All posts by Christiaan Roeleveld

Chris already works with virtualization products since 2004 and since this time he developed into a real expert. Chris works for ITQ and one of his passions is to share his knowledge and use all of his experience to find the best solution for his customers.

Beyond automated deployment

I have been involved in quite a lot of automation projects over the last five years. All of them centered around VMware vRealize Automation and vRealize Orchestrator. During these projects customers throw all kinds of challenges at me. Most of which I can solve. Over the years however I found two challenges that go beyond automated deployment which I can’t really solve using vRA/vRO:

  1. If you update a vSphere template, how do you make sure all machines deployed from that template are also updated?
  2. If you change a blueprint, how do you make sure those changes are also made to existing deployments from that blueprint?

The answer two both really is: you can’t. Not If you’re using vRA/vRO. Dont’ get me wrong. I’m not trying to bash these products here. It’s just a result of how these products are designed and how they work.

In my opinion both problems boil down to the fact that in vRA blueprints you define the initial state of a deployment, not the desired state. So if you deploy a blueprint you get whatever was specified in that blueprint. Which is fine initially. But if you change the blueprint or update the template, nothing will be changed on the existing deployments. The other way around is true as well: If you change/damage your deployment, vRA won’t come in and fix it for you.

Now this seems obvious and not a big problem. After all: getting deployment times down from weeks to minutes using automation tools is a pretty good improvement in its own right. But if you think about it for a minute you’ll realize that when you have automated deployment, now you need to spent the rest of your days automating day 2 operations. After all the tool isn’t doing it for you.

For example you’ll have to introduce a tool which manages patches and updates on existing deployments. You also need to figure out a way to keep your template up-to-date, preferable automated. And if somebody breaks his deployment you need to spent time fixing it.

Now, if you’ve been following my blog recently you probably already guessed the solution to this problem: BOSH :). Here are four reason why BOSH makes your life as a platform operator easier:

  1. In BOSH a template is called a stemcell and stemcells are versioned. You don’t have to make you own, up-to-date versions of CentOS and Ubuntu stemcells are available online at bosh.io.
  2. When you’re using BOSH, software is installed on stemcells by using BOSH releases. Which are versioned, available online and actively maintained.
  3. A BOSH deployment defines a desired state. So if a VM disappears BOSH will just re-create it, re-install the software and attach the persistent disk. Also, when you update the deployment manifest to use a newer stemcell version, BOSH will just swap out the current OS disk with the new one in a few seconds and everything will still work afterwards.
  4.  All these parts can be pushed through a Concourse Pipeline! The pipeline will even trigger automatically when a new stemcell version, release version or deployment manifest version is available. Below is a screenshot of a very simple pipeline I build. This pipeline keeps both the software and the OS of my redis server up-to-date without me ever touching anything.

You can find the source files for this pipeline here. In real life you ‘d probably would want to add a few steps to this pipeline. First you deploy it to a test environment, then do some automated tests and then push it into production.

In summary: If you’re using BOSH not only do you get all the goodness of versioning and desired state config, it also enables you to employ Continuous Deployment for all your servers and software. You can even test new versions automatically so you don’t have to spent all your time just keeping your platform up-to-date.

What is Concourse CI?

This is my third blog in my “What is” series about different products that are part of the Cloud Foundry ecosystem. I discussed Cloud Foundry and BOSH earlier and now it’s time to for he next: What is Concourse CI?

So what is it?

The github tagline for the concourse project is “Continuous thing doer”. Which is quite accurate. Some would call it a Continuous Integration tool. It serves the same purpose as the well known tool Jenkins. It works quite different though. you can find a comparison between Concourse and and other CI tools here so I won’t go into details right now.

What is interesting to know though is that Concourse was born at Pivotal and is considered the standard CI tool for Cloud Foundry and related projects for a while now. The product was born out of necessity. Other tools just couldn’t deliver what the CF development teams needed. And what may even be more important: Other tools don’t follow the design principles all Pivotal and CF software is following. One of the most important ones being: “No snowflakes”.

