure?) and is just beginning an important shift in focus.

Crowbar, as we’ve seen before, was originally written to do one thing: install OpenStack on Dell hardware. Very soon, it will begin to install other application stacks (Cloud Foundry, to start) and is opening up to be more easily extendable. CentOS/RHEL support is in the works for client nodes (currently, only Ubuntu Maverick is supported). The initial code has been committed to enable third-party barclamps. There are a small handful of community developers, and (I’ve been assured) the door is open for more. Fork the project on github, read the docs (I’ve got some more here), and start hacking.

Bonus: I’m documenting how to create your own barclamp and the lessons I’ve learned so far. As I write this, it’s a blank page. By the time I’m done , you’ll be able to make a barclamp to deploy your own application by following my instructions.

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