A Tale of Two Deployments

By: @bcsaller w/ @whitmo

At the Juju Solutions sprint in Dillon Chuck Butler demoed a nice example of using the Rails charm to deploy a sample app/workload right out of github https://github.com/leereilly/github-high-scores.git. The rails charm serves as a great example of framework charm, automating many of the common tasks around running and managing a Rack served application.

I’ve spent the last few months working on using Juju to deploy and manage a system that also helps deploy and manage applications: CloudFoundry. Strikingly, this charm provides a user a similar develop and deploy experience as using a PAAS like Cloudfoundry, Heroku or OpenShift

My curiousity piqued, I did an experiment to compare the the relative experience of deploying a rails app via a framework charm vs. the experience of deploying the same app into a PAAS.

First I juju deployed Cloudfoundry into AWS. Then I prepared the demo app for cf deployment.

By adding a few lines (a manifest.yml) to a clean checkout I was able to deploy the same application to a my CloudFoundry instance. Just to show the scope of change, look at the following:

- name: highscore
  buildpack: https://github.com/cloudfoundry/heroku-buildpack-ruby.git
  command: ruby app.rb $PORT

Then I deployed into cf.

cd highscore
cf push

Pretty simple.

Here is all Cloudfoundry requires to bring a supported type of application under management: a snippet of yaml and a command. Because CF provides all the conventions around application management this yaml effectively ‘charms’ an application. Add file, and boom, the repository become deployable.

From this perspective I’d like to compare and contrast these two solutions to running this simple app. With the rails charm you’d set service options to point to the github repo. The charm is written in such a way as to pull down the app and bootstrap it. Fairly similar to the CF deployment so far.

So what are the differences?

By default with Juju you get a new machine per Rails app you want to run. This means that deploying the Rails app now means a bootstrap, unit allocation and then the spin up of the configured application. Let’s say this whole process is about 15 minutes for the first unit and about 10 for each subsequent unit. Its not fast but you’re only paying for the machines you need in a public cloud situation.

In the CloudFoundry world you’ll have to deploy the whole PaaS first. Deployment takes about 45 minutes process, depending on your configuration. It will start with 1 very large instance or more commonly about 9 medium sized ones. If you’re using the whole platform to run a simple app like this one it would be a very expensive way to do it.

Once its running you have a platform that supports running many isolated applications with security, user and org management. And applications deploy very fast. In this case it took about 30 seconds to provision the application the first time and each additional takes less (as internally cf uses an image for the app’s container).

Speed isn’t the only difference though. In the Juju world you could relate your application to anything the Rails charm supported, say your Juju deployed database. If the Rails charm predefined a mysql relation then you could make that available to your application and changing that relation could trigger restarts of the app.

CloudFoundry has its own system for dealing with what we call “relations” in juju. While not the not exactly same, they also support a service model and the ability to add catalogs of services that can be used by a cf hosted app. In CF’s model the service bindings are declared as needed and the application holds the responsibility to take advantage of them. Understand that in this model if your Ruby code supported MongoDb and the catalog provides that service, you could just use it.

In the Juju model if the Rails charm doesn’t support MongoDB you have to fork supposedly generic charm to add that relation to metadata.yaml or forego using Juju to orchestrate the application’s use of Mongo.

As the purpose of a PaaS is a tailored experience for the user, an application developer, we can see certain tradeoffs here. CF makes app deployment fast and easy, and flexible with it’s adhoc relations. It trades off upfront deployment effort in time and resources, as well as limiting the complexity of deployment and the richness of types of relationship.

Looking forward, I’m hopeful that we’ll be able to provide a sensible bridge to CF application so they can take advantage of the Juju Charm catalog in the future, but I’m equally hopeful that extend Juju’s model in such a way that we can separate the handling of deploying a Rails charm with its needs and requirements from those of the application payload that it manages. This is the idea of Juju deploying things that we deploy things onto. CF might be one example of a Juju deployed thing we deploy other things to, but at the same time, so is the Rails charm, so is Mesos, so is Kubernetes.

Deploying things into things we’ve deployed is an exciting growth path for Juju and a topic for another day.

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