Success means putting People and Process above Tech

“I don’t care about the tech – what I really want to hear is how this product fits in our processes and helps our people get more done.”

That was the message my co-founder and I heard from an executive at a major bank last week.  For us, it was both a deja vu and a major relief because we’d just presented at the Cablelabs Summer Showcase about the importance of aligning people, process and technology together. The executive was pleased about how RackN had achieved that balance.

It wasn’t always that way: focusing on usability and simplicity first over features is scary.  

One of the most humbling startup lessons is that making great technology is not about the technology. Showing a 10x (or 100x!) improvement in provisioning speed misses the real problem for IT operators. Happily, we had some great early users who got excited about the vision for simple tooling that we built around Digital Rebar Provision v3.  Equally important was a deeply experienced team who insisted in building great tests, docs and support tooling from day 0.

We are thrilled to watch as new users are able to learn, adopt and grow their use of our open technology with minimal help from RackN.  Even without the 10x performance components RackN has added, they have been able to achieve significant time and automation improvements in their existing operational processes.  That means simpler processes, less IT complexity and more time for solving important problems.

The bank executive wanted the people and process benefits: our job with technology was to enable that first and then get out of the way.  It’s a much harder job than “make it faster” but, ultimately, much more rewarding.

If you’re interested in seeing how we’ve found that balance for bare metal automation, please check out our self-service trial at https://portal.RackN.io or contact us directly at info@rackn.com.

Week in Review : The CTO Advisor talks RackN at InteropITX

Welcome to the RackN and Digital Rebar Weekly Review. You will find the latest news related to Edge, DevOps, SRE and other relevant topics.

Rob Hirschfeld and The CTO Advisor from Interop ITX

During Interop ITX 2018, Keith Townsend had a chance to catch up with RackN CEO Rob Hirschfield to discuss the company. Learn how RackN orchestrates bare metal workloads to provide cloud capability to the data center.


News

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Meet with RackN Next Week at GlueCon

Look for the RackN team next week in Colorado at GlueCon 2018. As a Bronze sponsor, we have a small booth for attendees to meet with our team and talk DevOps, Bare Metal, Immutability, Edge Computing and other topics. In addition, be sure to attend Rob Hirschfeld’s session on Wednesday.

If you are interested in meeting with us during the event please contact me to setup a meeting time.

Session

Making Bare Metal Go Cloud Native: The Power of Immutable Deploys
Speaker: Rob Hirschfeld, Co-Founder/CEO RackN
Wednesday May 16 from 2:50 – 3:30pm
Breakout 2 Track: DevOps

The benefits of automated cloud deployments for speed, reliability and security are undeniable.  The cornerstone of this approach, immutable deployment, promotes the idea of continuously rolling safe, stable images instead of trying to keep up with managing a fixed pool of machines,  If this pattern is so great, shouldn’t we bring it into the physical layer too?

In this talk, we’ll explore the immutable infrastructure pattern and how to use continuous deployment and continuous integration (CI/CD) process to build and manage server images for any platform.  Then we’ll show how automate deploying these images quickly and reliability with open DevOps tools like Terraform and Digital Rebar.  Not only is this approach fast, it’s also more secure and robust for operators.

If you are running physical infrastructure, this talk will change how you think about your job in profound ways.

Week in Review: Provision Physical and Virtual from a Single Platform

Welcome to the RackN and Digital Rebar Weekly Review. You will find the latest news related to Edge, DevOps, SRE and other relevant topics.

RackN NOW Provisions Virtual Machines Not Just Physical Machines 

This expansion to virtual machines allows Digital Rebar Provision (DRP) users to not only provision physical infrastructure but virtual as well both locally and in clouds. In this simple demo video we show how to connect a virtual platform to DRP and provision virtual machines alongside your bare metal infrastructure.

Learn More


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Create your first CentOS 7 Machine on RackN Portal with Digital Rebar Provision

This is the third blog in a series demonstrating the steps required to complete a series of tasks in the RackN Portal using Digital Rebar Provision.

Prerequisite

You will need an account on the RackN Portal with an active Digital Rebar Provision endpoint running. In this How To, I am using Packet.net for my infrastructure as I have no local hardware available to build a local system.

