Welcome!

Microsoft Cloud Authors: Andreas Grabner, Nick Basinger, Kevin Benedict, Pat Romanski, Liz McMillan

Related Topics: Java IoT, Industrial IoT, Microservices Expo, Microsoft Cloud, Open Source Cloud, Containers Expo Blog

Java IoT: Blog Post

Efficiency in Development Workflows: Immutable Infrastructure

Immutable Infrastructure and Continuous Deployment work great together

After reading Chad Fowlers excellent blogpost about immutable deployments at 6Wunderkinder, we wanted to share our views on immutability in infrastructure.

Our definition of Immutable Infrastructure:

  1. Automate the setup and deployment for every part and every layer of your infrastructure.
  2. Never change any part of your system once it is deployed. If you need to change it, deploy a new system.

For example, instead of deploying into an existing EC2 instance, start a new server, deploy there and point your load balancer to the new server. Then remove the old server.

Replacing a system at the lowest level you can forces you to automate every deployment step.

Immutable infrastructure and Continuous deployment work great together. Completely replacing, instead of updating, an existing part of your infrastructure makes your deployments less complex.

Test driven development, Continuous Deployment and Immutable Infrastructure are strategies we have been using on the Codeship for a long time.

For Immutable Infrastructure you need cloud servers and a virtualised environment.

Cloud servers are building blocks
In his AWS re:Invent Keynote Werner Vogels talked about Cloud servers as building blocks for larger systems. Jamie Begin wrote a great blog post on cloud serves as building blocks, based on the Keynote.

Today cloud instances are still used like physical hardware in the past. You set it up once and update it whenever necessary. The problem is that cloud servers are not meant to be reliable or durable.

Their advantage is that they are standardised and easy to replace. Cloud servers are like Lego pieces that can be changed whenever necessary. If you want to have a different color or the lego piece breaks, just put in a new one. You wouldn't repair a lego piece, would you?

Immutable Infrastructure is like building with lego blocks

You wouldn't repair a lego piece. Just grab a new one.

Our Experience with Immutable infrastructure
Our web application, the Mothership, is hosted on Heroku and has therefore always been immutable. Whenever we deploy a new version, Heroku builds the Slug and replaces current instances with it. We have enabled Herokus Zero Downtime support.

Our test server infrastructure, the Checkbot, is hosted on AWS since August 2012. Whenever we want to change the test servers, we build a completely new Amazon AMI, test it and replace the old machines with the new AMI. We will go into more detail about this in our next blogpost.

By replacing every part of our infrastructure, often several times a day, we feel very comfortable with releasing changes. This workflow allows us to improve our service very quickly.

Advantages of an Immutable Infrastructure
There are many more advantages to Immutable Infrastructure than the following, but we have found these to be the most important ones to us:

  • Going back to an old version is easy, as you have the old image available.
  • Every change to the infrastructure needs to be in a script. Any server can be removed at any time and will take manual changes with it.
  • It's easy to have a production-like system on development machines.
  • You have an incentive to speed up the time your servers need to be built. We will talk about this in future blogposts.
  • Setting up staging systems is easy and can be automated.
  • Testing the new infrastructure in isolation is possible.

Challenges with Immutable Infrastructure

Of course this approach also has its challenges. Especially around tooling.

  • Better and standardised tooling is necessary, although new tools like Packer make it easier.
  • Setting up automation for immutable infrastructure has higher costs at the beginning.
  • Fixing problems is slower as you can't just SSH into an existing server. It needs to be redeployed.
  • There needs to be a way to reliably replace a server without impacting the whole system. Queuing and proxies that can store requests for a while are helpful.
  • Replacing databases continuously is hard.

Conclusion
Fixing broken servers instead of replacing them is a waste of time. It slows down the development and deployment cycle.

Test-Driven Development, Continuous Deployment and Immutable Infrastructure are practices every team should use. Together these practices help build reliable and high quality software that can be changed at any time. Being able to go back to an old version of your system in seconds allows you to experiment and innovate at a much faster pace.

Over the last months different tools like Packer or Docker have been released that make Immutable Infrastructure a lot easier.

In our next blog post we will show you in detail how we deploy our testing infrastructure several times a day. In future blog posts we will introduce Packer, Docker and other tools and show you how to rebuild your infrastructure constantly. Stay tuned!

