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Posts Tagged ‘DevOPS’

DevOps stories 1: working with a high traffic e-commerce portal

Looks like this is a good idea to write down first person stories of various DevOps – Cloud migration scenarios that we come across.

In this particular case we have a beast of a server with 32 processors with 8 cores each & 256 of RAM running LAMP stack, CakePHP &  X-cart shopping cart. And yes, everything is dead slow.

Cleaning up the X-cart cache

By default (?), the cache is at /var/www/html/cache or [DOCTUMENT_ROOT]/cache. If there are too many files, you will not be able to delete the files. The following commands can help.

touch /root/agileblaze/cache-file-list.txt #empty file
find . -name '.js' | grep -vFf /root/agileblaze/cache-file-list.txt | xargs /bin/rm -f
find . -name 'sql.
' | grep -vFf /root/agileblaze/cache-file-list.txt | xargs /bin/rm -f
find . -name 'rf*.php' | grep -vFf /root/agileblaze/cache-file-list.txt | xargs /bin/rm -f

The permanant fix for this X-cart behaviour is to change the following row in the config.php file from:

define('USE_SQL_DATA_CACHE', true);
define('USE_SQL_DATA_CACHE', false);


There are tons of issues like a db that is not upgraded, joins without indexes etc. We decided to make use of the RAM & have MySQL MYISAM temporary files in there for faster access. Don’t forget to create the required directory and add the necessary entries /etc/fstab to persist the changes over reboots.

/etc/my.cnf is changed as follows

tmpdir = /var/mysqltmp # changed from /var/lib/mysql/tmp

Now that we have some room to look into other matters, things should be easier.

We also had the non-so-friendly max connections error. We increased in the max connections from the default.

max_connections = 300 #Sat Apr 30 03:35:25 CDT 2016

Slow Queries

If the slow query log is enabled, mysqldumpslow can be a very handy command

[root@714219-db1 mysql]# mysqldumpslow -a -s r -t 10 /var/log/mysql/slow.log

Reading mysql slow query log from /var/log/mysql/slow.log Count: 376687 Time=1.63s (613441s) Lock=0.00s (36s) Rows=203657.1 (76714970948), 2users@localhost SELECT productid, COUNT(remote_ip) AS total, AVG(vote_value) AS rating FROM xcart_product_votes GROUP BY productid

Controlling the RAM usage


The RAM usage on GNU/Linux based systems can be sometimes quite weird. The immediate path taken is to play around with sysctl and tweak swappiness & may be run drop_cache.


change swappiness to say, 10 & do a cache + buffer cleanup. But these may not be very handy but the /proc/sys/vm/vfs_cache_pressure changes seems to help further. (we have it around 512)

Further minimum free memory size is a parameter which can help preventing OOM errors. A sample value is shown below.

sysctl -w vm.min_free_kbytes=2621440


sysctl -w vm.vfs_cache_pressure=1024
sysctl -w vm.swappiness=10


Keep an eye on Caches and Buffers

This is often something people miss.   The difference between free command and the total process usage can give us the Cache + buffer usage.  slabtop is a very handy command to get exact details.

slabtop --delay=10 -s c

Can give a neat summary.

Screenshot from 2016-05-11 20-28-07


Another very useful tool is dstat

dstat -lrvn 10 output is shown below. This can give colourful details of cache usage.

the memory, CPU, network, IO columns above gives useful information.


How to read dstat : On a fully warmed-up system, memory should be around 95% in-use, with most of it in the cache column. CPUs should be in use with no more than 1-2% of iowait and 2-15% system time.


How to setup automatic updates:

Sometimes it is quite good to have automatic updates in place. For Ubuntu, automatic updates can be done following these instructions.



From CAP, Puppet Now Chef, Evolution of Configuration Management Tools

CHEF, PUPPET & CAPISTRANO are used basically for two purposes  :

Application Deployment is all of the activities that make a software system available for use.

Configuration Management is software configuration management is the task of tracking and controlling changes in the software. Configuration management practices include revision control and the establishment of baselines.

