5 cool tools for cloud management

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The MCollective is a developer's cloud tool. It's CLI-only, but building a lightweight GUI for it shouldn't be difficult. In its adaptability, however, its security is lightweight and application security should be handled outside the mc. For the cognoscenti, it's a thunderstorm of a toolkit.

TurnKey Linux Backup and Migration Tool

Persistent cloud applications, usually SaaS-focused applications, need backup, but how that's done is often left up to SaaS site owners/admins, who often don't back up or in some cases even know what to do -- think small businesses and bloggers using WordPress.

Many don't even know where or what files to back up or how to restore a cratered site. TurnKey Linux, we found, offers fully integrated download-and-play appliances consisting of popular SaaS applications but, importantly, bundled with integral Amazon S3 cloud backup costing a few pennies at most per day.

The TurnKey Linux Backup and Migration Tools (TKLBAMs) are pre-configured customizable appliances for instances (cloud, virtualized or bare metal/physical) for popular SaaS applications.

There are more than 40 different pre-built FOSS appliances available from TurnKeyLinux.org including popular Web applications such as Drupal, WordPress, Ruby on Rails, Joomla, a basic LAMP stack and more.

All of the TurnKey Linux appliances include Web-based admin setup for each platform and other common configurations. There is a core appliance which can be used to create a customized appliance if none of the pre-built appliances are suitable. Each TurnKey-supported appliance is based on Ubuntu Linux and is automatically updated daily with Ubuntu security updates.

How it Works

Procedurally, you get an appliance and set up an account (with a link to Amazon's services if desired). The appliance is downloaded and deployed, and backups are started; a wise installer tests a restore. We obtained the WordPress appliance from TurnKeyLinux.org, and placed it on the host we use for extremelabs.com. During this process, we filled in the billing and configuration profile to be used for Amazon Web Services cloud storage charges, and for restoration purposes.

TKLBAM downloads the profile from the TurnKey Linux hub (more like an app store) for whatever appliance version is desired. This profile can be used to detect changes made after installation, such as new packages installed or files added/edited/deleted/etc. Some organizations will use a fresh appliance and populate it afterward progressively, while others will use static pages, and still others will migrate an existing equivalent running host.

After this we could use the site to restore the backup to a cloud image on EC2.

We wanted to try upgrading to the latest version using the backup that we had created, so we downloaded the WordPress appliance ISO and loaded it up in XenServer 5.6, performing the basic WordPress install.

This worked quite well; almost all of our settings, our database, our WordPress files, customizations, etc., were restored to the new instance of the blog site. The only issue we had was restoring our manual IP address settings. A reboot later, we were almost all good to go. The last thing we had to do was just an apt-get update/apt-get upgrade to make sure we were up to date.

Next we made a new backup with our upgraded appliance. By default, we had to manually backup the instance for the first time using tklbam-backup. After that, monthly full backups are enabled by default. To enable daily incremental backups all we had to do was run: chmod +x /etc/cron.daily/tklbam-backup. Our incremental backups so far have ranged from 158.5 KB up to 489.6 KB for 10 days after the original backup. The total cost so far for our site is $0.04 per month!

For TurnKey appliances using the MySQL database, database backup is also taken care of transparently. The full contents of the database are serialized and encoded in a file structure that is made specifically for optimized incremental backups. After TKLBAM calculates the delta, it uses Duplicity to encode backup contents in a chain of encrypted backup volumes, which are then uploaded to Amazon S3.

The downsides to the TurnKey Linux appliances are numerous. Zimbra, a popular email system recently purchased by VMware, cannot be backed up via TKLBAM, and appliances using Postgre database can't be backed up using the TKLBAM scheme, either. There are no current appliances using Windows applications, sadly. And there is no inherent increase in security for a given TurnKey Linux appliance, although the daily update option may help strengthen them.

This story, "5 cool tools for cloud management" was originally published by Network World.


Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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