Is PaaS Tech Still Around? Maybe Containers Will Kill it or Bring it?

Recently a post from @Gigabarb popped up on the ole’ Twitter that started a micro-storm of twitter responses.

This got me thinking about a number of things and I started to write her an email specifically, but realized I should really just blog it. After all, the topic is actually part of what should be the public conversation. It’s about the changing world of technology, which we’re all part of…

First Topic: Usage of PaaS

Barb, just shortly after the tweet above was posted, this other tweet altered what information I might provide her. @TheSteve0 had responded with some items, which @GigaBarb then responded with

Now, not to pick on OpenShift & Red Hat (the effort @TheSteve0 is working with), because they have a great open source effort going on around this PaaS Technology, but Barb had a point. If Cloud Foundry responded with something like this, she’d still have a point. The only companies that continually sign up new companies is AWS & Beanstalk (ok, so they don’t call it PaaS, it gets you to the same place – arguably better than most of the others), a little bit at Windows Azure and a few companies pop up every once in a long while that might take Cloud Foundry or OpenShift and run with it. Most of the early adopters are already on board and most that might get on board are still mostly just waiting in the sidelines.

This fact is frustrating for those

in the space that want to see more penetration, but for those that arent’ technically in the space, it seems kind of like ASP. Oh wait, I should add context now, ASPs as in Application Service Providers. The technology from the beginning of the 21st century similar in many ways to what is dubbed SaaS now. At the time it could have been revolutionary. However at the time nobody picked it up either. This is similar to what PaaS is seeing. However…

A Hypothesis of What Will Happen to PaaS Tech

I have a theory of what will happen to PaaS Tech, it is similar to ASP Tech. PaaS will keep plundering along in odd ways, and eventually one day, it will become a mainstream tech. Right now however it will remain limited. In that same turn, by the time it becomes a common tech, it’ll be called something else.

Here’s a few reasons. One, is that many developers see PaaS and their response, especially if they’re seasoned developers with more than a few years under their belt, is to respond will immediate apprehension to the tech. It removes key elements of what they want to control. It hides things they can’t actually get to and it abstracts in ways that don’t always make sense. The result is that many senior devs stay away from pure PaaS offerings and instead use it only for prototyping, but production gets something totally different. I’ve been there more than a few times myself.

However, the result of what most senior devs end up with, when they get their continuous integration and development environments running at full tilt, is exactly what PaaS is attempting to promise. There are some companies, with senior devs, and extremely intelligent members that have taken PaaS and effectively implemented it into their continuous integration and delivery environment giving them strengths that most companies can only imagine to have.

One of those companies is lucky and smart enough to have Jonathan Murray @adamalthus heading up efforts. On his team he also has Dave McCrory @mccrory and Brian McClain @brianmmclain. To boot, they are close to the Cloud Foundry team (and @wattersjames, who cuts a path when there are issues) and keep a solid effort going working with key partners such as @Tier3 (now part of CenturyLink)  and other companies that help bring together one of the most strategically and tactically relevant PaaS deployments to date.

Other PaaS deployments are questionable for various reasons, they’re trying, but they aren’t there. At least not the types of companies and efforts that Barb was looking for. So really, if there is another out there that’s hiding, but wants serious street cred. A boost to hiring serious A grade talent, and to push forward past competitors, please let us know. Let me know, let Barb know and let’s hear about what you’re doing. If a company is hiding their implementation and doesn’t want to be part of the community, then fine, they can stay hidden and not gain the benefit of the community that presses forward beyond them. But I would love to hear from those that I might have missed, that want to push forward, so ping me. Ping Barb, we’ll get word out there and get developers checking out and making sure your company is getting it done! 😉

Second Topic: PaaS on PaaS and Start Docker

PaaS is nice. If your company can get it deployed and use it effectively, the you’re going to push forward fast in many regards. Deployments, savings, code cleanliness, effective separation of concerns and abstraction at a systems level are some of the things you can expect from a good PaaS implementation. Sometimes however, as the senior devs I mentioned pointed out, you give up control and certain levels of abstraction. However almost all senior devs understand that they want the ability to abstract at the levels that PaaS enables. They want to break apart the app cleanly at the system level from the software level. No reason for an app to know where or what a hard drive is doing right? That’s a rhetorical question, onward with the topic…