Snowflake?

As you may know, each snowflake is different from other snowflakes. It’s unique. And that’s fine when we’re talking about real snowflakes. I’s not so fine when it concerns servers, especially if you’re running hundreds of them. If every server is special you have to run a backup for each one of them regularly, you need instructions on how to configure the server when it needs to be rebuild or DR’d. Troubleshooting becomes difficult because you don’t know how it needs to be configured. After all it’s different from all other servers so you have no reference.

In order to avoid snowflakes CF, BOSH and Concourse use text files to store configuration for Apps, Servers and Pipelines. If a server or app fails you can just blow it away and reload from the config file. Done.

If you are using Jenkins for your CI you probably did a lot of specific configuration on the Jenkins server. If you lost the server you would need to spent a lot of time re-configuring it or restore it from a backup. It’s different for Concourse Though. In concourse everything is stored in yml files. Concourse server is gone? Build a new one from scratch and reload your pipelines from yml files. You already know that works fine. After all that’s how the config got there in the first place.

Concourse concepts

Pipelines are first class citizen in Concourse CI. A CI pipeline is basically all the steps that need to be taken to get application code from the code repository all the way to production servers or at least a production release. Steps could be: download the code, build the code, run unit tests, run integration tests, deploy to Cloud Foundry.

concourse pipelines consist of resources and tasks. Jobs are used to compose resources and tasks. The pipline is describes in a yml file. Tasks can be describe in the same yml but are often described in external files. Since all this is stored in the same repo as the application code versioning tasks and pipelines becomes really easy.  For an example take a look at the ci folder in my demo app here. Below is a screenshot of what that pipeline looks like in the Concourse GUI

Screenshot from 2017-04-13 15-23-29

The online documentation for Concourse CI is excellent so I’ll be lazy and give you the link to the description of the concepts here in case you want to know more :).

Try it yourself

Before you run off and try it yourself let me tell you how to interact with Concourse. I already showed you the GUI. But know that the GUI is only intended to give a visual presentation of your pipelines. It is great so show on a big monitor in you dev teams office.

Creating the pipelines and some other configuration things are done through the fly cli. Which is nice, I hate taking my hands off the keyboard :).

If you want to try Concourse out for yourself then running the dockerized version is probably the fastest way to get going. If you read my blog post about BOSH and gave that a go yourself you might want to try to deploy Concourse using BOSH. To help you get started I shared my BOSH manifest below. I couldn’t get the HTTPS part working so I left that out for know.

 

 

VMware Photon Platform 1.2 released

Yesterday VMware silently released a new version of its opensource cloud native platform. VMware Photon Platform 1.2 is available for download at github now. You can find the details of the new release in the release notes. Below are the highlights of the new release.

What’s new?

  • Photon Controller now supports ESXi 6.5 Patch 201701001. Support for ESXi 6.0 is dropped.
  • Photon platform now comes with Lightwave 1.2 which supports authenticating using windows sessions credentials. Given you’re using the CLI from a windows box.
  • The platform now supports Kubernetes 1.6 and also supports persistent volumes for Kubernetes
  • NSX-T support is improved
  • Resource tickets have been replaced with quotas which can be increased and decreased. This is a big improvement in my opinion. The previous release wouldn’t let you change resource allocation which was a definite blocker for production use.
  • The API is now versioned. Which means the API url now starts with /v1/

What’s broken?

  • Lightwave 1.2 is incompatible with earlier versions
  • ESXi 6.0 is no longer supported
  • The API is incompatible with previous API versions. But the good new is that it’s now versioned so this was the last time they broke the API (hopefully).

update 20-04-2017: Some updates taken from the github issues

  • HA Lightwave setup is no longer supported. Will be back in 1.2.1
  • version 1.1.1 didn’t create any flavours at installation but 1.2 seems to create duplicate flavours.

BOSH on VMware Photon Platform

I explained both BOSH and the Photon platform in previous posts. I never did a post on how to deploy BOSH on vSphere but this document does a very good job describing the process. The only thing I want to add to that is: Don’t use “@” in your passwords! Cost me a day or so to figure out what was going wrong. In this post I will detail how to run BOSH on VMware Photon platform.