Further Info:

More Stories By Manuel Weiss

I am the cofounder of Codeship – a hosted Continuous Integration and Deployment platform for web applications. On the Codeship blog we love to write about Software Testing, Continuos Integration and Deployment. Also check out our weekly screencast series 'Testing Tuesday'!

IoT & Smart Cities Stories
Codete accelerates their clients growth through technological expertise and experience. Codite team works with organizations to meet the challenges that digitalization presents. Their clients include digital start-ups as well as established enterprises in the IT industry. To stay competitive in a highly innovative IT industry, strong R&D departments and bold spin-off initiatives is a must. Codete Data Science and Software Architects teams help corporate clients to stay up to date with the mod...
Tapping into blockchain revolution early enough translates into a substantial business competitiveness advantage. Codete comprehensively develops custom, blockchain-based business solutions, founded on the most advanced cryptographic innovations, and striking a balance point between complexity of the technologies used in quickly-changing stack building, business impact, and cost-effectiveness. Codete researches and provides business consultancy in the field of single most thrilling innovative te...
Darktrace is the world's leading AI company for cyber security. Created by mathematicians from the University of Cambridge, Darktrace's Enterprise Immune System is the first non-consumer application of machine learning to work at scale, across all network types, from physical, virtualized, and cloud, through to IoT and industrial control systems. Installed as a self-configuring cyber defense platform, Darktrace continuously learns what is ‘normal' for all devices and users, updating its understa...
At CloudEXPO Silicon Valley, June 24-26, 2019, Digital Transformation (DX) is a major focus with expanded DevOpsSUMMIT and FinTechEXPO programs within the DXWorldEXPO agenda. Successful transformation requires a laser focus on being data-driven and on using all the tools available that enable transformation if they plan to survive over the long term. A total of 88% of Fortune 500 companies from a generation ago are now out of business. Only 12% still survive. Similar percentages are found throug...
CloudEXPO has been the M&A capital for Cloud companies for more than a decade with memorable acquisition news stories which came out of CloudEXPO expo floor. DevOpsSUMMIT New York faculty member Greg Bledsoe shared his views on IBM's Red Hat acquisition live from NASDAQ floor. Acquisition news was announced during CloudEXPO New York which took place November 12-13, 2019 in New York City.
OpsRamp is an enterprise IT operation platform provided by US-based OpsRamp, Inc. It provides SaaS services through support for increasingly complex cloud and hybrid computing environments from system operation to service management. The OpsRamp platform is a SaaS-based, multi-tenant solution that enables enterprise IT organizations and cloud service providers like JBS the flexibility and control they need to manage and monitor today's hybrid, multi-cloud infrastructure, applications, and wor...
The Master of Science in Artificial Intelligence (MSAI) provides a comprehensive framework of theory and practice in the emerging field of AI. The program delivers the foundational knowledge needed to explore both key contextual areas and complex technical applications of AI systems. Curriculum incorporates elements of data science, robotics, and machine learning-enabling you to pursue a holistic and interdisciplinary course of study while preparing for a position in AI research, operations, ...
Atmosera delivers modern cloud services that maximize the advantages of cloud-based infrastructures. Offering private, hybrid, and public cloud solutions, Atmosera works closely with customers to engineer, deploy, and operate cloud architectures with advanced services that deliver strategic business outcomes. Atmosera's expertise simplifies the process of cloud transformation and our 20+ years of experience managing complex IT environments provides our customers with the confidence and trust tha...
With the introduction of IoT and Smart Living in every aspect of our lives, one question has become relevant: What are the security implications? To answer this, first we have to look and explore the security models of the technologies that IoT is founded upon. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Nevi Kaja, a Research Engineer at Ford Motor Company, discussed some of the security challenges of the IoT infrastructure and related how these aspects impact Smart Living. The material was delivered interac...
Intel is an American multinational corporation and technology company headquartered in Santa Clara, California, in the Silicon Valley. It is the world's second largest and second highest valued semiconductor chip maker based on revenue after being overtaken by Samsung, and is the inventor of the x86 series of microprocessors, the processors found in most personal computers (PCs). Intel supplies processors for computer system manufacturers such as Apple, Lenovo, HP, and Dell. Intel also manufactu...