Docker has entered the market with a BOOM, part of the abstraction level that enables PaaS tooling in the first place. This tool enables a team to jump into the code or to just deploy the tool to abstract at a PaaS level, but to build the elements that they need specifically. The components are able to be brought together in a composite way that provides all the advantages of PaaS, while put together specifically for the problem space that the team is attacking. For environments that don’t make cookie cutter apps that fit perfectly to PaaS tooling as it is, that needs that little bit extra control of the environment, Docker is the perfect tool to bring those pieces together.

So really, is Docker and containerization that new word (from a technically old tech! lolz), that new tech, that’s going to bring PaaS into the mainstream as the standard implementation? Is it going to make PaaS become containerization when we developers talk about it? It could very well be the next big step. It could be that last mile coverage that devs want to push environments into a PaaS Tech ecosystem and make full use of hardware, software and move to the next stage of application development. Could it? Will it?

Personally I’m ready for the next stage of the whole PaaS thing, are you?

Next up on other thought patterns, WTF are people using Oracle for still when mariadb and postgres mean their freedom to innovate, move forward and surpass their competition.

Learning About Docker

Over the next dozen or so few days I’ll be ramping up on Docker, where my gaps are and where the project itself is going. I’ve been using it on and off and will have more technical content, but today I wanted to write a short piece about what, where, who and how Docker came to be.

As an open source engine Docker automates deployment of lightweight, portable, resilient and self-sufficient containers that run primarily on Linux. Docker containers are used to contain a payload, encapsulate that and consistently run it on a server.

This server can be virtual, on AWS or OpenStack, in clusters, public instances or private, bare-metal servers or wherever one can get an operating system to run. I’d bet it would show up on an Arduino cluster one of these days.  😉

User cases for Docker include taking packaging and deployment of applications and automating it into a simple container bundle. Another is to build PaaS style environments, lightweight that scale up and down extremely fast. Automate testing and continuous integration and deployment, because we all want that. Another big use case is simply building resilient, scalable applications that then can be deployed to Docker containers and scaled up and down rapidly.

A Little History

The creators of Docker formed a company called dotCloud that provided PaaS Services. On October 29th, 2013 however they changed the name from dotCloud to Docker Inc to emphasize the focus change from the dotCloud PaaS Technology to the core of dotCloud, Docker itself. As Docker became the core of a vibrant ecosystem the founders of dotCloud chose to focus on this exciting new technology to help guide and deliver on an ever more robust core.

Docker Ecosystem from the Docker Blog. Hope they don't mind I linked it, it shows the solid lifecycle of the ecosystem. (Click to go view the blog entry that was posted with the image)

Docker Ecosystem from the Docker Blog. Hope they don’t mind I linked it, it shows the solid lifecycle of the ecosystem. (Click to go view the blog entry that was posted with the image)

The community of docker has been super active with a dramatic number of contributors, well over 220 now, most who don’t work for Docker and they’ve made a significant percentage of the commits to the code base. As far as the repo goes, it has been downloaded over a 100,000 times, yup, over a hundred. thousand. times!!! It’s container tech, I’m still impressed just by this fact! On Github the repo has thousands of starred observers and over 15,000 people are using Docker. One other interesting fact is the slice of languages, with a very prominent usage of Go.

Docker Language Breakout on Github

Docker Language Breakout on Github

Overall the Docker project has exploded in popularity, which I haven’t seen since Node.js set the coder world on fire! It’s continuing to gain steam in how and in which ways people deploy and manage their applications – arguably more effectively in many ways.

Portland Docker Meetup. Click image for link to the meetup page.

Portland Docker Meetup. Click image for link to the meetup page.

The community is growing accordingly too, not just a simple push by Docker/dotCloud itself, but actively by grass roots efforts. One is even sprung up in Portland in the Portland Docker Meetup.