Update 19-04-2017: This post was based on Photon platform 1.1.1. As of today the current version is Photon platform 1.2. The steps in this post may or may not work for version 1.2.

Prepare Photon Platform

  1. Install Photon platform. This blog post details how you to do that.
  2. Make sure you have the photon cli installed. Instructions here.
  3. I’m going to assume that you don’t have anything configured on the photon platform yet. If you have you’ll probably already know what to do. I’ll also ussume this is a lab where you have full access.
  4. Connect the photon cli to you photon platform.
  5.  Create a photon tenant and tell the cli to use it (press enter on any questions to use the default)
  6. Create a network. I’m going to assume you use the default portgroup named “VM Network”. If not please substitute your network name in the command below.
  7. Create a resource ticket for the bosh environment. I didn’t find a way to deploy to other projects than the one you deployed the bosh director to. So make sure you create a big enough ticket to also fit the workloads you’ll be deploying with BOSH.
  8. Create a project that consumes the resources.
  9. Add some flavor.  Flavors are types of resources on offer on the Photon platform. It’s like AWS instance types.

Deploy BOSH

Install BOSH cli tools

To be able to install BOSH you’ll need the bosh-init tool. This tool is like a mini BOSH which is able to deploy BOSH. So it’s kinda like BOSH deploys itself. I won’t explain how to install bosh-init, the cloud foundry docs on this are pretty good. Please follow instructions here.

To be able to interact with a BOSH director once it’s deployed you’ll need the BOSH cli itself. In this case you’ll even need it before the BOSH director is running because it’s used to build the Photon CPI release. Again, find the cloud foundry docs on how to install the bosh cli here.

Prepare the Photon CPI

BOSH is able to work with a lot of different cloud (IaaS) providers and platforms. I already mentioned vSphere. But BOSH is also able to use vCloud, AWS, Google and Openstack. The magic that makes this multi-cloud solution possible is the Cloud Provider Interface or CPI.

VMware has published a CPI for Photon. It’s not published on the BOSH website yet but you can find it on github.  To be able to use the CPI you’ll want to install it into a BOSH director. How? Using a BOSH release of course. The Photon CPI BOSH release is here. Since there is no ready build  Photon CPI release we’ll have to build our own. Don’t be scared, it’s not that hard (disclaimer: I’m using Ubuntu. commands on a Mac should be  similar, not sure about window though). Here we go:

  1. Make sure you have the git client installed on your OS
  2. Create a folder to contain the CPI release and your deployment yml. I used ~/my-bosh/photon.
  3. cd into the folder you created
  4. Clone the Photon CPI release git repo, cd into the created folder and create the release:
  5. There’ll be a dev_releases folder in the bosh-photon-cpi-release folder now. Copy the cpi tgz file to ~/my-bosh/photon

Create BOSH manifest

deployments in BOSH are described in so called manifests. These are files in YAML format containing a bunch of settings. Each type of deployment has it’s own manifest and so does the bosh deployment itself.

You can find an example manifest for bosh with the photon CPI in the photon CPI release git repo.  I’ll share my own manifest below so you ‘ll have a feel of what it should look like with all the values populated. If you used the yml from my blog post to deploy photon  then you can use the my bosh manifest with just two changes:

  1. change the network id on line 39. The command to get the id is
  2. Change the photon project id on line 114. The command to get the id is

save the manifest yml to ~/my-bosh/photon/bosh-photon.yml

Run bosh-init deploy

Now you can finally start the deployment. It’s very simple 🙂

And now we wait 🙂

Use BOSH

Now that we deployed BOSH we might want to try to use BOSH for something useful. One of the simplest examples of something useful is deploying a redis server. Here are the steps involved:

