Monday, October 27, 2014

VPC per envrionvment versus Single VPC for all environments


This blog talks about the two possible ways of hosting your infrastructure in Cloud, though it will be more close to hosting on AWS as it is a real life example but this problem can be applied to any cloud infrastructure set-up. I'm just sharing my thoughts and pros & cons of both approaches but I would love to hear from the people reading this blog about their take as well what do they think.


Before jumping right away into the real talk I would like to give a bit of background on how I come up with this blog, I was working with a client in managing his cloud infrastructure where we had 4 environments dev, QA, Pre Production and Production and each environment had close to 20 instances, apart from applications instances there were some admin instances as well such as Icinga for monitoring, logstash for consolidating logs, Graphite Server to view the logs, VPN server to manage access of people.




At this point we got into a discussion that whether the current infrastructure set-up is the right one where we are having a separate VPC per environment or the ideal setup would have been a single VPC and the environments could have been separated by subnet's i.e a pair of subnet(public private) for each environment





Both approaches had some pros & cons associated with them

Single VPC set-up

Pros:

  1. You only have a single VPC to manage
  2. You can consolidate your admin app's such as Icinga, VPN server.

Cons:

  1. As you are separating your environments through subnets you need granular access control at your subnet level i.e instances in staging environment should not be allowed to talk to dev environment instances. Similarly you have to control access of people at granular level as well
  2. Scope of human error is high as all the instances will be on same VPC.

VPC per environment setup

Pros:

  1. You have a clear separation between your environments due to separate VPC's.
  2. You will have finer access control on your environment as the access rules for VPC will effectively be access rules for your environments.
  3. As an admin it gives you a clear picture of your environments and you have an option to clone you complete environment very easily.

Cons:

  1. As mentioned in pros of Single VPC setup you are at some financial loss as you would be duplicating admin application's across environments


In my opinion the decision of choosing a specific set-up largely depends on the scale of your environment if you have a small or even medium sized environment then you can have your infrastructure set-up as "All environments in single VPC", in case of large set-up I strongly believe that VPC per environment set-up is the way to go.

Let me know your thoughts and also the points in favour or against of both of these approaches.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Chef Solo an Introduction


Introduction

Chef Solo is simple way to begin working with Chef. It is an open source version of the chef-client that allows using cookbooks with nodes without requiring access to a server. Chef Solo runs locally and requires that a cookbook (and any of its dependencies) be on the same physical disk as the node. It is a limited-functionality version of the chef-client and does not support the following:

  • Node data storage
  • Search indexes
  • Centralized distribution of cookbooks
  • A centralized API that interacts with and integrates infrastructure components
  • Authentication or authorization
  • Persistent attributes  
Installing chef-client  (Pre-requisite : curl )
Login to your box and run the following command to install the chef. Make sure that curl program is available on your box.
 curl -L https://www.opscode.com/chef/install.sh | bash  

cropinstall.jpg
To check if the installation was successful check the version of the installed chef-solo by:
 chef-solo -v  

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Revert a patch in most awesome way

If you are a Release Engineer, System Admin or Support Engineer you have definitely come across a requirement where you have to apply patches to the target systems be it production or non-production. I'm assuming that you are using some automated system to manage the patches i.e applying them and reverting them. In this blog I would be discussing about the standard way of patch management and how you can have an out of the box solution to revert your patch in most simplistic way and without much fuss. At the end of the blog I would like to see an expression where you will say what the hell it's so awesome yet so simple :).

People usually use some tool to apply patch to a target system which in addition to applying a patch also manage the history the patches so that it can be reverted in case the patch goes wrong. The patch history usually contains below details:
  1. The new files that were added in the patch, while reverting the patch those files should be deleted.
  2. The files that were deleted by the patch, while reverting the patch the deleted files should be restored back.
  3. The files that were modified by the patch, while reverting the patch the modified files should be restored back.

You can definitely create a tool that can revert the patch for you as the use cases are not much, but do you really need to put this much effort if you can have an out of the box solution for this. What if I tell you that we use git for managing our patch history and reverting them. As git comes with a local repository concept so we created a local git repository at our app server codebase location only. Git comes with all the file level tracking we map each patch with one git commit, so at the time of reverting a specific patch you can ask git to simply revert the commit for you.