So Docker, Getting Operational

The Loading Bay

The Loading Bay

One of the best ways to describe docker (which the Docker team often uses, hat tip to the analogy!) and containers in general is to use a physical parallel. One of the best stories that is a great example is that of the shipping and freight industry. Before containers ships, trains,

Manually Guiding Freight, To Hand Unload Later.

Manually Guiding Freight, To Hand Unload Later.

trucks and buggies (ya know, that horses pulled) all were loaded by hand. There wasn’t any standardization around movement of goods except for a few, often frustrating tools like wooden barrels for liquids, bags for grains and other assorted things. They didn’t mix well and often were stored in a way that caused regular damage to good. This era is a good parallel to hosting applications on full hypervisor virtual machines or physical machines with one operating system. The operating system kind of being the holding bay or ship, with all the freight crammed inside haphazardly.

Shipping Yards, All of a Sudden Organized!

Shipping Yards, All of a Sudden Organized!

When containers were introduced like the shiny blue one shown here, everything began a revolutionary change. The manpower dramatically

A Flawlessly Rendered Container

A Flawlessly Rendered Container

dropped, injuries dropped, shipping became more modular and easy to fit the containers together. To put it simply, shipping was revolutionized through this invention. In the meantime we’ve all benefitted in some way from this change. This can be paralleled to the change in container technology shifting the way we deploy and host applications.

Next post, coming up in just a few hours “Docker, Containers Simplified!”

Thor HAMMA! OS-X Cocoa UI for Cloud Foundry

So today we’re super excited to release Thor release candidate from the furnaces of the Iron Foundry. We’ve had number of people working not he project and core Objective-C Coder Benjamin van der Veen @bvanderveen (Twitter), @bvanderveen (Github) and site tearing through tests, implementation, refactoring and UI hacking non-stop these last few weeks. I’ll admit, I think he’s slept some, but nobody knows.

With this new release, the features around…  well…  check out the video.

For a more complete list of the features check out Github, Github Issues & the Iron Foundry Blog.

Ways to Interact Asynchronously with C#

NOTE: All of this code is available at my Github Project “Remembering” (https://github.com/Adron/Remembering). Feel free to fork it, share it, or send me corrections or pull requests.

While working on the Thor Project there have been numerous situations where I need to fire off an asynchronous callback in C# while maintaining good responsiveness in the actual user interface. Benjamin (@bvanderveen) has been using Reactive Extensions with subscriptions to do this in the Objective-C code for the Cocoa based OS-X Thor user interface. See my previous blog entry for an example of what he’s doing.

For a good example of asynchronous calls against Cloud Foundry I setup the following project using the Iron Foundry Project VCAP Client Library. The first thing I setup was a static class with a few constants to use across the examples for the URI, username and password for the Cloud Foundry Account.

public static class YourSecrets
{
    public const string Username = "youremail@someplace.com";
    public const string Password = "AnAwesom3HardPassw0rd!";
    public const string Uri = "http://api.yourpaas.com";
}

Next step was to setup the delegate and method I’d use for calling out to the Cloud Foundry environment and retrieving data in parallel to my active console or user interface. That code snippet looked like this. I also added a private variable _finished for use in tracking when the request was completed in the begin and end invoke example below.

private bool _finished;

IEnumerable TheMethodToConnectThatWillTakeLongTime(string uri)
{
    var client = new VcapClient(uri);
    client.Login(TheSecretBits.YourSecrets.Username, TheSecretBits.YourSecrets.Password);

    _finished = false;

    return client.GetApplications();
}

delegate IEnumerable MethodDelegate(string uri);

Once I had that setup I was ready to create my baseline method that would make a synchronous call. A synchronous call is one that makes the call as if it just called the method directly. There’s no real reason to create one like I’ve done here, but I was just using it to provide a basic example of calling the delegate.

public void SynchronousCall()
{
    var starting = DateTime.Now.ToLongTimeString();

    var delegateMethod = new MethodDelegate(TheMethodToConnectThatWillTakeLongTime);
    var returnedBits = delegateMethod(TheSecretBits.YourSecrets.Uri);

    var ending = DateTime.Now.ToLongTimeString();

    Console.WriteLine(string.Format("The delegate call returned \n\n{0}\n\nstarting at {1} and

ending at {2} which takes a while of waiting.",
        returnedBits, starting, ending));

    _finished = false;
}

That gets us a baseline. If you run a synchronous call against anything with a console application or a windows app, WPF or whatever it will lock up the calling thread while it is waiting for a response. In any type of user interface that is unacceptable. One of the best options is to fire of an asynchronous callback. The way I did this, which is an ideal way to make calls with the Iron Foundry Client Library against a Cloud Foundry Environment, is shown below.