  1. On the Photon platform create another resource ticket and a new project consuming the ticket.
  2. Target the bosh cli to the fresh BOSH director and login (if you’re using my yml the password is ‘password’
  3. run bosh status to confirm you’re connected and BOSH is up and running. Screenshot from 2017-04-04 16-44-17
  4. Upload the ubuntu trusty stemcell
  5. Upload the redis release
  6. Create a cloud-config YAML for BOSH. Below is my yml.
    1. Replace the project id on line 17
    2. Configure you ip range in lines 37..41
    3. Replace the network id in line 42
  7. Load the cloud config into bosh
  8. Create the redis deployment yaml. Again, below is my version of it.
    1. Replace the director_uuid. Retrieve the uuid by running bosh status
    2. Store the manifest in ~/my-bosh/photon/redis.yml
  9. Tell the bosh cli to use this manifest
  10. Now deploy redis

After the deployment is finished you can list the deployments and the VMs it deployed but running these commands

The output should be similar to this: Screenshot from 2017-04-04 19-19-46

Pfew….. if you made it this far: Congrats! you’re on your way to being a cloud native :).

What is BOSH?

In a previous post I went into what Cloud Foundry is and why you’d want to use it. What I didn’t go into was some of the magic behind the scenes. For infra minded people like myself this part might be even more exciting than the platform itself.  The thing that makes Cloud Foundry so robust and portal is called BOSH. So What is BOSH?

BOSH is a recursive acronym for “BOSH Outer Shell”. But that doesn’t tell you much about what it does. The bosh.io website explains: “BOSH is an open source tool for release engineering, deployment, lifecycle management, and monitoring of distributed systems.”

What does BOSH do?

It’s kinda hard to put BOSH in a certain box like “cloud management platform” or “software deployment tool”. BOSH does a lot of things: It deploys virtual machines, but it’s not strictly a virtual machine deployment tool. It deploys software but it’s not just a software deployment tool and last but not least it also monitors but it’s definitely not a monitoring tool.

It’s something better. BOSH deploys versioned software into a running infrastructure. The software needs a VM to run on so BOSH also deploys a VM. Once software is deployed it’s important that it keeps running. So BOSH also monitors the software and automatically heals the application when needed. If you accidentally delete a VM that’s part of a software deployment, BOSH will automatically redeploy the VM, install the software and rejoin the cluster.

BOSH components and concepts

A BOSH installation consists of the following componenst:

  • BOSH Director: This is what you could call the “BOSH Server”. It is the main part of the software that is responsible for orchestrating deployments and acting on health events.
  • BOSH Agent: This is a piece of software that runs on every VM deployed by BOSH. It is responsible for all the tasks that happen inside the VM.
  • CPI: The Cloud Provider Interface is a component that implements an API which enables BOSH to communicate with different types of infrastructure. There are CPIs for vSphere, vCloud, Google cloud, AWS and even for rackHD if you want to deploy to phyisical hardware. The CPI basically translates what BOSH wants to do to the specific cloud platform you want to deploy to.

When working with BOSH you’ll use the following constructs:

  • Stemcell: This is a bare bones virtual machine image that includes a BOSH agent. It’s a zip file with some descriptor fields and a machine image. Stemcells are platform specific. So there are stemcells for AWS, vSphere and so on. In the case of a vSphere stemcell you’ll simply find a VMDK packaged in a zip. You can download publicly available stemcells but you can also build your own if you want to.
  • Release: A BOSH release a a bundle of everything that is needed to deploy a specific application excluding the virtual machine templates. So it includes all runtimes, shared libraries and scripts that are needed to get the application running on a stemcell. There are public releases for a lot of opensource software including Cloud foundry.
  • Manifest: This is a YAML file that describes how stemcells and releases will be combined into a deployment. It describes the desired state. If you’re familiar with vRealize Automation, this is basically a blueprint.
  • Deployment: A deployment is basically the execution of a manifest. A deployment can contain many machines. When deploying, BOSH uses the manifest to determine the desired state. If you running the deployment BOSH will determine the current state and will do what is necessary to get to the desired state. This is contrary to what vRealize Automation does. When you change a vRA blueprint, that does not change any of the deployments. But if you change a BOSH manifest and run deploy again for that manifest BOSH will implement whatever changes you made to the desired state.