Extra steps to be done after applying patch:
To make git track the changes done in patch, you just need to perform 2 extra commands

git add . : This command will track all the files that have been modififed, added or deleted in the system.
git commit -m "Applying Patch" : This command actually adds the files information tracked by previous command with a message in the git system


Steps to be done in reverting changes done by a patch:
Once you have all the information tracked in git it will become no-brainer to revert the patches.

To view the details of all the patches: You can use git log command that will provide you the list of all the patches that you have applied or reverts that you have done

sandy@sandy:~/test/app1$ git log
commit f622f1f97fc44f6897f9edc25f9c6aab8e425049
Author: sandy
Date:   Thu Jun 19 15:19:53 2014 +0530

    Patch 1 on release2

commit 9a1dd81c7799c2f83d897eed85914eecef304bf0
Author: sandy
Date:   Thu Jun 19 15:16:52 2014 +0530

    Release 2

commit 135e04c00b3c3d5bc868f7774a5f284c3eb8cb29
Author: sandy
Date:   Thu Jun 19 15:16:28 2014 +0530

    Release 1


Now Reverting a patch is as simple as executing a simple command git revert, with the commit id of the patch

git revert f622f1f97fc44f6897f9edc25f9c6aab8e425049
[master 0ba533f] q Revert "Patch 1 on release2"
 1 file changed, 1 deletion(-)


If you run git log command, you will see the patch revert history as well

sandy@sandy:~/test/app1$ git log
commit 0ba533fda95ed4d7fcf0b7e6b23cd1a5589946a7
Author: sandy
Date:   Thu Jun 19 15:20:24 2014 +0530

    Revert "Patch 1 on release2"
   
    This reverts commit f622f1f97fc44f6897f9edc25f9c6aab8e425049.

commit f622f1f97fc44f6897f9edc25f9c6aab8e425049
Author: sandy
Date:   Thu Jun 19 15:19:53 2014 +0530

    Patch 1 on release2

commit 9a1dd81c7799c2f83d897eed85914eecef304bf0
Author: sandy
Date:   Thu Jun 19 15:16:52 2014 +0530

    Release 2

commit 135e04c00b3c3d5bc868f7774a5f284c3eb8cb29
Author: sandy
Date:   Thu Jun 19 15:16:28 2014 +0530

    Release 1



I hope this blog has given you a very different perspective of managing the patches, let me know your thoughts about this. Also if you have such more ideas do share with me.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Win Free Ecopy of new book on ReviewBoard

Readers would be pleased to know that I have teamed up with Packt Publishing  to organize a Giveaway of the Getting Started with Review Board

And two lucky winners stand a chance to win ecopy of the book. Keep reading to find out how you can be one of the Lucky Winners.

Overview of book:

  • Install and set up Reviewboard
  • Create a review request with the changes you have introduced
  • Publish or share the review request with the team/reviewer/reviewer groups
  • Integrate your code with code repositories
  • Close the code review request by providing a review comment
  • Understand how to search the user dashboard (limited and full text search)
  • Manage Reviewboard as an administrator
  • Acquire tips and tricks to optimize the usage and performance of Reviewboard

How to Enter?

All you need to do is head on over to the book page (Getting Started with Review Board) and look through the product description of the book and drop a line via the comments below this post to let us know what interests you the most about this book. It’s that simple.

Deadline

The contest will close on 5th of April 2014. Winners will be contacted by email, so be sure to use your real email address when you comment!

Friday, March 14, 2014

How to secure your Linux Server

Yesterday was a good and bad day for me, bad day because one of my linux server has been hacked. Good day because it was one of the most important task in my pipeline which I wanted to take up, that is securing my systems. As people say being agile or lazy :), do when it is actually required and yesterday was that day.

I'm a novice in infrastructure management, but I really liked this field that's why I plunged into this domain and now I'm really loving it because of such challenges. Now let's cut the crap and straightaway jump to the point, I've figured few of the best practices that you should always do while configuring your "SECURE" linux server:

  • Don't use default ssh port for login into the system, or best you can have a policy where you will change your ssh port every month or 2 month.
  • To go a step forward disable the password based login and just enable key base login.
  • Use some intrusion prevention framework, I've figured out fail2ban is a good one.
  • Keep all non public facing machines on private ip.
  • In case of public machines only open those ports which are actually required.
  • User firewall to it's maximum effect. Iptables can be a good option.
  • Have a strong alert system that can monitor your system and raise an alert in case of any suspicious activity. We use Icinga.