This is my asynchronous call.

public void DemoCall()
{
    Console.WriteLine("Callback:");
    var delegateMethod = new MethodDelegate(TheMethodToConnectThatWillTakeLongTime);

    var callbackDelegate = new AsyncCallback(MyAsyncCallback);

    Console.WriteLine(" starting...{0}", DateTime.Now.ToLongTimeString());
    delegateMethod.BeginInvoke(TheSecretBits.YourSecrets.Uri, callbackDelegate, delegateMethod);
    Console.WriteLine(" ending...{0}", DateTime.Now.ToLongTimeString());
}

Now the simple callback.

public void MyAsyncCallback(IAsyncResult ar)
{
    Console.WriteLine("Things happening, async state calling.");

    var delegateMethod = (MethodDelegate)ar.AsyncState;

    Console.WriteLine(" called...{0}", DateTime.Now.ToLongTimeString());

    var returnedBits = delegateMethod.EndInvoke(ar);

    Console.WriteLine(" end invoked...{0}", DateTime.Now.ToLongTimeString());

    foreach (Application application in returnedBits)
    {
        Console.WriteLine("Application {0} is in {1} state...",
            application.Name, application.State);
        Console.WriteLine(" with {0} running instances, {1} memory per instance, {2} disk allocated...",
            application.RunningInstances, application.Resources.Memory, application.Resources.Disk);
        Console.Write(" hosted at ");
        foreach (var uri in application.Uris)
        {
            Console.Write(uri + " ");
        }
        Console.WriteLine(".");
    }
}

That’ll get the call running on a parallel thread and when it is wrapped up it returns the data.

The User Interface Interaction Issue

This is all fine and dandy for the command console. But if you want to give control back to the UI thread in a UI application and make sure that the background thread can actually update a control when fired off, do the same thing as I’ve discussed here except set the control up to invoke the dispatcher, so that the “threads don’t cross” when trying to return information to a control that needs updated. In order to do this take the control that needs updated and set the Dispatcher Invoke method as shown below.

private void Write(string updateText)
{
    UpdatingTextBlock.Dispatcher.Invoke(
    System.Windows.Threading.DispatcherPriority.Normal,
        new Action(delegate
    {
        UpdatingTextBlock.Text += updateText;
    }
    ));
}

For more on the Iron Foundry Project and the library I’ve used here, check out the Iron Foundry Blog & Site. For more information on Thor and to follow or get involved check out the Thor Project Site (Hosted with Cloud Foundry at Tier 3!).

All of this code is available in my Github Project “Remembering” (https://github.com/Adron/Remembering). Feel free to fork it, share it, or send me corrections or pull requests.

Adam & Krishan Got Me Motivated Today… to toss the trash conversations

I was speaking with Krishan Subramanian (@krishnan) and Adam Seligman (@adamse) today. I love talking to these guys. They’re both smart, intelligent and upbeat guys. They see the positive things we’re all working toward and accomplishing in the technology space, specifically around PaaS, Cloud Computing and around the cultural implications of stronger technology communities, involvement of individuals. We all can see the positives, of how the industry is moving forward so that corporations aren’t the only enablers that are juxtaposed against developers or consumers but instead act to serve consumers based on the progress that individuals make themselves. There’s so much to do and so much progress to be made, the venders can simply follow the community and step up to provide points of leadership.

