Welcome!

Open Source Authors: Plutora Blog, Liz McMillan, Carmen Gonzalez, Elizabeth White, Yeshim Deniz

Related Topics: Cloud Expo, Java, SOA & WOA, Linux, Open Source, Ruby

Cloud Expo: Article

Top Six Ruby on Rails Deployment Methods in AWS: Pros & Cons

I’ll examine various deployment choices in detail, walk through a thorough analysis and then provide recommendations

Setting up a deployment process on the cloud means a variety of choices. Most likely you're prepared to make some tradeoffs. But getting a view across these potential tradeoffs can be difficult. Here are six popular deployments and advice for making the best choice for your organization's needs.

Let's assume you want a deployment for a small startup with fewer than 20 developers, each needing to host a web app that's gaining traction and for which rapid growth is expected. Its requirements are as follows:

  • Autoscaling support to handle expected surges in demand
  • Maximizing developer efficiency by automating tedious tasks and improving dev flow
  • Encouraging mature processes for building a stable foundation as the codebase grows
  • Maintaining flexibility and agility to handle hotfixes of a relatively immature codebase
  • Counting on a few sources to fail, because any of them can cause deployment failure - imagine GitHub failing or a required plugin becoming unavailable

Narrowing the focus a bit more, let's assume the codebase is using Ruby on Rails, as is often the case. We'll examine various deployment choices in detail, walk through a thorough analysis and then provide recommendations for anyone that fits our sample client profile.

1. The Plain Vanilla AMI Method
Amazon OpsWorks: This proven deployment is a well-tested Amazon OpsWorks Standard recommendation. Each time a new node comes up fresh, it requires running all Chef recipes. To automate this process, Cloud-init is used to run scripts for handling code and environment updates that occur when running nodes.

Pros: This approach requires no AMI management. The process is straightforward, self-documenting and brings up a clean environment every time. Updates and patches are applied very quickly.

Cons: Bringing up new instances is extremely slow, there are many moving parts, and there's a high risk of failure.

Bottom Line: While this is a clean solution, the frequent-failure rate and amount of time needed for bringup makes the Plain Vanilla AMI impractical for a use case with autoscaling.

2. The Bake-Everything AMI Method
This deployment option is proven to work at Amazon Video and Netflix. It runs all Chef recipes once, fetches the codebase and then bakes and uses the AMI. Each change requires a new AMI and an ASG replacement within the ELB, including code and environment changes.

Keep in mind that the environment and configuration management parts of the deployment still need automation using tools like Chef and Puppet. Lack of automation can otherwise make AMI management a nightmare, as one tends to lose track of how the environment actually looks within the AMI.

Pros: Provides the fastest bringup, requires no installation, and includes the fewest moving parts, so error rates are very low.

Cons: Each code deployment requires baking a new AMI. This requires a lot of effort to ensure that the process is as fast as possible in order to avoid developer bottlenecks. This setup also makes it harder to deploy hotfixes.

Bottom Line: This is generally a best practice, but requires a certain level of codebase maturity and a high level of infrastructure sophistication. For example, Netflix has spent a lot of time speeding up the process of baking AMIs by using their Aminator project.

3. A Hybrid Method Using Chef to Handle Complete Deployment
This method strikes a balance between the Plain Vanilla AMI and the Bake-Everything AMI. An AMI is baked using Chef for configuration and environment, but one can't check the codebase or deploy the app. Chef does those once the node is brought up.

Pros: Since all packages are pre-installed, this method is significantly faster than using a Plain Vanilla AMI. Also, since the code is pulled once a node is commissioned, the ability to provide hotfixes is improved.

Cons: Because we're relying on Chef in production, there's a dependency on the repository, and pulling from the repository may fail.

Bottom Line: We consider this to be a medium-risk implementation due to its reliance on Chef.

4. A Hybrid Method Using Capistrano to Handle Code Deployment
This is similar to the hybrid Chef deployment approach, but with code deployed through Capistrano. Capistrano is a mature platform for deploying Rails code that includes several features and fail-safe mechanisms that make it better than Chef. In particular, if pull from the repository fails, Capistrano deploys an older revision from its backups.

Pros: The same as for the Chef hybrid, except that Capistrano is more mature than Chef, especially in handling repository failures.

Cons: It requires two tools instead of one, which increases management overhead even though they're tied together. In addition, the gap between environment and code is wider, and managing the tools separately is difficult.

Bottom Line: Capistrano is a better Rails solution for code deployment than Chef, and the ability to apply fixes quickly may make it the best solution.

5. The AMI-Bake and CRON-Based Chef-Client Method
This deployment method resembles that of the hybrids. However, it provisions features allow auto-propagation of changes because each AMI runs chef-client every N minutes. New AMIs are baked only for major changes. It can provide continuous deployment, but continuous deployment is an aggressive tactic that requires excellent continuous integration on the back end.

Pros: Allows continuous code deployment.