Can I try it?

Start out with bosh.io The documentation is quite good but the learning curve can be a bit steep. I hope to give you some pointers on how to get it running in another blog post soon.

Getting started with VMware Photon Platform

VMware Photon Platform is an opensource cloud platform build by VMware on top for ESXi. It is specifically build to run containerized and cloud native applications. As such it pushes a lot of features into the application layer and out of the infrastructure. For example: It doesn’t support VMware HA or DRS. Or even vMotion. In this post I’ll help you getting started with VMware Photon Platform.

Update 19-04-2017: This post was based on Photon platform 1.1.1. As of today the current version is Photon platform 1.2. The only supported ESXi version is now ESXi 6.5, Patch 201701001. The steps in this post may or may not work for version 1.2.

The platform

The Photon platform contains a few different components:

  • Photon installation appliance: Deploy this appliance first an use it to deploy other photon components
  • Lightwave: This is similar to VMware SSO
  • Photon Controller: This is basically a vCenter replacement. It has a scale-out architecture and provides the Photon API, multi tenancy and resource management
  • HA Proxy: Loadbalances requests to the Photon Controllers
  • Photon OS: A tiny Linux distribution optimized to run Docker containers
  • Photon Agent: This is running on each ESXi host managed by Photon controller

Photon supports the following VMware technologies:

  • vSAN: aggregate your local disks into a large storage pool. Since there is no vCenter server in a photon deployment you need an additional appliance to manage vSAN
  • NSX: Photon integrates with VMwares SDN platform. But again: not vCenter. So you’ll only be able to use NSX-T, not the wel known NSX-v

Getting Photon Platform up and running

There is a quickstart guide which gives you most information you need t deploy Photon Platform. Use the steps below to save some time and fill in some blanks.

Prepare your lab

  1. Download the installer OVA here.
  2. Download ESXi 6.0.0 here (note: 6.5 is not supported at the moment of writing)
  3. Download patch with build number4600944 here (yes, photon only supports this specific build nr sadly…)
  4. Install two ESXi 6.0.0 hosts. I run them as virtual machines on my home lab. DO NOT CONNECT THEM TO A VCENTER!
  5. Both ESxi hosts need a local or shared datastore If you’re following my instruction you’ll have to name them “local02”. I used 150GB datastores which is sufficient to deploy the Photon components on one host. I have 23.4GB left on host running the platform.
  6. SCP the patch to the fresh hosts and use this KB article for instructions on how to deploy the patch
  7. Make sure you have at least 1 static IP available in the network where you’ll be deploying Photon. Obviously that IP should be able to reach the ESXi hosts

Deploy Photon

  1. Deploy the photon-installer ova file to one of the ESXi hosts. Just use the good ol’ vSphere C# client :). The quickstart guide mentions the web client but there is no webclient on ESXi 6.0…. Of course you can use the web client fling but that would add another step to this process.
  2. Prepare a YAML file. The quickstart guide describes the file you need.
    1. One thing the guide doesn’t mention is the fact that you need a complex password of at least 8 characters for the lightwave administrator. If you don’t the installer won’t throw an error, the installation of lightwave will just fail with a very generic error.
    2. something that is in de quickstart guide but I missed at first is the fact that all components need to use the lightwave server as their DNS server. Only the lightwave server itself uses your own DNS server.
    3. Below is the YAML I used. You’ll probably have to replace the IP addresses and it assumes that the root password for your ESXi hosts is “password”.  It also assumes that your ESXi hosts have a datastore called “local02”. another thing you might notice: I’m not joining the host where the photon appliances are deployed to the photon controller. Somehow I can’t get that to work.
  3. Save the yml above to a file and copy it to the photon installer appliance. The root password for the appliance is “changeme”. I stored the file in /root/photon.yml
  4. Log into the photon installer appliance over SSH (root/changeme)
  5. run: cd /opt/vmware/photon/controller/bin
  6. run: ./photon-setup platform install -config /root/photon.yml
  7. watch the magic happen 🙂
  8. when the magic is finished connect a browser to the loadbalancer ip. If you used my yml go to: https://192.168.192.76:4343Screenshot from 2017-04-04 13-15-07
  9. Log in using the lightwave administrator credentials. If you used my yml that would be: administrator@photon.lab / Passw0rd123!
  10. Tadaa:   Screenshot from 2017-04-04 13-17-56
  11. The GUI is nice but a lot of features are still missing. If you want to use photon you’ll need the CLI. you can find it on the Github releases page and here are instructions on how to install it.

