I’m Going Fission

I’m Going Fission

I just spent a couple of weeks in Boston at Red Hat Summit and OpenStack Summit.  Containers are clearly the big thing this year – Kubernetes, Openshift, etc. And increasingly, IT is learning how to take advantage of remote Management As A Service (MaaS) offerings that free up folks to focus more on business value and less on running complex stacks. On that front I talked with folks like Platform9, who happen to also sponsor a “server-less” computing solution called Fission (- later in this blog post I’ll show how I got Fission deployed to my Mac).

Because I’m an industry analyst (in my day job), here is a big picture of the evolution happening in application infrastructure: Physically hosted apps (server and O/S) –> Virtual machines (in a hypervisor) –> Cloud platforms (e.g. OpenStack) –> Container “ships” (e.g. OpenShift, Docker, Kubernetes) –> Serverless Computing (e.g. AWS Lambda and Fission).

Applications have always been constructed out of multiple tiers and communicating parts, but generally we are moving towards a world in which functionality is both defined and deployed (distributable, scalable) in small, testable bits (i.e. “units” as in unit testing), while an application “blueprint” defines all the related bits and required service properties in operation.  Some folks are calling the blueprinting part “infrastructure as code”.

(BTW – the next evolutionary step is probably some kind of highly intelligent, dynamic IoT/Big Data/Distributed engine that inherently analyzes and distributes compute functionality out as far as it can go towards the IoT edge while centralizing data only as much as required. Kind of like a database query planner on IoT-size steroids).

So, onto my Mac deployment of Fission. I’ve already got VirtualBox installed for running Hadoop cluster sandboxes and other fun projects, but OpenStack is probably not something I really need or want to run on my own Mac (although apparently I could if I wanted more agility in spinning up and down big data clusters). But – Ah ha! – now a mental lightbulb goes on! (or rather, an LED went on – gotta save power these days).

This Fission project means I can run my own lambda services now too on my little desktop Mac, and then easily deploy really cool stuff to really big clouds when someday I create that killer app (with lambdas that happily interface with other coolness like Spark, Neo4j, Ruby on Rails…).  Ok, this is definitely something I want to play with.  And I’m thinking, wait for it –  Ruby lambdas!  (Ruby is not dead, you fools! You’ll all eventually see why Ruby is the one language that will be used in the darkness to bind them all!)

Well, we’ll come back to Ruby later.  First things first – we’ll start with the default node.js example. Let’s aim for a local nested stack that will run like this:

osx (-> virtualbox (-> minikube (-> fission (-> node.js))))

host server – hypervisor – container cluster – lambda services – execution environment

While the lambda execution will be nested, the CLI commands to interface with minikube/kubernetes (kubectl) and fission (fission) will be available locally at the osx command line (in a terminal window).

Ok, I’ve already got VirtualBox, but it’s out of date for minikube. So I directly download the latest off the web and install – oops, first issue! Mac OSX now has some fancy SIP security layer that prevents anyone from actually getting anything done as root (I swear if they keep making my unix-based Mac work like IOS I’m gonna convert to Ubuntu!). So after working around security to get that update in place (and thank you Oracle for VirtualBox) we are moving on!

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Oh, and make sure to also have kubectl installed locally. The local kubectl will get dynamically linked into the minikube kubernetes environment that will be running inside virtualbox.

[pastacode lang=”markup” manual=”%24%20curl%20-Lo%20kubectl%20https%3A%2F%2Fstorage.googleapis.com%2Fkubernetes-release%2Frelease%2Fv1.6.0%2Fbin%2Fdarwin%2Famd64%2Fkubectl%20%26%26%20chmod%20%2Bx%20kubectl%20%26%26%20sudo%20mv%20kubectl%20%2Fusr%2Flocal%2Fbin%2F%0A%24%20kubectl%20version” message=”” highlight=”” provider=”manual”/]

For the minikube install I used brew, which of course I had to update first. And of course, I had to again work around the Mac OSX SIP challenge above (hopefully this is a one time fix) by setting /usr/local directly ownership to myself (then back to root:wheel after the dust settled).

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At this point you can deploy containerized apps with kubectl into the minikube “cluster”.  This next bit is an example of a simple “echo” server from the minikube github.