Cons: It's prone to errors if Continuous Integration is not stable. In addition, Chef re-bootstraps aren't reliable and may fail.

Bottom Line: Not recommended unless CI is solid.

6. The Cloud-Init and Docker Method
All indications are that Docker is the best choice for this use case. It comes closer to a bake-everything solution while getting around bake-everything's biggest drawbacks. It allows AMIs to be baked once and rarely changes after that. Both the environment and the app code are contained inside an LXC container, with each AMI consisting of one container. Upon code deployment, a new container is simply pushed, which provides deployment-process flexibility.

Pros: Docker containers provide a history with which one can compare containers, helps with issues of undocumented steps in image creation. Code and environment are tied together. The repository structure of containers leads to faster deployment than does which baking a new AMI. Docker also helps to create a local environment similar to the production environment.

Cons: Docker is still in early phases of development and suffers from some growing pains, including a few bugs, a limited tools ecosystem, some app compatibility issues and a limited feature set.

Bottom Line: If you adopt this approach, you'll be doing considerable trailblazing. There's little information available, so comparing notes with other pioneers will be helpful.

Conclusion
While there are many options for deploying Ruby on Rails in AWS environments, there isn't a single best solution. Taking the time to review the options and tradeoffs can save headaches along the way. Talk to peers and experienced consultants about their experiences before making the final decisions.

What are your comments in regard to using these deployments?

More Stories By Ali Hussain

Ali Hussain is CTO & Co-Founder of Flux7 Labs. He has been designing scalable and distributed systems for the last decade and is an AWS Certified Solutions Architect, Associate Level, earning this recognition with a score of 95%.

He began his career at Intel as part of the performance modeling team for Intel’s Atom microprocessor where he focused on benchmarking, power usage and workload optimization. Ali spent four years focused on performance modeling at ARM, Inc. At ARM he optimized the latency and throughput characteristics of systems, modeled performance, and brought a data-driven methodology to performance analyses. Ali acquired his passion for distributed systems while earning his MS at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. His Bachelor of Science (High Honors) in Computer Engineering was obtained from the University of Texas at Austin.

His current interests in Flux7 are in Enterprise Migration and configuration management

Comments (0)