Using Photon

This post is lengthy enough as it is so I won’t go into details here. One of the features of Photon is that it can deploy a Kubernetes cluster for you.  I’m also working on a post explaining how to use BOSH with photon.

 

NLVMUG UserCon Session: The Why, What and How of Automation

On March 16th the Dutch VMUG UserCon took place. Again a big event with around 1000 attendees. And again I had the honor to fill one of the breakout sessions. This year I presented with my co-worker Ruurd Keizer. Our session was titled: “The Why, What and How of Automation”.

In this session we talked about digitization, the differences between power tools and factories, containers, Cloud Foundry and more.

The recording of our session is now available. It’s in Dutch, no subtitles. But the Demos are towards the end so feel free to skip the first part if you just want to watch the awesomeness 🙂

This presentation also inspired a whitepaper which you can find here.

What is Cloud foundry?

I recently did a talk at the Dutch VMUG UserCon in which showed how it it is to deploy software by using Cloud foundry. I recently mentioned it in a blog post as well. I also published a whitepaper on automation in which I mention Cloud Foundry. But I realized that in the VMware community Cloud Foundry might no
t be very well known and understood. Instead of telling you all to “just google it”, in this post I’ll try to answer the question “what is Cloud Foundry?”

So what is Cloud Foundry?

Let me start out with a quote from the Cloud foundry website: “Cloud Foundry is the industry standard cloud application platform that abstracts away infrastructure so you can focus on app innovation”.  So Cloud Foundry is a platform that can run your cloud apps for you.

What does that mean? It means Cloud Foundry (CF for short) is a collection of software that together forms a platform on top of your infrastructure. Developers can use the platform to deploy their software using simple command line tools or an API. The infrastructure and platform admins don’t have have knowledge about the software being deployed nor do they have to be involved in the deployment of the software.

What does it do for you?

The CF platform takes care of everything: A command line utility takes the source code of an app or even the compiled binary, uploads it to the platform. Then the platform will compile the code as needed. Then it will create a so called “droplet” which is conceptually similar to a Docker image. Everything that is needed to run the app is included in the droplet. So if you upload a war file it will automatically include a tomcat server, if you upload node.js code it wil include the node.js runtime. When the droplet is ready to run CF will start it in it’s “elastic runtime”.

But it doesn’t stop there. When it’s deployed CF will monitor the app and when it crashes it will automatically restart it. It can monitor the load on the application and automatically scale it out or in as needed. Developers can also manually scale their application with a few keystrokes.

Opensource

Cloud Foundry is completely opensource and has a very active community. There are commercial distributions out there but nothing stops you from running the opensource version. For free :).

CF support multiple platforms: vSphere, vCloud, AWS, Google Cloud and even Bare metal through RackHD!

But why?

So Why would you want to use Cloud Foundry?

  1. It makes the life of infrastructure operators (cloud Ops) really easy. When you’re using VMware’s vRealize Automation you’re probably used to writing tons of scripts and workflows just to make automated software deployment work. When you use Cloud Foundry you don’t have to do any of that.
  2. It makes the life of your developers very easy. They don’t have to tell infra operators how to deploy their software. They can simply do it themselves by running “cf push”.
  3. It enables a clear separation between DevOps and Cloud Ops. Developers can now deploy, run and operate their own app without bothering the infra team. The infra team on the other hand doesn’t have to spent time understanding and deploying the developers apps. So with CF it’s possible to have a Cloud Ops team that is responsible for the platform and the developer teams are not only responsible for developing their app but cat employ true DevOps. CF Gives them the tools to manage their own app in production.