Let me enlighten on how we evolved from the beginning when we were using tools like ssh, scp to the point where we began to abstract and began to equip our-self with these sophisticated yet simple to use tools. Earlier the following tools like

  • ssh which is used as a configuration management solution for admins.
  • scp act as a secure channel for application deployment.

The need for any other tools was out of question until things got complicated!!!


Earlier an Application Deployment  was just a few steps away such as

  1. scp app to production box
  2. restart server (optional)
  3. profit

And these software refreshing/updates were done

  1. Manual (ssh)
  2. with shell scripts living on the servers
  3. or not done at all

(Introduced by Jamis Buck, written in Ruby, initially for Rails project)

Capistrano is a developer tool for deploying web applications. It is typically installed on a workstation, and used to deploy code from your source code management (SCM) to one, or more servers.In its sim­plest form, Capis­trano al­lows you to copy code from your source con­trol repos­i­tory (SVN or Git) to your server via SSH, and per­form pre & post-de­ploy func­tions like restart­ing a web­server, bust­ing cache, re­nam­ing files, run­ning data­base mi­gra­tions and so on.

Nice things cap introduced :

  1. Automate deploys with one set of files
  2. The files don’t have to live on the production server
  3. The language (Ruby) allows some abstraction

Now application deployment step can be coded and tested like rest of the project. It has also become the de facto way to deploy the Ruby on Rails applications. It has also had tools like webistrano build on top of it to provide a graphical interface to the command line tool.

Drawback : The tool seems to be widely used but not well supported.


(Written in Ruby and evolved from cfengine)

Luke Kanies came up with the idea for Puppet in 2003 after getting fed up with existing server-management software in his career as a systems administrator. In 2005 he quit his job at BladeLogic, a maker of data-center management software, and spent the next 10 months writing code to automate the dozens of steps required to set up a server with the right software, storage space, and network configurations. The result: scores of templates for different kinds of servers, which let systems administrators become, in Kanies’s metaphor, puppet masters, pulling on strings to give computers particular personalities and behaviors. He formed Puppet Labs to begin consulting for some of the thousands of companies using the software—the list includes Google, Zynga, and Twitter etc

Puppet is typically used in a client server formation, with all your clients talking to one or more servers. Each client contacts the servers periodically (every half an hour by default), downloads the latest configuration and makes sure it is sync with that configuration.

The Server in Puppet is called Puppet Master.
Puppet Manifests contains all the configuration details which are declarative as opposed to imperative.

The DSL is not Ruby as you are not writing scripts you are writing definitions, Install order is determined through dependencies.
The Puppet Master is idempotent which will make sure the client machines match the definitions.This is good as you can implement changes across machines automatically just by updating the manifest in the Puppet Master.

(written in ruby evolved from puppet)

CHEF is an open source configuration management tool using pure-Ruby, the chef domain specific language for writing system configuration related stuff (recipes and cookbook)
CHEF brings a new feel with its interesting naming conventions relating to cookery like Cookbooks (they contain codes for a software package installation and configuration in the form of Recipes), Knife (API tool), Databags (act like global variables) etc

Chef Server – deployment scripts called Cookbooks and Recipes, configuration instructions called Nodes, security details etc. The clients in the chef infrastructure are called Nodes. Chef recipes are imperative as opposed to declarative. The DSL is extended Ruby so you can write scripts as well as definitions. Install order is script order NO dependency checking.


Chef and Puppet automatically set up and tweak the operating systems and programs that run in massive data centers and the new-age “cloud” services, designed to replace massive data centers.

Chef Recipes is more programmer friendly as it is easily understood by a developer unlike a Puppet Manifest.

And when it comes to features in comparison to puppet, chef is rather more intriguing .
For example “Chef’s ability to search an environment and use that information at run time is very appealing.

Knife is Chef’s powerful command line interface. Knife allows you to interact with your entire infrastructure and Chef code base. Use knife to bootstrap a server, build the scaffolding for a new cookbook, or apply a role to a set of nodes in your environment. You can use knife ssh to execute commands on any number of nodes in your environment. knife ssh + search is a very powerful combination.

