Wednesday, March 6, 2013

You Aint Virtualized Till You’ve Used Archipel

I’ve setup a few virtualized environments starting from the good old Xen in 2004. Good web-based, remote management of the VMs has been a sore point for me, since you needed to have some Gtk or Qt app to do all the VM management stuff. Not that the desktop virtual machine management isn’t robust, but its just that when you are travelling and you just want to restart the VM quickly, a web interface does the work quickly.

Another thing about VM management is being able to look at resources in real-time use. There are people out there who love the command-line stuff, but I like a GUI for real-time resource management. Are there too many simultaneous users, high-latency requests, reporting occupying too much CPU? So SSH into a server through the command-line just doesn’t cut it for me.

I recently discovered the Archipel project, when trying to setup a virtualized environment for an NGO without system admin, who don’t need to know qemu, libvirt etc. The goal is that in a few clicks you’d have a virtual machine ready to be used. Another click to restart a VM. Another click to clone an existing VM. Increase or decrease VM memory or CPU cores etc. by moving some sliders. Isn’t that what linode or Amazon EC2 offers you ask?… But I have my own server in a local datacenter, which turns out to be much more ROI-effective and performance effective than those providers in the long-term.

Archipel does all of the above and much more. It is an excellent XMPP-based VM orchestration tool:

Archipel is a solution to manage and supervise virtual machines. No matter if you have a few locally on your computer or thousands through data centers, Archipel is a central solution to manage them all. You can perform all basic virtualization commands and many other things like live migration, VMCasts, packages, etc.

All you have to do is setup eJabberd-based XMPP server, make some configuration like the qemu host and it will find all the VMs from your list. You can even manage multiple hosts with multiple VMs from one eJabberd server. That’s not all. Most of the commands are like chatting to a bot and then it runs commands on libvirt. How cool is that?!? Being able to chat with your Hypervisor!!

On the client-side, you have to install a set of webpages on Apache and this can be on the same host as eJabberd or separate. The pages on this client-side app uses websockets or BOSH and has a nice looking UI. This allows real-time view of the virtual machines and the hosts. I also some the built-in VNC client that uses only JavaScript. So you do not have to install any client on the local machine. It all runs from the web browser. There is some lag, but if you’ve got a good machine and a browser with good internet connection, it works quite well.

There are some bugs in the client app that keep showing up, but all in all this is an excellent system. Virtual machine management cannot be easier than this… This is indeed the future of virtual machine orchestration.

1 comment:

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