IaaS vs. PaaS or Infrastructure vs. Platform and I Want Beer NOW!

A friend and now coworker of mine, Richard Seroter (@rseroter & Blog) decided to do a comparo. I took the infrastructure based deployment, ala IaaS and he took the platform based deployment, ala PaaS. What we’ve done is taken a somewhat standard ASP.NET MVC with Entity Framework, a SQL Server Database, a UX & UI design and got it running locally. From there we then deployed the same application the two respective ways to deploy the web application to a live environment. He took the Tier 3 PaaS (Iron Foundry + Cloud Foundry for the win) and I took the tried and true method of deploying via Windows 2008 Server instances via the Tier 3 Infrastructure.

Here are the steps I went through and for his steps check out this blog article on the PaaS deployment.

Part #1 – Get Some Servers Setup

First things first, I need two instances. If you’re following along, you can basically use whatever instances or server you want. AWS, Rackspace, or Windows Azure. Based on that there may be a few steps here or there you may need to alter, add or subtract from the process. One for the ASP.NET MVC Application and one for the SQL Server Database. The web app server doesn’t need a ton of resources, so I built it and scaled back RAM and cores to a single core.

ASP.NET MVC Web Server
ASP.NET MVC Web Server (Click for full size image)

In the next step here I’ve selected additional software to be installed on the instance. I’ll need .NET 4.0 so I’ve added this as shown.

Selecting .NET 4.0 for Addition to the Instance
Selecting .NET 4.0 for Addition to the Instance (Click for full size image)

After setting up the web server I also setup a database server. For the database server I made sure to allocate some decent resource, setting up 2 cores and 8 GB RAM. I also added the SQL Server installation based on Tier 3’s software packages so it would install automatically when the image is created.

All My Instances Running
All My Instances Building & Running (Click for full size image)

When I setup the SQL Server instance, I used a blue print feature that allows the SQL Server to be installed directly on the image. This of course saved me a lot of time. But it does add to the deployment time of the instance in the cloud.

Part #2 – Setting up Windows Server 2008

The first thing we’ll need to do is log into these machines and configure them, standard infrastructure stuff. Open up the Server Manager (which launches automatically on instances) and verify that we have IIS installed on the web server.

Database Server

Server Manager
Server Manager (Click for full size image)

Next log into the database server and verify that the SQL Server is up, running and create the initial database.


Using SQL Server Management Studio checking that the SQL Server Exists
Using SQL Server Management Studio checking that the SQL Server Exists

Once I had both of the servers up and running I got the application ready to deploy. First a little schema generation to use to deploy the database.

Don't Use "Script Database as..." option, use the "Tasks" option...
Don’t Use “Script Database as…” option, use the “Tasks” option…

Once the script is generated then transfer it and execute it against the database on the database server.

Execute the SQL Schema Create Script
Execute the SQL Schema Create Script (Click image for full size)

Always a good thing, even if all green lights are seen on the SQL execution, go in and make sure the tables are all there.

Web Server

Publish (Click Full Image)

Publish Application (click for full size image)For the web server, as long as IIS is already installed, the setup is fairly easy. First snag the compiled bits that need deployed. We’ll do a direct drop onto the server and get it running.

To get the compiled bits, right click on the Visual Studio Project and select publish. Add a deployment scenario, which I did and set it up to just spit the bits out to a directory. There of course a multiple options at this point to use FTP, WebDav or whatever your choice is. I’m not a particular fan of any of those in particular, they’re all fairly easy.

Deployment Publication Options
Deployment Publication Options (Click for full size image)


At this point I actually got hit with the “.NET 4.0 isn’t installed…” which it should have been. I opened up windows update and realized that it had not successfully executed nor had the .NET 4.0 install. This happens with all sorts of instances, regardless of provider, so make sure that the bits we need are installed. Also, with Windows, it’s a really good idea to get windows update turned on.

Back to Deployment

Now that we have the built bits just copy them onto the web application server into the inetpub wwwroot directory. Once you have that copied over you would be able to navigate to the IP of the machine this is setup on. At this time you may also want to setup a cname or a-record to point to the IP, so you can use a friendlier URI.


Now think about what has just gone on for a moment. We had to literally build out machines, add software and more. There were a lot of steps. This takes anywhere from 30 minutes to a few hours of actual work. In a larger business or an enterprise environment it could get extended out even further. Because of the extra complexity it could also end up broken, requiring extra troubleshooting and coding. There could even be a host of odd one off configuration issues with the hosting software itself.

Imagine you wanted to host an ASP.NET, PHP, Ruby on Rails and a Node.js App on the Server. That would be almost impossible. Consider how much extra configuration knowledge an ops person would need to troubleshoot each one of those frameworks. Just sit back and contemplate the complexities involved for a moment. All the complexity goes away with something like Cloud Foundry or Open Shift. With someone managing that system for you, such as us here at Tier 3 with our Web Fabric PaaS, AppFog, Cloud Foundry, or one of the other providers even more of the complexities just disappear.

Time for Summary & Beer

With all the steps and individual tasks needed to get something running in an IaaS Environment, go check out how slick getting something up and running with a PaaS style environment. The juxtaposition between what Richard had to go through versus what I had to go through is pretty significant. Simply put, for the vast majority of all application development can be done against a PaaS Environment and likely should. Digging deeper into the infrastruture elements is rarely needed except in rare scaling circumstances, such as the volume that Facebook, LinkedIn or Netflix deal with. Even then, as has been stated by these companies, they have a PaaS of their own they often build software to. So why not have this ability where you build software?

One of my key metrics, and I’ll be elaborating on this metric more in the future, is when I get to head out of the office for the day, relax, have a beer, and think about what I’ll get to create next. I call this my “Beer Enabler Measure“. PaaS technologies make it much easier for me to get to the relaxing part of my day a lot faster than IaaS technologies, and both of these make sure that I’m not pulling an all nighter without a beer like traditional hosting environments often do.

