RightScale - Cloud Computing

RightScale has focused on creating a transparent platform that embraces open standards, giving you the tools to avoid lock-in. The RightScale Cloud Management Platform lets you choose freely from a variety of programming languages, development environments, data stores, and software stacks. You choose the components and at any time you can make changes, add additional components, or move it all back into your own data center.

Your freedom to choose extends to the cloud provider or infrastructure as a service (IaaS) layer as well. You can select the best cloud infrastructure for your application, migrate to a new one, or split deployments across multiple clouds—public or private—all from within RightScale’s single management environment. With new cloud providers emerging all the time, you’ll be able to select the best cloud for your specific application requirements, security or SLA mandates, geographic locations, usage patterns, or pricing to maximize performance, flexibility, and return on investment.

This portability is offered without sacrificing the automation you need to be productive. Other solutions delivered by PaaS vendors have automated their environments at the expense of portability. While these vendors provide well-established and robust offerings, they often lock you in to proprietary programming languages, data stores, or black-box environments. Such PaaS platforms largely eliminate your freedom to develop using the best tools for your application, maintain a tight grip on your data, and restrict your visibility into all levels of execution of your application.

RightScale sets itself apart through Cloud-Ready ServerTemplates. This is a unique approach to managing complete deployments—comprising multiple servers and the connections between them—across one or more clouds. Within such deployments, each server can be preconfigured and controlled using a cloud-ready ServerTemplate.

A ServerTemplate starts with a RightImage, a simple base machine image (similar to Amazon’s AMI) that normally contains only the operating system, and then adds Right- Scripts, scripts that define the role and behavior of that particular server. RightScripts may run during the boot, operational, and shutdown phases of the server’s lifecycle.

One key advantage of ServerTemplates lies in their ability to deploy cloud-ready servers. These servers know how to operate in the cloud—i.e., how to obtain an IP address, how to access and manage storage, how to submit monitoring data, and how to collaborate with other servers in a cloud deployment. Another advantage lies in their innovation beyond the “machine image” model, allowing you to more flexibly and quickly modify server configurations.

RightScale for vendor independence. (Courtesy RightScale Inc.)

RightScale for vendor independence. (Courtesy RightScale Inc.)

ServerTemplates versus Machine Images28
ServerTemplates speed the configuration and simplify the management of servers in your deployments by innovating beyond the “machine image” model. With machine images, configuration information is forced into a static machine image on disk into which scripts, executables, and variables are hard-coded and frozen. ServerTemplates store their components outside the machine image in a modular fashion. You don’t need to launch a server to change it—just make the change to the ServerTemplate or to one of the components—and the next time a server launches, the change will be included automatically. And because these scripts are stored separately from the template, they can be shared across multiple templates. Update a script and, if you like, it will be updated for all templates that use it.

Consider this scenario: Let’s say you have ten servers running based on machine images and you want to make a change to the syslog script of each. With machine images, the syslog script is included in each machine image and running on each server, so you will need to edit each live (running) image one at a time, by hand. Then you will need to retrieve the saved or “bundled” images held in the data store, launch a server with that image, make the change manually, resave the image, place the disk file (“bundle”) back into the data store, and decommission the server. That’s a lot of manual labor!

COST = Time to Change Image × Live Images + Time to Retrieve, Launch, Change × Stored Images

If you deploy those same servers with RightScale using ServerTemplates, all you have to do is change the syslog script and relaunch the appropriate servers. The new syslog will click into the boot process automatically. To have already-running servers reflect the new syslog script, the systems administrator simply needs to tell RightScale which servers to update and the change will be automatically propagated. That’s a huge step forward in time-saving automation.

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