Add Chef to your Organization’s DevOps Kitchen

Companies looking at DevOps with the hopes of streamlining their software development process sometimes struggle with the initial implementation. Leveraging the right set of DevOps tools is an important factor in achieving success as much as any organizational or policy-based changes. One such tool – known as Chef – is especially helpful for shops taking advantage of the Cloud as part of their overall application engineering strategy.

What follows is a closer look at the features and functionality of Chef to see if it allows your team to manage server infrastructure quicker than ever before.

Open Source Server Configuration Management for the Cloud… and more

Chef’s main functionality centers on the management of Cloud-based infrastructure. It offers value to any company whether they manage ten servers or ten thousand – no matter the platform. It lets your development staff focus on ensuring their software runs properly, instead of having to deal with the drudgery of server administration tasks. While it truly shines in the Cloud, Chef also works with on-premise servers as well as a hybrid infrastructure.

A Code-based Approach to Server Management

What makes Chef unique among similar infrastructure management tools is its emphasis on using code to define and automate a collection of servers. This lets you handle automated server management in a similar fashion as your applications, with development, QA, and production environments ensuring a high level of quality. Additionally, letting your developers manage servers using code fits nicely with the overall philosophy of DevOps, where formerly segregated duties are handled in a more communal fashion.

A development kit, known as the Chef DK, includes everything required to develop and test infrastructure automation code. Test Kitchen handles the running of these tests, using InSpec as the TDD programming language. Not surprisingly, the included code analysis tool is known as the “Food Critic.”

Continuing with this kitchen metaphor, the collection of code used to automate and define a server infrastructure is known as a cookbook, and – of course – they are made up of recipes. This nomenclature definitely helps developers new to Chef better understand the functionality of each part of the system. Behind this somewhat humorous style lies a very powerful tool.

The Chef Server is the central repository for every cookbook in the system. This design allows the Server to manage any number of physical or virtual machines in your infrastructure. The Chef Client runs on each of these nodes; staying in constant communication with the Server.

An Essential Tool for DevOps

As noted earlier, Chef offers any DevOps organization the means to manage their technical infrastructure easier than before. Its code-based scheme for server management lets you leverage your development talent in a new fashion. The kitchen-based metaphor used in Chef also makes it easy to understand by both your technical and non-technical team members.

Chef, and similar tools, like Ansible which we previously covered, play an important role in any company deriving value from its investment in DevOps. Ultimately, this is a methodology requiring more than just a change in organizational structure for success. Download Chef to see if it makes sense in your shop.

Thanks for reading the Betica Blog. Keep coming back for additional insights from the software development world.

Software Architects need these Four Essential Skills

Of course, strong technical ability is a requirement for anyone employed as a software architect. This role is almost always filled with someone who forged their skills working at least a few years as an application engineer. What separates the best architects from those merely holding the job title are the other intangibles necessary to thrive in today’s business world.

O’Reilly Media recently looked at four essential abilities a software architect needs to truly be successful in this era of Agile and DevOps. Let’s take a closer look at these skills to see if adding them to your toolbox makes you better at the practice of software development. Good luck!

Technical and Business Leadership

A good software architect knows how to lead the developers on his team, while also working closely with business stakeholders and project managers to ensure the project requirements are clearly defined with sufficient progress being achieved. Mark Richards, an experienced software architect and author, commented on the importance of this trait.

“It’s being a technical as well as business domain go-to person, it’s really to help clear roadblocks to the team so they can actually move forward. Being a leader as an architect means providing technical help and guidance, it means to help the team make decisions and form those decisions and validate them, and also to provide motivation to the team and support whether it be technical or non-technical support,” said Richards.

The Ability to Negotiate

Software architects also need to be able to negotiate at times to ensure a technology project proceeds in a smooth fashion. This skill comes into play when first determining the technology stack and basic architecture for an application. Sometimes, stakeholders may want a feature beyond the scope of the project or its budget. Similar negotiations happen with project managers and even the development staff, ensuring buy-in before the actual work commences.

