Introducing boot.rackspace.com

We have had a number of customers request the need to be able to create their own Cloud Servers images rather than taking snapshots from our base installs. To fulfill this need, we are announcing a new tool as a preview today called boot.rackspace.com. The tool enables you to utilize the various Linux distributions installers to install directly to the disk of your Cloud Server.

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Step-by-step walkthrough to using Chef to bootstrap Windows nodes on the Rackspace Cloud

If you are a frequent reader of this blog you will have seen Hart’s posts about “Cooking with Chef”:

Further to these there are also a lot of tutorials on the internet. Most of them seem to focus on using chef to deploy/manage Linux servers but you will have a hard time to find a lot for doing the same on Windows Servers (Yes, Windows as in Microsoft Windows).

I have therefore sat down and put together a detailed step-by-step walkthrough that will guide you through installing your own Open Source Chef Server on a Rackspace Cloud Server running CentOS 6.4, installing the knife-windows plugin and then spinning up, bootstrapping and installing IIS on a Windows Server 2012 Rackspace Cloud Server without logging on to it once. Read on, if you dare…

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Welcome to Performance Cloud Servers; have some benchmarks!

Today, all of us at Rackspace are proud to roll out our new Performance Cloud Server offering. These are new flavors of Cloud Servers available to all customers as of today, providing higher performance from RAM to Disk I/O, and more. We’ve also rolled out a significant update to our cloud control panel to greatly improve the user experience of selecting flavors, operating systems and more.

Our Cloud Servers have been completely re-engineered from the ground up to deliver performance and reliability. They are built entirely with RAID 10 protected SSDs and powerful Intel Xeon processors. 40 gigabits per second of highly available network throughput is delivered to every host, enabling high bandwidth applications and blazing fast Cloud Block Storage performance. All hosts have dual power feeds with redundant power supplies and are deployed in Rackspace’s world-class data centers.

But you, as developers, probably want to know more. A lot more. I’ve spent several weeks taking many of the new flavors for a spin, putting them through a variety of benchmarks and stress tests. I’m a developer though and pretty much any time a vendor – even a well meaning one – publishes benchmarks, I want to see the raw data, how to run them and most of all, how I can recreate them, so that’s what I am doing - all raw results, plots, run scripts, etc are on GitHub.

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Cloud Databases vs. MySQL on Cloud Servers

If you need to run MySQL on the Rackspace Cloud, you have two fundamental choices: run MySQL on a Cloud Server, or run MySQL as a Cloud Database instance. This naturally raises a few questions: What are the features and benefits of each? Which performs better? Which will be more cost effective? As with every application, the answer is ”it depends;” however, the information below should help you make the right choice based on your needs.

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PowerClient: Rackspace Cloud API Powershell Client

Update (July 16, 2015)

As of July 16th 2015, this client has been updated to use JSON requests ONLY. All XML references have been removed at this time. Several new updates have been introduced:

  • Dynamic endpoint URL retrieval from service catalog returned with auth token
  • Cloud Server password resets now have their own cmdlet: Update-CloudServerPassword

Note that on July 20, 2015, Rackspace (in following with OpenStack developments) will disable XML support within the Cloud Servers API. All PowerClient users should upgrade to the new release. See the following for more information:

https://github.com/drmmarsunited/rackspacecloud_powershell/wiki

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Speeding up SSH session creation

Establishing a new SSH connection usually takes only a few seconds, but if you’re connecting to a server multiple times in succession the overhead starts to add up. If you do a lot of Git pushing and pulling or frequently need to SSH to a dev server, you’ve probably felt the pain of waiting for SSH to connect so you can get back to doing work.

One of SSH’s lesser known features is the ability to reuse an already-established connection when creating a new SSH session. This means you only have to pay the connection overhead once, making future sessions incredibly quick to start.

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Scaling horizontally: Handling sessions on the open cloud

Wayne Walls wrote a great article on the Rackspace Blog around horizontal scaling, a pillar of cloud application design. When designing applications in the cloud, typically you need more than one server performing specific tasks.

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These groups of servers or roles or tiers are sometimes load balanced or exist as a pool of servers polling a message queue for work.

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Using a custom kernel with the Ubuntu Installer

EDIT: This blog post has been edited! As it turns out, the preseed was stored in a location that didn’t always work. Instead, we now decompress the initrd.gz, and add a preseed there. This is a better location, because the Ubuntu operating system installer always looks for it there, even if not told to. We also moved installing the new kernel to the end of the preseed, to be sure it runs all the postinstall scripts. We changed how we remove the 2.6 kernel to specifically catch the version before removing it.

Here at Rackspace on the Cloud Monitoring team, we use Ubuntu 10.04 LTS. We recently purchased some new Dell Poweredge R720 (our older standard hardware wasn’t offered anymore) and we found out the new hardware is not supported by the 10.04 default kernel!

Our original workaround was to build the new drivers against the 10.04 2.6 kernel, and load them at install time. At the end of the install, we would then manually install the new kernel, remove the 2.6 kernel, and then reboot. This worked, but it took an awful lot of time.

Therefore we set out to build an Ubuntu 10.04 installer that runs on, and installs, a more recent kernel.

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Using Mailgun and Python to parse email for your applications

In case you didn’t hear, Rackspace recently acquired Mailgun, a YCombinator startup that makes it really easy to integrate email into your application.  Mailgun does the simple things like sending password confirmations and shipping notifications, but it also makes it A LOT easier to build some really good stuff.

Figuring out how to make email work with the cloud is one of the biggest questions that we get at Rackspace, so we’re publishing some code samples that show you how to build some really cool things with Mailgun. Mailgun has a free plan that will let you try all these things and send up to 200 emails per day for free. Then they’ve got plans starting at only $20 a month.  So, onto the cool stuff!

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