The part of defining dependencies in Puppet was overly verbose and cumbersome. With Chef, order matters and dependencies would be met if we specified them in the proper order.

We can deploy additional software applications on virtual machine instances without dealing with the overhead of doing everything manually,” Stowe explains. “We can do it with code — recipes that define how various applications and libraries are deployed and configured.” According to Stowe, creating and deploying a new software image now takes minutes or hours rather than hours or weeks. They call this technique DevOps because it applies traditional programming techniques to system administration tasks. “It’s just treating IT operations as a software development problem, – Stowe, CEO of Cycle Computing, a Greenwich, Connecticut-based start-up that uses Chef to manage the software underpinning the online “supercomputing” service it offers to big businesses and academic outfits. “Before this, there were ways of configuring servers and managing them, but DevOps has gotten it right.”


Let me help you to know onto which buckets does the above tools fell into and other similar tools…

App Deploy Capistrano, ControlTier, Fabric, Fun, mCollective
SysConfig Chef, Puppet, cfengine, Smart Frog, Bcfg2
Cloud/VM Xen, Ixc, openVZ, Eucalyptus, KVM
OS Install Kickstart, Jumpstart, Cobbler, OpenQRM, xCAT

DevOps on EC2 using Capistrano

DevOps is the combination of development and operation processes. Cloud with your DevOps offers some fantastic properties. The ability to leverage all the advancements made in software development around repeatability and testability with your infrastructure. The ability to scale up as need be real time and among other things being able to harness the power of self healing systems.

The process piece of devops is about taking the principles behind Agile to the entire continuous software development process. The obvious step is bringing Agile ideas to the operations team, which is sorely needed. Traditionally in the enterprise, the application development team is in charge of gathering business requirements for a software program and writing code. The development team tests their program in an isolated development environment for quality assurance which is later handed over to the operations team. The operations team is tasked with deploying and maintaining the program. The problem with this paradigm is that when the two teams work separately, the development team may not be aware of operational roadblocks that prevent the program from working as anticipated.


Capistrano is a developer tool for running scripts on multiple servers, mainly used for deploying web applications on to the servers. It is typically installed on a workstation, and used to deploy code from your source code management to one, or more servers. Capistrano is originally called “SwitchTower”, the name was changed to Capistrano in March 2006 because of some trademark conflict. It is a time saving command line tool and it is very useful to AWS/EC2 servers because we can deploy the code to 1000’s of aws servers by using a single command. For the security of servers we are commonly using aws ssh key authentication. In capistrano  we use this aws ssh key to deploy the web applications to the aws servers.

In Cloud Computing, deploying applications to production/live servers is always a delicate task. The whole process needs to be quick to minimize downtime. Automating the deployment process helps running repetitive tasks minimizing the possibility human error. It is also a good idea to have a proven and easy way to rollback to a previous version if something goes wrong.

It is a standalone utility that can also integrate nicely with Rails. We simply provide Capistrano with a deployment “recipe” or “formula” that describes our various servers and their roles. It is a single-command deployment. it even allows us to roll a bad version out of production and it revert back to the previous release very easily.

Capistrano Deployment

The main functionality of the Capistrano is to Deploy the rails application which we have already developed and we are using the “SVN” or “GIT” to manage the code. It will transfer all the files of our rails application which we have developed in our local host to aws servers directly by simply executing a simple command in our command prompt.

Steps to deploy a rails application

[shell]gem install capistrano[/shell]

Now,we need to capistranize our rails application using the following commands

[shell]capify .[/shell]

It will create two files


capfile .