[pastacode lang=”markup” manual=”%24%20kubectl%20run%20hello-minikube%20–image%3Dgcr.io%2Fgoogle_containers%2Fechoserver%3A1.4%20–port%3D8080%0A%24%20kubectl%20expose%20deployment%20hello-minikube%20–type%3DNodePort%0A%24%20kubectl%20get%20pod%0A%24%20curl%20%24(minikube%20service%20hello-minikube%20–url)” message=”” highlight=”” provider=”manual”/]

(If you are following along, you might suggest that I should play here with minishift too, but now is not yet the time! Maybe I’ll climb into that PaaS arena in another post.)

Now it’s time for Fission. These next snippets are taken from fission github readme page. The first curl gets the fission client command lines installed locally. The kubectl lines start the fission services up. The two shell variables are just for convenience of the provided example, and not part of the required install.

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Ok, so now have our own lambda services host running. Next we can start deploying lambda functions. Fission does a number of things like scale-out our services and keep a few containers ready for fast startup, and probably a bunch of stuff I won’t figure out until some O’Reilly book comes out (oh, I could just read the code…).

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First, we create a fission environment associating a fission environment container image with the name “nodejs”. Then we create a fission function with our functional lambda hello.js “code” into that fission environment. Here we are using javascript and node.js, but there are other execution environments available (and we can make our own!). We also then need to map a web services route to our fission function.

[pastacode lang=”javascript” manual=”%0Amodule.exports%20%3D%20async%20function(context)%20%7B%0A%20%20%20%20return%20%7B%0A%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20status%3A%20200%2C%0A%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20body%3A%20%22Hello%2C%20World!%5Cn%22%0A%20%20%20%20%7D%3B%0A%7D” message=”hello.js” highlight=”” provider=”manual”/]

You can see that a Fission lambda function is just a javascript function. In this case all it does is return a standard HTTP response.

[pastacode lang=”markup” manual=”%24%20curl%20http%3A%2F%2F%24FISSION_ROUTER%2Fhello%0A%20-%3E%20%20Hello%2C%20World!” message=”” highlight=”” provider=”manual”/]

Testing it out – we hit the URL with a GET request and tada!  Hello World!

This is quite an onion we’ve built, but you hopefully can appreciate that each layer is adding to the architecture that would enable easy deployment at large scale and wide distribution down the road. Next up though, I personally want Ruby lambdas!

I could build a full native ruby fission environment (should be easy enough to start with an existing RH or docker ruby container). There is a python fission example that wouldn’t be hard to emulate. I’d have to decide on key gems to pre-load, and that leads to a big question on what I’d like to actually do and how big and fat that environment might get (which could be slow and bloated). Or we could try to stay very small – there have been small embeddable ruby’s like mruby (although that one looks dead since 2015). There is also some interesting advice for building minimal ruby app containers .

While not actually ruby, CoffeeScript transpiling ruby-like coffeescript code to javascript seems the easiest route at the moment, and just uses the vanilla fission node.js environment we already have above. I could also see also embedding “coffee” in a fission environment easily enough so that I could send coffeescript code directly to fission (although that would require transpiling on every lambda execution – it’s always a trade-off). To get started with coffee, add it to your local node.js environment (install Node first if you don’t already have that).

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Using coffee is easy enough. Learning it might take a bit of study, although if you like ruby and only suffer when forced to work with native Javascript, it’s well worth it.

But CoffeeScript is not ruby.  Something like Opal (transpiling full ruby syntax to js) is an even more interesting project, and if it was ever solid it could be implemented here with fission in a number of ways – possibly embedding it in a unique Opal ruby fission environment, statically applying it upstream from a node.js fission environment like with CoffeeScript, or even using it dynamically as a wrapper with ruby code sent to the node.js environment.

Another idea is to build a small ruby native fission solution with something like a nested ruby Sinatra design. First create a local “super-fission-sinatra” DSL that would deploy sinatra-like web service definition code to an embedded ruby/sinatra fission environment. Kind of meta-meta maybe, but maybe an interesting way to build scalable, instrumented API’s.

All right – that’s enough for now. Time to play! Let me know if you create any Ruby Fission examples!