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!”

Containers

Getting Docker Installed on Ubuntu 12.04 LTS

A few days ago I posted the blog entry “Using SSH Locally to Work With Ubuntu VM + VMware Tools Installation via Shell“, it was related to getting a clean Ubuntu Server install running with VMware Tools and so that I could use it as a hosted instance. Simply put, being able to SSH into it just as I would a hosted AWS or Windows Azure Ubuntu Server image. Once I had the default virtual machine running 12.04 LTS I went about another installation that is needed to run Docker. Docker will have issues with anything pre-3.8 kernel. Running the command below will show that kernel 3.5 is the current kernel in 12.04 LTS.

apt-cache search linux-headers-$(uname -r)

To update to the 3.8 kernel I ran the following command and then rebooted.

sudo apt-get install linux-image-generic-lts-raring linux-headers-generic-lts-raring
sudo shutdown -r now

With the reboot complete, I checked the kernel version again and 3.8 was installed successfully.

@ubuntu:~$ apt-cache search linux-headers-$(uname -r)
linux-headers-3.8.0-33-generic - Linux kernel headers for version 3.8.0 on 64 bit x86 SMP

To get Docker installed (as of 0.6) run the following command.

sudo sh -c "wget -qO- https://get.docker.io/gpg | apt-key add -"
sudo sh -c "echo deb http://get.docker.io/ubuntu docker main\
> /etc/apt/sources.list.d/docker.list"

Next update the sources, then install lxc-docker.

sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install lxc-docker

To verify that docker is installed I executed the following command and…

sudo docker run -i -t ubuntu /bin/bash

…see similar results just after issuing the command.

Unable to find image 'ubuntu' (tag: latest) locally
Pulling repository ubuntu
8dbd9e392a96: Download complete
b750fe79269d: Download complete
27cf78414709: Download complete

After that displays then I typed exit to leave docker. I now have a running version of docker on the Ubuntu 12.04 LTS instance ready for testing and hacking with docker.