For information on creating a Digital Rebar Provision endpoint and connecting it to a RackN Portal please see these two prior How To blogs:

Step 1 : Create a new Machine on Packet.net

The RackN Portal needs a physical machine for Digital Rebar Provision (DRP) to discover and track in the Machine section of the UX. I am providing steps to create that machine on my Packet.net account:

  • Login into your Packet.net account

In the image above, I show my DRP endpoint (spectordemo-drp-ewr1-00) and a machine (spectordemo-machines-ewr1-01) I created during the Deploy and Test DRP in less than 10 Minutes How To guide. Note – my machines are Type 0 which is about $0.07 an hour to run and the location is at the EWR1 Packet.net data center.

  • Select +Add New to create a new physical machine on Packet.net

Enter the following information for the entry fields on the “Deploy on Demand” page:

  • Hostname: Enter anything you want with a .com (e.g. spectortest.com)
  • Location: Choose the same location of your endpoint – see screen above (e.g. EWR1)
  • Type: Type 0 (cheapest machine ~ $.07 per hour)
  • OS: Custom iPXE ; a new window will appear below that selection area after choosing Custom iPXE
    • Enter the http address of your Endpoint along with “:default.ipxe” at then end so you get “http://#.#.#.#:8091:default.ipxe” (NOTE – the RackN portal address will have :8092, be sure to switch here to :8091)
  • Select the “User Data” button and a new pop-up screen will appear; select SAVE

Packet will then show the new machine as it is setup with the color going from yellow to green during setup. If you click “View Progress” you can monitor the machine start.

Within a few minutes, the machine will switch from yellow to green at which point you will have created a new physical machine to provision with DRP.

Step 2 : Provision a new CentOS 7 Machine from with the RackN Portal 

  • Prepare the Global Workflow

The default Workflow available needs to be removed if you are working with Packet.net machines. If your screen does not look like the final Workflow image shown below, take the following steps:

  1. Delete the Workflow by clicking “Remove” on each step until it is removed
  2. Click the Workflow Wizard to create the 3 Stages shown below

The final Workflow page should look like the image below with three separate Stages and follow-on steps for processing.

  • Confirm new Machine is Visible to RackN Portal

The newly created machine on Packet.net should now be visible in your Bulk Actions page as shown below. The Stage will be set to “sledgehammer-wait and BootEnv to “sledgehammer.”

If the Stage for the new machine is not correct, reboot the machine using the Plugin Action -> powercycle option. The machine should then set to the proper Stage and BootEnv as shown above.

  • Change the Stage and BootEnv to CentOS 7 Settings

Before this final step, be sure to check the machine in the Packet.net settings that it is set for PXE Boot to YES/ON.

In the Bulk Action page, you can change the Stage and BootEnv settings. Select the newly created machine and set the Stages to “centos-7-install” as shown below and then click the 4-arrow button.

Once complete you will see the following setup on the Bulk Action page.

  • Reboot the new Machine in Packet.net

The final step to provision this new machine from DRP is to change the Plugin Action option to “powercycle” and press the hand with figure down. Of course, make sure your machine is selected as show in the image above.

Step 3 : Monitor the Installation of CentOS 7 on the new Machine

To monitor the activity on your new machine you will need to ssh into that machine from a terminal window. To get the ssh key, I selected the new machine in the RackN Portal and grabbed the content from the >_packet/sos: line below. In this case I used 9a17d7d1-fa74-4757-8683-82b57e8e3ed2@sos.sjc1.packet.net.

In the same directory you ran the “pkt-demo” How To in the first blog, you will see a file like “spectordemo-machines-ssh-key” depending on the names you used in the first blog.  Run this command:

ssh -i spectordemo-machines-ssh-key 9a17d7d1-fa74-4757-8683-82b57e8e3ed2@sos.sjc1.packet.net

This will connect to the new machine so you can see activity. For the machine waiting at sledgehammer-wait you will see the following image:

Once the reboot is executed in STEP 3 / (Reboot the New Machine in Packet.net) you will see the machine shut down and disconnect you. Run the same ssh command and you will see this screen while the machine reboots:

The machine will then move into the CentOS 7 install and you will see a sequence of Linux install information such as the following:

This completes the provisioning of a new machine on Packet.net using the RackN Portal Workflow process.

RackN Portal Management Connection to the 10 Minute Demo

In my previous blog, I provided step by step directions to install Digital Rebar Provision on a new endpoint and create a new node using Packet.net for users without a local hardware setup. (Demo Tool on GitHub) In this blog, I will introduce the RackN Portal and connect it to the active setup running on Packet.net at the end of the demo process.

NOTE – You will need to run the demo process again to have both the DRP installation and endpoint active on Packet.net.