Though this list may not cover all the required things that you can take care of, but it can serve as a very good starting point. Also I would love to hear more suggestions that can be used.

Friday, February 14, 2014

A wrapper over linode python API bindings

Recently I've been working on automating the nodes creation on our Linode infrastructure, in the process I came across the Linode API and it's bindings. Though they were powerful but lacks at some places i.e:
  1. In case of Linode CLI, while creating a linode you have to enter the root password so you can't achieve full automation. Also I was not able to find an option to add private ip to the linode
  2. In case of Linode API python binding you can't straight away create a running linode machine.
Recently I've launched a new GitHub project, this project is a wrapper over existing python bindings of linode and will try to ease out the working with linode api. Currently using this project you can create a linode with 3 lines of code

from linode import Linode
linode=Linode('node_identifier')
linode.create()

You just need to have a property file,/data/linode/linode.properties:
[DEFAULT]
UBUNTU_DIST=Ubuntu 12.04
KERNEL_LABEL=Latest 64 bit
DATACENTER_LABEL=Dallas
PLAN_ID=1024
ROOT_SSH_KEY=
LINODE_API=

 The project is still in development, if someone wants to contribute or have any suggestions you are most welcome.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

How to Manage Amazon Web Services Instances part 1

If you want to minimize the amount of money you spend on Amazon Web Services (AWS) infrastructure, then this blog post is for you. In this post I will be discussing  the rationale behind starting & stopping AWS instances in an automated fashion and more importantly, doing it in a correct way. Obviously you could do it through the web console of AWS as well, but it will need your daily involvement. In addition, you would have to take care of starting/stopping various services running on those instances.

Before directly jumping on how we achieved instance management in an automated fashion, I like to state the problem that we were facing. Our application testing infrastructure is on AWS and it is a multiple components(20+) application distributed among 8-9 Amazon instances. Usually our testing team starts working from 10 am, and continues till 7 pm. Earlier we used to keep our testing infrastructure up for 24 hours, even though we were using it for only 9 hours on weekdays, and not using it at all on weekends. Thus, we were wasting more then 50% of the money that we spent on the AWS infrastructure. The obvious solution to this problem was: we needed an intelligent system that would make sure that our amazon infrastructure was up only during the time when we needed it.

The detailed list of the requirements, and the corresponding things that we did were:
  1. We should shut down our infrastructure instances when we are not using them.
  2. There should be a functionality to bring up the infrastructure manually: We created a group of Jenkins jobs, which were scheduled to run at a specific time to start our infrastructure. Also a set of people have execution access to these jobs to start the infrastructure manually, if the need arises.
  3. We should bring up our infrastructure instances when we need it.
  4. There should be a functionality to shut down the infrastructure manually: We created a group of Jenkins jobs that were scheduled to run at a specific time to shut down our infrastructure. Also a set of people have execution access on these jobs to shut down the infrastructure manually, if the need arises.
  5. Automated application/services start on instance start: We made sure that all the applications and services were up and running when the instance was started.
  6. Automated graceful application/services shut down before instance shut down: We made sure that all the applications and services were gracefully stopped before the instance was shut down, so that there was be no loss of data.
  7. We also had to make sure that all the applications and services should be started as per defined agreed order.

Once we had the requirements ready, implementing them was simple, as Amazon provides a number of APIs to achieve this. We used AWS CLI, and needed to use just 2 simple commands that AWS CLI provides.
The command to start an instance :
aws ec2 start-instances --instance-ids i-XXXXXXXX
The command to stop an instance :
aws ec2 stop-instances --instance-ids i-XXXXXXXX 

Through above commands you can automate starting and stopping AWS instances, but you might not be doing it the correct way. As you didn't restrict the AWS CLI allow firing of start-instances and stop-instances commands only, you could use other commands and that could turn out to be a problem area. Another important point to consider is that we should restrict the AWS instances on which above commands could be executed, as these commands could be mistakenly run with the instance id of a production amazon instance id as an argument, creating undesirable circumstances :)

In the next blog post I will talk about how to start and stop AWS instances in a correct way.