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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How I learned Ruby On Rails

Bret McGowen is a software developer at Rackspace, designing and building RackConnect, which lets customers have the best of both traditional and cloud hosting.

For most of my professional programming career I have worked with the .NET framework. However, a recent side project prompted me to learn the open source Ruby on Rails framework. As you might imagine, there are some major differences between Ruby and .NET, but there are some compelling reasons to learn Ruby on Rails. Through my journey, I found some great resources for learning Ruby on Rails, and whether you are a seasoned developer or simply taking the first step into learning the framework, here are some of the ones that I found extremely helpful.

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Python magic and remote APIs

This is a guest post by Jesse Keating, a Racker working on DevOps for Rackspace’s Cloud Server products. You can read his blog at http://raxcloud.blogspot.com/ or follow¬†@iamjkeating on Twitter.

I’m a pretty big fan of Python as a programming language. It allows me to program by discovery, that is poke and prod at things until the work. Not having to compile an entire program every time I change something is pretty fantastic, as is the ability to insert a debug statement and be able to break a program at that point, then run arbitrary python code within that context. Pretty indispensable to how I write software.

Another thing I like about Python, which some may not, is the ability to do magic things. Not quite so magic as xkcd would like us to believe, but fun stuff indeed.

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Protect your infrastructure servers with bastion hosts and isolated Cloud Networks

This guest post was contributed by Mr. Brandon Philips. Brandon is part of a small team of Rackers getting the Rackspace Cloud Monitoring Agent ready for launch. The Agent helps customers monitor the internals of their servers and application. You can check out his site at http://ifup.org, find him at local San Francisco meetups and check out his code on Github.

The public internet can be a scary place for servers. Log files of servers attached to public addresses shows regular port scans and URL snooping. These log entries are the inescapable reminder that your hosts are always one misconfiguration away from disaster.

This guide teaches you how to create a bastion host and an isolated cloud network, so you can reduce the number of servers that have to encounter these threats.

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Rate limiting with Repose, the restful proxy service engine

Chad Lung is a software engineer on the Rackspace Cloud Integration team and is the maintainer of Atom Hopper. Be sure to check out his personal blog at http://www.giantflyingsaucer.com/blog/ and follow @chadlung on Twitter.

I recently wrote an article introducing Repose, which is a sponsored open-source project that is built to scale for the cloud. Repose is used within Rackspace as a a key element of our internal OpenStack.

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OpenStack for Windows Users: Installing Linux

This is a guest post by Duan van der Westhuizen. Duan works at Rackspace in Enterprise Product Development and has been a Racker for almost 6 years. Duan started in our EMEA office where he also had roles in Business Intelligence and Customer Support. He has over 15 years of technology experience across various fields from technology strategy, engineering, development and database design. Duan is a tech at heart who is passionate about leading edge technologies and finding ways to solve market problems through new and innovative solutions.

In this second post of my blog series about learning to deploy my own OpenStack private cloud, I tackle the installation of the operating system I will use to run OpenStack. I had to do quite a bit of groundwork to understand the basic installation and configurations to ensure I ended up with a running system. Below I document my steps, as well as outline the similarities with Windows Server and other Microsoft technologies.

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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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Welcome, Mailgun!

Rackspace has acquired¬†Mailgun.¬†Mailgun simplifies email integration into websites and applications. Developers can easily use their powerful set of APIs to send, receive, and track email effortlessly ‚Äď without managing an email server or becoming an expert in email setup, operations and deliverability. Mailgun is built for developers. It has server-side MIME assembly, which means that no libraries are required. The service allows you to receive event notifications via a webhook, and everything is priced to scale as you scale.

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