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


@ThingsExpo Stories
Technology is enabling a new approach to collecting and using data. This approach, commonly referred to as the "Internet of Things" (IoT), enables businesses to use real-time data from all sorts of things including machines, devices and sensors to make better decisions, improve customer service, and lower the risk in the creation of new revenue opportunities. In his General Session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Dave Wagstaff, Vice President and Chief Architect at BSQUARE Corporation, discuss the real benefits to focus on, how to understand the requirements of a successful solution, the flow of ...
Cloud Expo 2014 TV commercials will feature @ThingsExpo, which was launched in June, 2014 at New York City's Javits Center as the largest 'Internet of Things' event in the world.
"People are a lot more knowledgeable about APIs now. There are two types of people who work with APIs - IT people who want to use APIs for something internal and the product managers who want to do something outside APIs for people to connect to them," explained Roberto Medrano, Executive Vice President at SOA Software, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at Cloud Expo, held Nov 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
Performance is the intersection of power, agility, control, and choice. If you value performance, and more specifically consistent performance, you need to look beyond simple virtualized compute. Many factors need to be considered to create a truly performant environment. In his General Session at 15th Cloud Expo, Harold Hannon, Sr. Software Architect at SoftLayer, discussed how to take advantage of a multitude of compute options and platform features to make cloud the cornerstone of your online presence.
In this Women in Technology Power Panel at 15th Cloud Expo, moderated by Anne Plese, Senior Consultant, Cloud Product Marketing at Verizon Enterprise, Esmeralda Swartz, CMO at MetraTech; Evelyn de Souza, Data Privacy and Compliance Strategy Leader at Cisco Systems; Seema Jethani, Director of Product Management at Basho Technologies; Victoria Livschitz, CEO of Qubell Inc.; Anne Hungate, Senior Director of Software Quality at DIRECTV, discussed what path they took to find their spot within the technology industry and how do they see opportunities for other women in their area of expertise.
DevOps Summit 2015 New York, co-located with the 16th International Cloud Expo - to be held June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY - announces that it is now accepting Keynote Proposals. The widespread success of cloud computing is driving the DevOps revolution in enterprise IT. Now as never before, development teams must communicate and collaborate in a dynamic, 24/7/365 environment. There is no time to wait for long development cycles that produce software that is obsolete at launch. DevOps may be disruptive, but it is essential.
Wearable devices have come of age. The primary applications of wearables so far have been "the Quantified Self" or the tracking of one's fitness and health status. We propose the evolution of wearables into social and emotional communication devices. Our BE(tm) sensor uses light to visualize the skin conductance response. Our sensors are very inexpensive and can be massively distributed to audiences or groups of any size, in order to gauge reactions to performances, video, or any kind of presentation. In her session at @ThingsExpo, Jocelyn Scheirer, CEO & Founder of Bionolux, will discuss ho...
Almost everyone sees the potential of Internet of Things but how can businesses truly unlock that potential. The key will be in the ability to discover business insight in the midst of an ocean of Big Data generated from billions of embedded devices via Systems of Discover. Businesses will also need to ensure that they can sustain that insight by leveraging the cloud for global reach, scale and elasticity.
“With easy-to-use SDKs for Atmel’s platforms, IoT developers can now reap the benefits of realtime communication, and bypass the security pitfalls and configuration complexities that put IoT deployments at risk,” said Todd Greene, founder & CEO of PubNub. PubNub will team with Atmel at CES 2015 to launch full SDK support for Atmel’s MCU, MPU, and Wireless SoC platforms. Atmel developers now have access to PubNub’s secure Publish/Subscribe messaging with guaranteed ¼ second latencies across PubNub’s 14 global points-of-presence. PubNub delivers secure communication through firewalls, proxy ser...
We’re no longer looking to the future for the IoT wave. It’s no longer a distant dream but a reality that has arrived. It’s now time to make sure the industry is in alignment to meet the IoT growing pains – cooperate and collaborate as well as innovate. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Jim Hunter, Chief Scientist & Technology Evangelist at Greenwave Systems, will examine the key ingredients to IoT success and identify solutions to challenges the industry is facing. The deep industry expertise behind this presentation will provide attendees with a leading edge view of rapidly emerging IoT oppor...
The 3rd International Internet of @ThingsExpo, co-located with the 16th International Cloud Expo - to be held June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY - announces that its Call for Papers is now open. The Internet of Things (IoT) is the biggest idea since the creation of the Worldwide Web more than 20 years ago.
Connected devices and the Internet of Things are getting significant momentum in 2014. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Jim Hunter, Chief Scientist & Technology Evangelist at Greenwave Systems, examined three key elements that together will drive mass adoption of the IoT before the end of 2015. The first element is the recent advent of robust open source protocols (like AllJoyn and WebRTC) that facilitate M2M communication. The second is broad availability of flexible, cost-effective storage designed to handle the massive surge in back-end data in a world where timely analytics is e...
"There is a natural synchronization between the business models, the IoT is there to support ,” explained Brendan O'Brien, Co-founder and Chief Architect of Aria Systems, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at the 15th International Cloud Expo®, held Nov 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
The Internet of Things will put IT to its ultimate test by creating infinite new opportunities to digitize products and services, generate and analyze new data to improve customer satisfaction, and discover new ways to gain a competitive advantage across nearly every industry. In order to help corporate business units to capitalize on the rapidly evolving IoT opportunities, IT must stand up to a new set of challenges. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Jeff Kaplan, Managing Director of THINKstrategies, will examine why IT must finally fulfill its role in support of its SBUs or face a new round of...
The BPM world is going through some evolution or changes where traditional business process management solutions really have nowhere to go in terms of development of the road map. In this demo at 15th Cloud Expo, Kyle Hansen, Director of Professional Services at AgilePoint, shows AgilePoint’s unique approach to dealing with this market circumstance by developing a rapid application composition or development framework.
The Internet of Things will greatly expand the opportunities for data collection and new business models driven off of that data. In her session at @ThingsExpo, Esmeralda Swartz, CMO of MetraTech, discussed how for this to be effective you not only need to have infrastructure and operational models capable of utilizing this new phenomenon, but increasingly service providers will need to convince a skeptical public to participate. Get ready to show them the money!

ARMONK, N.Y., Nov. 20, 2014 /PRNewswire/ --  IBM (NYSE: IBM) today announced that it is bringing a greater level of control, security and flexibility to cloud-based application development and delivery with a single-tenant version of Bluemix, IBM's platform-as-a-service. The new platform enables developers to build ap...

Building low-cost wearable devices can enhance the quality of our lives. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Sai Yamanoor, Embedded Software Engineer at Altschool, provided an example of putting together a small keychain within a $50 budget that educates the user about the air quality in their surroundings. He also provided examples such as building a wearable device that provides transit or recreational information. He then reviewed the resources available to build wearable devices at home including open source hardware, the raw materials required and the options available to power s...
The Internet of Things is not new. Historically, smart businesses have used its basic concept of leveraging data to drive better decision making and have capitalized on those insights to realize additional revenue opportunities. So, what has changed to make the Internet of Things one of the hottest topics in tech? In his session at @ThingsExpo, Chris Gray, Director, Embedded and Internet of Things, discussed the underlying factors that are driving the economics of intelligent systems. Discover how hardware commoditization, the ubiquitous nature of connectivity, and the emergence of Big Data a...
The Internet of Things promises to transform businesses (and lives), but navigating the business and technical path to success can be difficult to understand. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Sean Lorenz, Technical Product Manager for Xively at LogMeIn, demonstrated how to approach creating broadly successful connected customer solutions using real world business transformation studies including New England BioLabs and more.