Strong Decision-making is a Must

While the product owner or project manager typically rank higher in the hierarchy of most technology projects, a software architect still needs to possess strong decision-making skills. This especially comes into play regarding the technology stack used on a project, i.e. programming language, database, virtualization platform, etc. A strong-minded and confident approach definitely helps to formulate a robust architecture for a software application.

Collaboration is Vital in Today’s Technology World

It stands to reason any software architect working at a company with a DevOps organizational structure knows how to collaborate with their coworkers. Many enterprises also use architectural teams to define system architectures as a group. In this latter case, being able to share ideas and concepts with other like-minded professionals – in an ego-free fashion – helps ensure the best possible applications are built for the organization. Richards feels a mediator role helps when architectures are defined using a team instead of an individual architect.

In any case, it is obvious the best software architects possess a variety of skills that go beyond writing great code. Consider developing these abilities in your own work to take your software development career to a higher level.

Thanks for reading the Betica Blog; check back soon for additional news and insights from the constantly changing software development world.

Barman and repmgr – Essential Tools for PostgreSQL

If your company’s software engineers are veterans with PostgreSQL, chances are pretty good they are also familiar with the utilities, Barman and repmgr. Barman handles the management of the backup and recovery process for a Postgres instance. While repmgr, as hinted at by its name, performs a similar role with replication – in fact repmgr also offers a measure of integration with Barman.

Let’s take a closer look at both tools to see if they make sense as part of your PostgreSQL implementation. If your team is considering Postgres as a cheaper alternative to Oracle, perhaps this additional information helps make your decision easier. Good luck!

Barman – the PostgreSQL Choice for Disaster Recovery

Developed by the well-known purveyor of Postgres support, training, and development, 2ndQuadrant, Barman is a worthy open source option for organizations needing a tool to handle backups and restores for PostgreSQL. It also plays an important role in any company’s disaster recovery process. Barman helps ensure databases are back online as quickly as possible – a vital factor in achieving business continuity.

In fact, Barman focuses its functionality on disaster recovery scenarios. It supports the remote and hot backups of multiple database servers, while helping DBAs or other network personnel get everything up and running again. The tool also provides remote management capabilities for multiple servers, including ssh support.

Other features include the local storage of metadata, PITR (Point-In-Time-Recovery), file compression, retention policies, incremental backups, tar integration, and more. In short, Barman is a fully functional backup and recovery solution for Postgres. Since it is written in Python, companies with developers skilled in that language can make modifications as needed.

Version 2.1 of Barman was released earlier this year. 2ndQuadrant also provides documentation as well as commercial support and consulting options. As an open source software product, a robust online community is available for advice on usage. Any company using PostgreSQL needs to explore Barman as an option for database backup and disaster recovery.

Manage PostgreSQL Replication with repmgr

Another open source Postgres utility developed by 2ndQuadrant, repmgr handles database replication across multiple PostgreSQL servers. The latest version of repmgr – 3.3.1 – was released in March of 2017, supporting Postgres versions 9.3 and later. It leverages streaming replication and the PostgreSQL 9 Hot Standby feature to ensure superior performance in high scalability and availability environments as well as ease of administration.

One of the unsurprising features of repmgr, considering the developer, is its seamless integration with Barman. You are able to make clones from a Barman archive, instead of accessing a live server. This helps prevent a performance hit on a production server.  If live streaming replication gets interrupted, an archive can be easily used in a pinch.

As with Barman, 2ndQuadrant also provides commercial-level support and consulting options with repmgr. When used together, both tools make it easier for companies to build an industry-leading relational database solution at a fraction of the cost of going with Oracle. It is yet another example of the benefits of open source software.

Stay tuned to the Betica Blog for additional news and insights from the wide world of software development. As always, thanks for reading!