Current Status

There will be two machines running in Packet:

  • Digital Rebar Provision running on an Endpoint
  • A new physical node provided by DRP

In order to have run the process in the previous blog, you will have created a RackN Portal account to get the RackN code to add into the Secrets file.

Steps to Connect RackN Portal

When you first go to the RackN Portal you will see the following screen:

The first step is to enter the Endpoint Address which will come from the Packet.net Endpoint server setup in the previous blog. To get the address go to the “Configure DRP” step and you will see the following which contains the Endpoint http address:

running ACTION:  drp-setup-demo
+ set +x
+ drpcli –endpoint=https://147.##.##.63:8092 bootenvs uploadiso centos-7-install
{
 “Path”: “CentOS-7-x86_64-Minimal-1708.iso”,

“Size”: 830472192
}
+ set +x
{
 “centos-7-install”: “packet-ssh-keys:Success”,

“discover”: “packet-discover:Success”,
“packet-discover”: “centos-7-install:Reboot”,
“packet-ssh-keys”: “complete-nowait:Success”
}

Enter the following https address https://147.##.##.63:8092 into the Endpoint Address and press the blue arrow. You will then be taken to the login screen where you enter the standard login info:

Select “Defaults” to have the system fill in the Login information. If you need more information on this screen, please review the Install Guide.

RackN Portal Tour

After completing the login your RackN Portal screen will look like this:

At this point, we want to see the new node that was created in the final step of our demo process. Select “Machines” on the left-hand navigation below SYSTEM and you will see the new machine that was created. NOTE – The Red X next to Subnets is appropriate for Packet.net infrastructure.

You can confirm this machine name with the name of the machine in the last stage of the process. Both the RackN Portal and the data below indicate that I have created a new node called “spectordemo-machines-ewr1-01“.

Selecting the newly created machine you will see the following information:

In the next blog, we will use the RackN Portal to create a second node and look at the Workflow process to install an operating system on both nodes.

If you have any questions or would like to get started learning more about Digital Rebar Provision and RackN please join the Slack community.

Week in Review: Automation and Scale are a Must for the Edge

Welcome to our new format for the RackN and Digital Rebar Weekly Review. It contains the same great information you are accustomed to; however, I have reorganized it to place a new section at the start with my thoughts on various topics. You can still find the latest news items related to Edge, DevOps and other relevant topics below.

Automation and Scale at the Edge

Edge computing presents significant challenges to operations teams as there will be hundreds of thousands of endpoints to provision, manage and secure. Unable to physically access each of these endpoints, operations must remotely access with a powerful automation tool to ensure service uptime.

RackN solutions are architected from the ground of to enable this remote automation. Here is Rob Hirschfeld, Co-Founder/CEO of RackN with more details.

Building an Operator Community

We are building an operators community sharing best practices and code to reuse across work sites to fully automate data centers. Working together operators can solve operational challenges for not just their infrastructure, but also find common patterns to leverage across a broad set of architectures.

Community is a powerful force in the software industry and there is no reason why those concepts cannot be leveraged by operators and DevOps teams to completely change the ROI of running a data center. RackN is founded on this belief that working together we can transform data center management via automation and physical ops.

Read More


News

  • Edge Computing

    ADVA Optical Networking will host a joint demonstration with BT to showcase end-to-end, multi-layer transport network slicing and assurance.

    The demonstration, which takes place at the Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona, will show how edge computing and network slicing techniques can help enable emerging 5G applications. It marks the beginning of a long-term research collaboration between the two companies, focused on network slicing implementations.

    AT&T on Tuesday announced a pair of steps in the carrier’s ongoing edge computing efforts.

    The company launched the first project at its previously announced edge test zone in Palo Alto, Calif., and joined a new open source project focused on edge cloud infrastructure.

  • DevOps

    TechRepublic spoke with Datadog chief product officer Amit Agarwal to explain why DevOps is so important, and where it’s headed.

    Sometimes, all it takes to get focus on an elusive subject like the DevOps process is a bit of a name change. Perhaps that will be the case here, when it comes to a new term I’ve only started hearing over the last few months: intent-based DevOps.
    I first heard it on a conference floor, and while many were talking about DevOps successes, others were wondering what it was going to take to achieve scale through the enterprise. Intent-based DevOps felt intriguing — kind of a “less is more” approach to a sweeping development and deployment strategy that still seems too large to be easily consumed.

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