How to set up deploy.rb file


require ‘rubygems’
require ‘activesupport’
set :application, “<application name>”
set :scm_username/ “<username>”
set :use_sudo, false
set :repository, “http://#{scm_username}@www.example.com/svn/trunk”
set :deploy_to, “/var/www/#{application}”
set :deploy_via, :checkout
set :scm, :git
set :user, “root”
role :app, “<domain_name>”
role :web, “<domain_name>”
rold :db, “<domain_name>”, :primary => true
namespace :migrations do
desc “Run the Migrations”
task :up, :roles => :app do
run “cd #{current_path}; rake db:auto:migrate;”
task :down, :roles => :app do
run “cd #{current_path}; rake db:drop; rake



scm_username’ is your user name
application’ is an arbitrary name you create to identify your application on the server
use_sudo’ specifies to capistrano that it does not need to append ‘sudo’ before all the commands it will run
repository’ identifies where your subversion repository is located

If we aren’t deploying to server’s default path, we need to specify the actual location by using the ‘deploy_to’ variable as given below

set :deploy_to, “/var/www/#{application}”
set :deploy_via, :checkout

If we are using the git to manage our source code, specify the SCM by using the ‘scm’ variable as given below

set :scm, :git
set :user, “root”
role :app, “<domain_name>”
role :web, “<domain_name>”
rold :db, “<domain_name>”, :primary => true

Since most rails users will have the same domain name for their web,app and database, we can simply use our domain variable we set earlier.

namespace :migrations do
desc “Run the Migrations”
task :up, :roles => :app do
run “cd #{current_path}; rake db:auto:migrate;”
task :down, :roles => :app do
run “cd #{current_path}; rake db:drop; rake


After completion of our settings in the deploy.rb file, we need to commit the application by using “svn commit” command if we use svn.

Then we need to run the following command:


cap deploy:setup


It is used to create the directory structure in server.

[shell]cap deploy:check[/shell]

It checks all the dependencies/things like directory permission and necessary utilities to deploy the application by using capistrano.

If everything is successful, you should see a message like:
You appear to have all necessary dependencies installed
And finally deploy the application by using the following command:

[shell]cap deploy[/shell]

Command finished successfully

To Clean up the releases directory, leaving the five most recent releases

[shell]Cap cleanup[/shell]

Prints the difference between what was last deployed, and what is currently in our repository

[shell]cap diff_from_last_deploy[/shell]

To Rolls back to the previously deployed version

[shell]cap deploy:rollback:code[/shell]

Amazon’s EC2 cloud cuts the requisition time of the order & delivery stages down to just minutes. This is already a 75% savings in deployment time! But, without automated deployment, you’ll still need a week to get your application installed.

DevOPS on AWS Cloud using Opscode Chef

Rule the Cloud‘ with Chef
Chef is Infrastructure as Code,an API for your entire infrastructure. Assuming that you are well versed with cloud if not still you should have atleast heard of cloud computing and it is still an evolving paradigm and Cloud computing companies are the newest buzz in the IT sector. Chef is used in conjunction with cloud  from cloud providers say Amazon’s AWS. If a software thats being developed is a mix of technology which is interdependent and works in perfect harmony then why not the people behind it, this thought has led to the emergence of a new cultral trend called DevOPS. Now if you setup a number of instances on the cloud then whats next – new instances on cloud are just like bare metal server and the configuration has to be done from scratch and it would be feasible to do so manually for couple of them what if the count just got bigger say 100 live instances with different unix distros, although a script could be written but still it will not suffice,  in the long run considering management too. Here the CHEF comes into play

“chef is sysadmin robot performing configuration tasks automatically and much more quickly than a single admin could ever hope to” – Jesse Robbins, Opscode CEO.

CHEF is an open source configuration management tool using pure-Ruby,the chef domain specific language for writting system configuration related stuff (recipes and cookbook)

CHEF brings a new feel with its interesting naming conventions relating to cookery like Cookbooks (they contain codes for a software package installation and configuration in the form of Recipes), Knife (API tool), Databags (act like global variables) etc

Although there are many configuration management tools prevailing in the industry CHEF was able to secure its position in the race.

“CHEF take a step farther passes puppet and cfengine — like doing “LIVE SEARCH” within  configuration management like loadbalancer can call out to get a list of the app servers you need to balance  or an applicaton server can call out, get a reference to the master database server  etc …..the centralised chef server is indexing all the information about your infrasturctre  so that you could search in the command line using knife you know in real time so that application could lever that data..” by Seth Chisamore from the OPSCODE.

