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DevOps tools take on microservices management pain

Breaking up monolithic applications has its downsides, especially as microservices management grows more complex at scale.

Container orchestration tools that underpin microservices present headaches for IT ops pros, but vendors are introducing their versions of aspirin.

This week, ClusterHQ released two new tools, FlockerHub and Fli, which introduce a GitHub-like system to manage Docker data files, while CoreOS is offering a tool called Operators that looks to ease the Kubernetes setup process.

This comes ahead of the KubeCon conference on Kubernetes on Nov. 8 to 9, and analysts expect more product rollouts around microservices management to follow.

"I would expect to see more like these [at the KubeCon conference]," said Fintan Ryan, analyst with RedMonk, based in Portland, Maine, although he isn't aware of any other products that directly overlap with FlockerHub and Operators yet.

FlockerHub can share Docker data volumes among users and servers through role-based access controls. Fli is an interface that can run on a server or laptop, creating snapshots and clones of Flocker data volumes that can be moved between the developer's laptop and test, quality-assurance and production environments. FlockerHub includes version control on data volumes, similar to what DevOps teams do when storing app code.

At Cybric Inc., a security software startup based in Boston, FlockerHub and Fli will support a containerized Jenkins continuous integration pipeline for the near future.

"We use Flocker to maintain the state of builds with Jenkins," Cybric CIO Mike Kail said. "We want to have stateful, nonephemeral storage attached to the containers that power our Jenkins pipeline. So, if a container goes down, you don't lose the state of the build and can reattach that data volume to a new container."

This could also be done with VMs, but containers give Cybric more flexibility to create multiple Jenkins pipelines and multiple versions of development testing environments that include the stateful data associated with the Couchbase NoSQL database it uses.

"We can take snapshots of dev and staging, and rapidly create specific environments to do testing in," Kail said.

Data virtualization products also can create multiple testing environments, but a differentiator for FlockerHub and Fli automates the creation of those environments.

Kail, who sits on the ClusterHQ customer advisory board, said the ClusterHQ products are being positioned for dev and test use cases now, but they can also potentially be used for disaster recovery and replication purposes.

"If you're in multiregion environments at AWS [Amazon Web Services], you can replicate across them and have rapid failover," he said. "It's much more than just a dev-test tool."

Another ClusterHQ Flocker user, enterprise platform-as-a service player Swisscom, also has tried out FlockerHub and Fli, and it plans to use them eventually, according to Marco Hochstrasser, head of cloud platform development.

"We have frequent interactions with ClusterHQ on Fli and FlockerHub, and closely collaborate on feedback," he said.

CoreOS rolls out Kubernetes Operators

To deploy an etcd distributed database that supports Kubernetes, or to set up a Prometheus monitoring environment, IT operations staff must jump through many clustering hoops -- a pain point CoreOS aims to alleviate with a new tool, called Operators.

A lot of people with Kubernetes at decent scale end up with people tied up in ops ... that's a bigger barrier to adoption than anything else.
Fintan Ryananalyst, RedMonk

Operators allows DevOps staff to write two or three lines of configuration code that handles a setup process, which previously required administrators to place Secure Socket Shell into individual machines in a cluster and run cluster scripts on each of them.

Configuration management tools, such as Puppet and Chef, could also oversee such tasks. But as the market moves into containers more deeply, some users will want a single, familiar interface for Kubernetes and Operators management, and they will want to reduce the number of tools in the DevOps toolchain, RedMonk's Ryan said.

Anything that can ease microservices management in a Kubernetes environment will be welcomed by IT shops, Ryan predicted.

"I've come across a lot of people with Kubernetes at decent scale who end up with people tied up in ops because of it -- distributed systems tasks are nontrivial work," he said. "That's a bigger barrier to adoption than anything else for Kubernetes."

As with FlockerHub and Fli, Operators will expand to target other apps over time, including Postgre, Redis and MySQL databases, CoreOS CTO Brandon Philips said. Operators is open-sourced and available for any recent Kubernetes distribution, but also will arrive to the CoreOS commercial Kubernetes product Tectonic by early next year.

Beth Pariseau is senior news writer for TechTarget's Data Center and Virtualization Media Group. Write to her at bpariseau@techtarget.com or follow @PariseauTT on Twitter.

Next Steps

Microservices present more than meets the eye

Where containers and microservices meet

The benefits of microservices come at a cost

Dig Deeper on Deploying Microservices

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