Show me!

Want to see it for yourself? You can use a public Cloud Foundry platform if you want to try to deploy some code on it: run.pivotal.io

If you’re more interested in the platform itself checkout the Pivotal website. Pivotal provides a distribution of Cloud Foundry which makes it really easy to get going. Fair warning: you need a decent amount of disk and memory resources to run the whole platform.

The Why, What and how of Automation

Today my first ever whitepaper was published. It’s titled: The why, What and how of Automation. Here is the teaser:

The current digitization wave puts an ever increasing load on enterprise IT departments. At the same time the business is expecting shorter delivery times for IT services just to stay ahead of the competition. To keep delivering the right services on time enterprise IT needs a high degree of automation.

The whitepaper explains why automation is so important, what you need to automate and how this can be done. Those who attended my NLVMUG session might notice that this whitepaper has the same title as my presentation. That’s obviously not a coincidence. If you missed the session make sure to download and read the whitepaper here: http://itq.nl/the-why-what-and-how-of-automation/

I’ll be posting a few more blogs on some of the topics in the whitepaper as well so stay tuned :).

The right tool for the job

I work with vRealize Automation and vRealize Orchestrator on a daily basis. And I really enjoy doing so, especially the custom code development part. vRO gives a lot of flexibility and it’s not often that I’m unable to build what my customers need. Whetever the request I usually find a way to emply vRA and vRO in such a way that if fulfills the customers need. But more and more often do I wonder if we’re using the right tool for the job.

Today I presented a break-out session during the annual NLVMUG UserCon. In the presentation we emphasized the importance of using the right tool for the job. After all, you don’t drive a nail in the wall with a power drill. you can do so if you really want to but you’ll probably spent more time than needed putting up your new painting and likely destroy you power drill in the process. It’s similar in enterprise IT: You can use a customizable tool like vRA/vRO for nearly anything. But that doesn’t mean you should.

But if you can make it work anyway then why not? First of all: If you’re using a product to do something that it wasn’t originally intended to do you’ll spent a lot of time and money to make it do what you actually want.  But getting the product to do that is only the beginning. Now you need to maintain the product customizations. chances are something will break at the next product upgrade. So you postpone the upgrade, then postpone again and in the end the upgrade never happens because the risk is just too high.

Let me give an example: Let’s say you’re trying to deploy in-house developed code through different life cycle stages. You could argue that everything needs to run on a virtual machine so you start out by automating virtual machine deployment. You’ll probably use vRA or something similar to do that for you. After this first step you realize that the code does not run on an bare OS, you may need IIS or .NET or Java or a bunch of shared libraries. So you decide to automate the deployment of middleware software as well. But that still isn’t enough to run the code. You also need a database, a load balancer, an SSL certificate and last but not least: you need a way to deploy the code to your machines and configure the way it’s running.  Oh and of course all this needs to be triggered by the code repository and be completely self service. By the time you have implemented all this you’ll have written tons of custom installation scripts and integration workflows.

Automating code deployment can be tricky to say the least. And in my opinion all this difficulty stems from the fact that we’re starting with the VM as the unit of deployment. The actual unit of deployment is the code/application your developers are writing. By using the wrong data as input for the tool selection you ended up with the wrong tool.

Luckily there are tools designed for application deployment. One of them is called Cloud Foundry. If you use the Pivotal distribution you can set it up in a day or so. And then your developers can just run cf push and their code is running. In the cloud. Sounds a lot better than writing countless installation scripts and custom integrations doesn’t it? Also, the Cloud Foundry platform gives you loads of options you wouldn’t have out of the box with tools like vRA: auto-scaling, easy manual scaling, application health monitoring, service bindings, application statistics, centralized logging, custom logging endpoints and lots more.

There is one major “drawback” however: your applications need to be cloud native or 12factor apps. But you’ll have to transform your apps into cloud native apps at some point in the future anyways so why not start now?