In the end, sure, infrastructure can be important and can help in transitioning legacy applications into an easier to manage environment. Today though, if you’re doing web application dev of any type, it should be deployed against a PaaS Environment either private or public.

I Can Talk About It Finally! => Tier 3 Web Fabric Platform as a Service (PaaS)

A couple months ago I shifted gears and started working for Tier 3 on a number of projects. I made this decision for a few reasons:

1. I’m a huge advocate of PaaS (Platform as a Service) technologies. I like what PaaS enables and what it eliminates. Matter of fact I’d say I’m a bull on the technology. I like to learn about, create and build the architectures within platforms. I also love the rather complex back end problems that come up when building a truly powerful, scalable, high end, highly available PaaS. You say, “Adron, Tier 3 doesn’t have any PaaS stuff, it’s an IaaS Provider, this doesn’t explain anything?” Aha! Read on (unless of course you’ve caught the news today… then you already know the answer)

2. I’m a polyglot dev. .NET kind of burned me out a few years back and I dedicated to learning as many other frameworks, languages, and tech stacks that I could. I’ve never been happier with the variety these days. I’ll admit though I still love to use all those years of experience I have with .NET. Indeed, I have a little soft spot in my heart for C#. Tier 3, along with the Iron Foundry Project, has given me the opportunity to work across languages and stacks including Node.js, Ruby, Objective-C and more.

3. I like to build things, advocate for those things and what they can do for you, for dev teams, and in the end what we developers can build with them. Sometimes this might mean I do it myself, sometimes it means coordinating and leading a team (or as I often say of leads, “serving” the team). Right now I’m getting to do a little bit of both and it is indeed fun and really exciting! This brings me to the answer.

The Answer:  Tier 3 now has one of the, if not the most advanced PaaS Environment available today.  Yeah, you can quote me on that. I’m not saying it because I work at Tier 3, I’m saying it because I decided to come work at Tier 3 to help build it. Those of you that know me, know why and where I do things. I have intent behind these decisions.  😉

The Tier 3 PaaS environment officially has more support for frameworks than any other PaaS Provider out there today. Congratulations to the team for getting this out the door! Needless to say, I’m proud to be a part of this team of bad ass devs! Cheers!

What is the Tier 3 Web Fabric?

Here’s a short tour I put together…

What exactly makes up a Web Fabric? We’ve taken Coud Foundry as a core, adding Iron Foundry for full support of all major Enterprise Frameworks and added a fabric over these services to provide an automated seem-less creation of a complete PaaS Environment.

How would you use a PaaS like this?

In an enterprise software and application development shop there is often a break out between development, testing, maybe a UAT (User Acceptance Testing) and finally production. One way to utilize such capabilities is to built a Web Fabric for each of these environments. Once each environment is built, these can then be scaled up or down as needed. Once the environment is done simply delete it. For an environment like UAT or Test, this is one of the most ideal situations to create an environment from scratch, ensuring that outliers don’t affect the testing criteria. How do you build a Tier 3 Web Fabric PaaS? This is the fun part. This process involves a little information and a few clicks, which then will build an entire PaaS environment.

Step 1: In the Tier 3 Control Panel click on the tab titled “Fabrics“. Inside that view, click on “Create Web Fabric“.

Tier 3 Control Panel
Tier 3 Control Panel

Step 2: Fill out the information requested on the screen. The user that you’re creating will be your Tier 3 Web Fabric Administrator. The name becomes part of your URI to access the PaaS API from, and the friendly name below that displays as a description in the control panel. The last piece of information is public or private, the private option limiting access to only VPN users of your Tier 3 Account.

Creating a New Web Fabric
Creating a New Web Fabric

Step 3: Now give it some time. Remember this is not merely a simple virtualized instance of an operating system. What is now happening is a Cloud Foundry environment is being built, Iron Foundry is also added & other enhancements are being applied and built. This then creates an entire Tier 3 Web Fabric that can be used with any of the following tools, languages, and databases.

A few of the languages and frameworks…

  • Ruby on Rails or Sinatra
  • ASP.NET w/ whichever .NET Language, it could be C#, VB.NET, or .NET COBOL if you so felt inclined to build a web application with it.
  • Java w/ Spring and other options.
  • Node.js Nuff’ Said
  • Python

Of course the database services too…

  • MongoDB
  • MS SQL Server
  • vmWare PostGreSQL
  • Redis

These are just a few that are and will be supported in the coming days. The Cloud Foundry base provides a massively powerful core to build off of and extend services and frameworks.

For pushing applications to the Tier 3 Web Fabric, here are some tools to help with that…

vmc-IronFoundry :: This is the same thing as the vmc CLI that is part of the Cloud Foundry Project except that it adds support for .NET pushes from the command line too.

vmc :: this is the default way used by most people working with Cloud Foundry based PaaS Environments.

Eclipse & STS for Java :: this is the extension that integrates into Eclipse.

Cloud Foundry Explorer :: this can be used to view and push .NET applications to the Tier 3 Web Fabric (or any Iron Foundry enabled Cloud Foundry Environment)

Open Source Software, Iron Foundry and More…

In the coming days, weeks, and months I’ll be working with the team here at Tier 3 to drive more capabilities and features. In addition I’ll also be driving the Iron Foundry Open Source effort, pushing to extend what we’ve provided already with the .NET support extension on Cloud Foundry and also more. We here at Tier 3 love the open source community, and we love being part of the community. So with this announcement I wanted to add a big, huge, awesome THANKS to everyone out there passionately involved in and building software that is open source. You all ROCK!

Stay tuned, this is merely the beginning.