A techonology peak that isnt fluffy – Cloud
For those folks new to cloud- Its a whole bunch of activites which began as an innovation, recently given out as products and now they have become so widespread and so feature complete that they became suitable for utility services.

So if you dont want cloud in your business its like saying you dont want to use the electricity instead you built your own generator and use it according to your need. Now what do we loose if we continue with that is the competitive edge ie you get the pressure to keep your stuff upgraded inorder to find your place relative to the others in the ecosystem.

Cloud is API oriented, everything you see in cloud is ulitmately programmable.

Virtualization is the foundation of Cloud but virtualization is not Cloud by itself. It certainly enables many of the things we talk about when we talk Cloud but it is not necessary sufficient to be a cloud. Google app engine is a cloud that does not incorporate virtualization. One of the reasons that virtualization is great is because you can automate the procurement of new boxes.

A Culture thats on path to revolutionize IT – DevOPS
Devops is something that orginated in webshops predominantly and it require a kind of tools thats really not available except for home grown tools which the big webshops built over and over again. So the organisation who wanted to use devops started using the tools that enable this transition as most organisations depends on web as a source of revenue in a variety of different ways, even the enterprise desire to be as agile as the webshops. This has begun a revolution from the website permeate into the enterprise base more frequently.

Considering a real life example for Devops say facebook, the most popular social networking site here the developers/QA/operations – there is alot of communications, cross talk happening between them like the developers has to write codes, QA who has to make sure the good code goes out, the operations team has to make sure its up and running. Finally all of these has to be in records which altogether seems to be inefficient, this led to the evolving of the entire system. According to the conventional practices where the developers writes the code and throws it off to the testing. Once the testing is done then it moves to the operations etc. Contrary to that the developers , operations team are all involved in the entire lifecycle of the project as a team. This creates a symbiotic relationship. Now the operations people could understand what the engineers needs the most and the developers are able to see the value that operation people brings as they make architecture decisions.

Cloud with your DevOps offers some fantastic properties. The ability to leverage all the advancements made in software development around repeatability and testability with your infrastructure. The ability to scale up as need be real time (autoscaling) and among other things being able to harness the power of self healing systems. DevOps better with Cloud.

Configuration management say CHEF is one of the most fundamental elements allowing DevOps in the cloud. It allows you to have different VMs that have just enough OS that they can be provisioned, automatically through virtualization, and then through configuration management can be assigned to a distinct purpose within the cloud. The CM system handles turning the lightly provisioned VM into the type of server that it is intended to be.

DevOps & Chef
DevOps is nonthing but a cultural movement where everybody say the developers, QA, Operations, Testing etc get along. A project group formation with a mixed skillset that blurs the line between say a developer and sysadmin. This helps the project to meet its deadlines
and avoid unexpected situations. Cloud computing act like a catalyst to this movement. Thereby the CHEF also hops in.

Chef forms a critical layer in the Devops stack.Thanks to the concept of infrastructure as code and virtualization, we can define and build our infrastructure based on text files. Those files can be version-controlled and tested like regular code. The artifact (ami, image), can then be deployed on an infrastructure. The following image gives you an overview on the similarities.

Inadvertently the issues like “what if the application” or “what if the infrasturcture” are resolved, the fact is that application is the infrastructure and infrastructure is the application and we are here to enable business, also it helped bring peoples in the team into better alignment across the board.

Chef configuration is written in pure ruby.

Devops == Ruby

For those who think Bash is enough as a scripting language – Bash becomes a liability not an asset once your script exceeds 100 lines and a total nightmare if you need to parse or output HTML, CSV, XML, JSON, etc. A significant point to be noted is that Chef uses Ruby in its recipes unlike puppet where it uses its own configuration language that is based on Ruby although chef is heavily inspired from puppet. If you chose chef then you are effectively scripting your infrastructure with ruby.

Though Chef was only released on January 15th , 2009 it has gotten rapid adoption and gained a large number of contributors. According to the Opscode wiki there are 545 approved contributors to Opscode projects and 106 companies. Beyond that the #chef IRC channel is typically attended by over 100 users and Opscode staff, signs of a healthy, growing open source community.

