Elasticity in the Open Hybrid Cloud

Several months ago in my post on Open Hybrid PaaS I mentioned that OpenShift, Red Hat’s PaaS can autoscale gears to provide elasticity to applications. OpenShift scales gears on something it calls a node, which is essentially a virtual machine with OpenShift installed on it. One thing OpenShift doesn’t focus on is scaling the underlying nodes. This is understandable, because a PaaS doesn’t necessarily understand the underlying infrastructure, nor does it necessarily want to.

It’s important that nodes are able to be autoscaled in a PaaS. I’d take this one step further and submit that it’s important that operating systems are able to be autoscaled at the IaaS layer. This is partly because many PaaS solutions will be built atop an Operating System. Even more importantly, Red Hat is all about enabling an Open Hybrid Cloud and one of the benefits Open Hybrid Cloud wants to deliver is cloud efficiency across an organizations entire datacenter and not just a part of it. If you need to statically deploy Operating Systems you fail to achieve the efficiency of cloud across all of your resources. You also can’t re-purpose or shift physical resources if you can’t autoscale operating systems.

Requirements for a Project

The background above presents the basis for some requirements for an operating system auto-scaling project.

  1. It needs to support deploying across multiple virtualization technologies. Whether a virtualization provider, IaaS private cloud, or public cloud.
  2. It needs to support deploying to physical hardware.
  3. It cannot be tied to any single vendor, PaaS, or application.
  4. It needs to be able to configure the operating systems deployed upon launch for handing over to an application.
  5. It should be licensed to promote reuse and contribution.


Here is an idea for a project that could solve such a problem, which I call “The Governor”.

Example Workflow

Example Workflow

To explain the workflow:

  1. The application realizes it needs more resources. Monitoring of the application to determine whether it needs more resources is not within the scope of The Governor. This is by design as there are countless applications and each one of them has different requirements for scalability and elasticity. For this reason, The Governor lets the applications make the determination for when to request more resources. When the application makes this determination it makes a call to The Governor’s API.
  2. The call to the API involves the use of a certificate for authentication. This ensures that only applications that have been registered in the registry can interact with The Governor to request resources. If the certificate based authentication works (the application is registered in The Governor) then the workflow proceeds. If not, the applications request is rejected.
  3. Upon receiving an authenticated request for more resources the certificate (which is unique) is run through the rules engine to determine the rules the application must abide by when scaling. This would include decision points such as which providers can the application scale on, how many instances can the application consume, etc. If the scaling is not permitted by the rules (maximum number of instances is reached, etc) then the response is sent back to the application informing it the request has been declined.
  4. Once the rules engine determines the appropriate action it calls the orchestrator which initiates the action.
  5. The orchestrator calls either the cloud broker, which can launch instances to a variety of virtualization managers and cloud providers, either private or public, or a metal as a service (MaaS), which can provision an operating system on bare metal.
  6. and 7.  The cloud broker or MaaS launch or provision the appropriate operating system and configure it per the application’s requirements.

Future Details

There are more details which need to be further developed:

  • How certificates are generated and applications are registered.
  • How application registration details, such as the images that need to be launched and the configurations that need to be implemented on them are expressed.
  • How the configured instance is handed back to the application for use by the application.

Where to grow a community?

It matters where this project will ultimately live and grow. A project such as this one would need broad community support and a vibrant community in order to gain adoption and support to become a standard means of describing elasticity at the infrastructure layer. For this reason a community with a large number of active participants and friendly licensing which promotes contribution should be it’s location.

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