Absolutely great talking with these guys…

On that topic, what is it that we discussed that has me so motivated? Well there’s a few things that I’m done with and I’m going to make every effort to just throw away the trash. Here’s a few of these things that we discussed and I challenge everybody out there, drop the trash talk and let’s move forward because there is a LOT of awesome things to accomplish. Here’s the two things I’m just dropping…  cold. No reason to discuss them anymore.

  • Toss the language and framework religious wars. It is far simpler than it is sometimes perceived. We have a polyglot industry now where we can easily use the right tool for the job, the right framework, or the language that handles our particular domain the best. There is literally no reason to argue about this anymore. Of course we can talk semantics, debate best use cases, and of course we’ll talk accomplishments and what various things do well. That’s exactly what the focus should be on, not the harping on my X is better than your Y nonsense.
  • The culture war is basically over. Sure there are the hold outs that haven’t gotten a clue yet. But it’s an open source world at this point. Even the dreaded and horrible Oracle has generally conceded this and is frantically waving its marketing arms around trying to get attention. But at the core, mysql, java and the other things that they’ve purchased they’re keeping alive. They’re active participants in the community now, albeit in a somewhat strange way. Considering that even Oracle, Microsoft, Apple and so many others contribute back to the open source community in massive ways, that war can be considered won. Victory, the community and every individual in that community!
  • Lockin is basically dead. The technological reasons to lock in are gone, seriously. There’s some issues around data gravity that are to be overcome, but that’s where a solid architecture (see below) comes in. Anything you need can be contributed to and derived from the development community. Get involved and figure out how technology can be a major piece of your business in a positive way. If you design something poorly, lock in becomes a huge issue. Use the rights tools, don’t get into binding contracts, because in the polyglot world we’re in now there’s no reason to be permanently locked in to anything. Be flexible, be where you need to be, and make those decisions based on the community, your support systems, and your business partners. Don’t tie yourself to vendors unless there is mutual reasons to do exactly that. Lock in is a dead conversation, just don’t, time to move on.

So what are the key conversations today?

  • Ecosystem Architecture – If you’re deploying to AWS, Heroku, Tier 3, AppFog or Windows Azure it all boils down to something very specific that will make or break you. Your architecture. This is where the real value add in the cloud & respective systems are, but there are many discussions and many elements of the technology to understand. This is a fundamentally key conversation topic in the industry today. Pick this one up and drop the other trash.
  • Movement & Data Gravity – How do you access your data, how do you store it, where and how do you derive insight from that data? This is one of the topics that came up in our discusssion and it is huge. The entire computer industry basically exists for the reason of insight. What should we eat today, how do I shift my investments, how is my development team doing, what’s the status of my house being built, where is my family today and can I contact them! All of these things are insights we derive from computer systems. These are the fundamental core reason that computers exist. As an industry we’re finally getting to a point were we can get some pretty solid insightful, intelligent and useful information from our systems. The conversation however continues, there is so much more we can still achieve. So again, drop the wasteful convo and jump on board the conversations about data, information and insights!
  • Community Involvement – I’ve left the key topic for last. This is huge, companies have to be involved today. Companies aren’t dictating progress but instead the community is leading as it should. The community is providing a path for companies to follow or lead, but the community, the individuals are the ones that are seen and known to be innovating. This is so simple it’s wild that it is only now becoming a known reality – companies don’t innovate, people do. Companies don’t involve, people do. Individuals are the drivers of companies, the drivers of Governments, they’re the ones driving innovation and progress. The focus should now and should have always been on the individuals and what they’re working toward to accomplish. So get involved, get the companies involved as a whole and keep the semantic ideal of individuals and the progress they can make core to the way you think of communities. The idea of the “company” innovating is silly, let’s talk and build community with the people that are working around and innovating with these technologies.

Of course there are more, I’d love to hear your take on what the conversations of today should be about. What do we need to resolve? How do we improve our lives, our work and the efforts we’re working toward on a day to day basis?

East & West Coast PaaS, Being Polyglot, Reply to Dan Turkenkopf

Dan (he’s a good guy, check him out on Twitter @dturkenk), your “East Coast vs West Coast PaaS Psychology. And Why It Matters.” is great write up. Loved it! I’ve got to say, I’m pretty much in agreement with almost every single thing you’ve written here. Matter of fact I’m staunchly in agreement with a lot of it. There’s a few other abstractions I’d like to add, that makes the reality of east coast and west coast PaaS what it is, and why some of these things are like this.

