Setting up a cloud server using RightScale

RightScale is a cloud computing management pane, which can handle AWS, Rackpace, Softlayer and other IaaS providers plus private clouds from Eucalyptus, OpenStack and CloudStack. I know it’s awesome, because of its abstraction and capability, but I haven’t used it personally.  So, to reconcile this dire gap in my life experience, I decided to create and control a cloud server with RightScale. I wanted to see how easy, or otherwise, it was to do a basic task with such a highly-sophisticated management tool.

Some background: I’m not an engineer, I’m a solution sales guy with a geek orientation. I have mostly webmaster technical skills. To be clear: I don’t know what /etc means in Linux, and when I tried learning Ruby recently I realised that having not coded for over 15 years definitely made me a novice again. But earlier this year I migrated my cloud server with multiple cPanel accounts to a shared host and used cloudflare to minimise downtime. My day job is in sales: major account management with Cisco Services.

However, by the end of this little project, I realised that someone much less technical than me could have done this. At the same time, someone more technical than me would really maximise the potential and be able to use RightScale for its true purpose. I barely touched its surface.

With a nod to RackSpace’s announcement of their Sydney data centre opening later this year, I chose to create an account with them. I previously had used a cloud server with Liquidweb.

Creating a RightScale account is much like you’d expect. No credit card required. I’m obviously going to use a free account for this test. The process steered me quite easily to the quick start guide.

In Rackspace, as an aside, I was annoyed whilst setting up secret Q&A so I could be verified, I repeatedly got a error about an invalid password. On third attempt, it was accepted. No apostrophes accepted was one of the problems. Also I was reminded of a pet hate, which is security question choices that include “your favourite” item x or y. My favourite things change over time, if I have any, so I’ve always thought these are the stupidest options to suggest because challenge questions should have an unequivocal answer. (I later worked that in fact Rackspace was asking me to reset my secret Q&A each time. Some UI problem.)

Rackspace gave me a call to verify my account, so I was confirmed to be activated.

In RightScale then, the first step once you have an account with a cloud provider is to add it so RightScale can act on your behalf . I took the API key for my Rackspace account and stuck it into the RightScale dashboard, but I was getting an error of “Too many requests…”. After a few tests this error disappeared without me being able to isolate root cause. Pretty odd.

So at this point, I have a RightScale account and a Rackspace account. No servers created on Rackspace, but I’m ready to do so. Next up, creating servers.

If you’ve ever bought a shared host, VPS or linode server, you’d know how easy it is to buy a webserver with (or without) cPanel.

The difference when using RightScale is that instead of directly creating a server within the IaaS provider’s control panel, I do it through Rightscale – like a remote management interface – using one of the ServerTemplates provided by RightScale (or of my own devising if I had the skills).

This is a powerful abstraction. The server deployment workflow looks like this:

The RightScale marketplace of ServerTemplates is comprehensive too – including one for a high availability MySQL 5.5 master/slave server, another is provided by IBM for a DB2 Express (their free-edition) and there are a few memcache templates too. Because the build process is scripted, you can create one that’d function identically on a Rackspace or an AWS server, or others if the template supports it. This in turn means you can more easily deploy new capacity across multiple cloud providers, and that lets you design around zone outages.

Anyhow, RightScale thoughtfully provide a basic template for LAMP server with WordPress, and the quick start guide covers that too. So I go and add it.

Choosing that ServerTemplate, and a few steps later the server is ready within my RightScale account.

Adding LAMP with WordPress within RightScale

But it’s not live on the Rackspace servers yet. I need to choose to do that, when I’m ready, with Launch.

After this, I saw a scary-looking page with dozens of pre-completed fields. I check the quick start at this point, wondering if I had to customise it. This stage is where you could make the server unique and provide any overrides on settings like password or database prefix. It’s defined in my template to inherit and scripted such that I don’t have to change things; this template is designed for instructional purposes and not production.

Then, RightScale starts the creation process on Rackspace on my behalf. I get some status progress information in RightScale, with the ‘events’ sidebar being a bit hard to decipher due to lack of familiarity.

Server monitoring during provisioning

Within Rackspace, I can see it’s been created.

Server has been created within Rackspace, as shown via control panel

Then, a few minutes later, I’m given a public IPv4 address, click it, and I can see the WordPress registration screen. I could SSH into the server too. My server is running.

If I’d had the need, I could have set up a separate MySQL server, a memcache server and WordPress with W3 Total Cache installed, or something like that. That’s really what RightScale is designed for – managing multiple IaaS servers, including financial reporting on their usage.

Creating those servers through RightScale, using templates, would give me the capability to migrate the lot to other cloud providers, or increase the availability by serving from more than one IaaS provider.

This really is such a neat system.

About Giri Fox

RightScale Asia-Pacific Director. Previously with Cisco, IBM & Apple. Seeks root cause. A geek of enterprise IT, cloud & architecture; business model generation; business & non-profit management.
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  • http://www.atlantic.net Marty

    Hi,

    I’m with Atlantic.net (www.atlantic.net/cloud) but I think Rightscale works best if you are trying to manage multiple servers on multiple clouds. There are easier ways to provision a server with wordpress :)

    • http://girifox.com Giri Fox

      Oh of course, yes, but my post was about finding how it worked on the most atomic of tasks. I’ve set up plenty of singular servers the normal way, but hadn’t used automation software before. (I did use Fantastico once just to see what it did wrong with a WordPress and phpBB setup).

    • http://girifox.com Giri Fox

      Have a look at this write-up on how Ryan built a private cloud in his garage with RightScale and CloudStack. It’s what a proper geek can achieve. http://blog.rightscale.com/2012/03/28/build-a-private-cloud-in-your-garage/