Springsource division of VMware have signed on to contribute to the project. They are even being very public about it as seen in this endorsement:

“We are excited about the open source contributions the Springsource Division of VMware has made to Opscode Chef.” said Javier Soltero, CTO of Springsource Management Products at VMware. “Chef is an important tool for automating infrastructure management and we look forward to its continued growth and success.”

Moreover on my experience of using chef I really enjoyed the quick response I could get from the Opscode Support Team for all my queries and they had always being able to direct me towards a solution.

Automation Using Chef to create an Instance on Amazon Cloud Service Provider with Apache webserver configured in it.

chef-workstation – is the place where we customize our cookbooks and maintains the chef-repo
chef node – is the management node that we create using chef, it configures itself based on its runlist and downloaded cookbooks

The really cool thing with Chef is that you can rerun cookbooks against a node and it will not do anything it has already done i.e it will not change the end result on the target node as defined by the recipes being run against it. So you will always get the same outcome no matter what state the node and actions will not be taken if already done (and conversely run if detected it has not been run).  When reading about Chef you will see this described as being idempotent (There I’ve saved you looking it up).

Prerequisites – an AWS account, EC2 API configured, OS – Ubuntu.

1. Sign up an account at http://www.opscode.com/hosted-chef/# , Here we use the OHC (opscode hosted chef) where we get to create upto 5 nodes for free!!

2.Verify your opscode account.

3.Download the files

Create an organization in the Console page at www.manage.opscode.com, and then download the following files:

  • Your Organization validation key. This is used to automatically register new Chef Clients (like servers you manage).
  • The Knife configuration file.
  • Your User key. This is used to authenticate your user with Hosted Chef.
  • Edit knife.rb  to add aws access key and secret access key
  • knife[:aws_access_key_id]     = “Your AWS Access Key”
  • knife[:aws_secret_access_key] = “Your AWS Secret Access Key”

At this stage I have a chef ready user environment, an OpsCode organisation set up and now I want to start by spinning up an ec2 instance. I will not be going into any depth regarding  the ec2 specifics as that would make this post far too long.

4.Setting Up chef-Workstation

Install Ruby and Development Tools

#sudo apt-get update
#sudo apt-get install ruby ruby-dev libopenssl-ruby rdoc ri irb build-essential wget ssl-cert git-core
#sudo gem update –system

Install RubyGems

#cd /tmp
#wget http://production.cf.rubygems.org/rubygems/rubygems-1.8.10.tgz
#tar zxf rubygems-1.8.10.tgz
#cd rubygems-1.8.10
#sudo ruby setup.rb –no-format-executable

Install Chef

#sudo gem install chef

5.To verify chef installation

#chef-client -v

6.Build the chef repository

#cd ~
#git clone https://github.com/opscode/chef-repo.git

Knife reads configuration files in .chef. so we need to create those as well

#mkdir -p ~/chef-repo/.chef

Copy the keys and knife configuration you downloaded earlier into this directory:

#cp USERNAME.pem ~/chef-repo/.chef
#cp ORGANIZATION-validator.pem ~/chef-repo/.chef
#cp knife.rb ~/chef-repo/.chef

Run the following command to confirm knife is working with the Hosted Chef API.

#cd ~/chef-repo
#knife client list

output : “ORGANIZATION-validator”

7.Now i need to download the apache2 cookbook on to my workstation, customize if required and then upload it to my account on the opscode platform

#knife cookbook site install apache2

this will notify git and also pulls down the desired cookbook

8.Upload the cookbook using the following command

#knife cookbook upload apache2

9.Enter the following command, sit back and  enjoy the show!!!

#knife ec2 server create -G default -I ami-1212ef7b -f m1.small -S <aws ssh key id> -i <ssh identity file> -x root -r ‘recipe[apache2]’

Before proceeding it would probably be a good idea to take time out and read the Opscode  Chef Recipe wiki which has a nice clear explanation on cookbook name spaces. Also remind yourself of the components that make up a cookbook it’s worth noting that recipes manage resources and those resources will be executed in the order they occur.