You write,

“While the West Coast conception of PaaS is an appealing vision, (and may well be the answer for many smaller companies and start ups)…”

which I agree with whole heartedly. The fast, agile, and lean companies of tomorrow need this type of technology today. They can’t survive trying to throw together traditional environments. They need PaaS like people need food and water. However you also write on the end of that statement,

“it doesn’t really mesh with today’s enterprise reality.”

which I know is true, sometimes. There are however many enterprises out there that do indeed want to and are starting to move over completely. These enterprises see the value add and are not waiting around. They’re not going halfway with a hybrid solution, they’re moving full bore and realizing economies of scale that internal IT shops will not and cannot realize.

This type of enterprise, is where a lot of the west coast and east coast mentality is realized. There is a risk aversion on the east coast, rightfully so with such things as financial institutions and Government being a dominent presence on the east coast. On the west coast though, the enterprises operate under a very different cultural perspective, they attempt to realize the advantages – competitive and disruptive that they are – of startups and small business. It’s as much a competitive survival for the west coast enterprise as it is for the startups and small business. Thus, we get some of the differentiators not just in technology, but in the enterprises themselves. This is the core of this psychological difference, not something that was born from a PaaS psychology, but for the ore business itself. Being that PaaS technology and its origins are from the west coast, it becomes obvious why most are focused on public or privately accessible public infrastructure.

Overall, the culture expands into all those sectors in the east and west, and starts to stand out when we look at different approaches to doing business and competing. Regardless of these minor differences and the associated differences in doing business, we both agree on one thing regardless of which coast we’re on.

The applications and application developers is where the value is for enterprises, mid-size, and small businesses, and startups.

Without doubt, PaaS technology is focused on that core value. Enabling developers to build applications in an easier, faster, scalable and more reliable way. So far, all the platforms are doing a damn good job helping us developers do just that.

Deploy a Framework Friday #2 with ASP.NET MVC 4

First let’s build a standard ASP.NET MVC Application (yes, you can do the same without the MVC Project, but I STRONGLY recommend never creating a standard ASP.NET application again, EVER). This quick run through assumes you’ve already setup a Cloud Foundry enabled PaaS w/ your already installed Iron Foundry components for .NET development. Get an Iron Foundry enabled account here, it’s 100% free, so no reason not to give it a go.

There are a few ways to do this. One, the click on the start page new project option.

Click on the start page new project option...

Click on the start page new project option…

Two, the menu based selection option.

Menu based new project option...

Menu based new project option…

Three, the command button option.

Click on the command button new project option

Click on the command button new project option

So pick your poison and then select the ASP.NET MVC 4 Project Template. On the next dialog, you’ll enter the information of where the project will go and choose the ASP.NET MVC 4 Web Application Project Template.

Selecting the ASP.NET MVC 4 Web Application (Click for full size image)

Selecting the ASP.NET MVC 4 Web Application (Click for full size image)

The next dialog select the Basic template, leave Razor selected, and I always leave the unit tests project there also. Once this is done we’re now ready to give our project a little taste of deployment.

Since we’re working in the land of GUIs and .NET, I’ll keep this to a completely GUI based deployment. However, don’t forget that the vmc-IronFoundry is available for pushing also. So don’t fear the CLI, but we’ll skip it for now (tip: It’s practically the same as the other deploys).

On the project in Visual Studio right click and select Push to Cloud Foundry.

Publish option on the context menu (click for full size image)

Publish option on the context menu (click for full size image)

A dialog will appear for the basic parameters needed for the deployment. Enter information that you need for your application and click ok.

Setting the parameters (click for full size image)

Setting the parameters (click for full size image)

Now when you navigate to your cloud in the Cloud Explorer UI (Start -> All Programs -> Iron Foundry -> Cloud Explorer) you’ll see the application running under that cloud environment.

As always, it is indeed THAT easy when using a Platform as a Service to deploy to!