Review: OpenShift shines for developers and ops

From the pain-free install and easy app deployment to gear idling and automatic scaling, OpenShift fulfills the promise of platform as a service

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Downloading the 2GB Zip file for the OpenShift Origin VM took all of 10 minutes. I tried to use Parallels on my iMac to run the virtual machine even though the OpenShift documentation didn't mention it. Alas, Parallels could not convert the VM to its own format, although it was able to mount the disk image for Mac OS X.

I could have used VirtualBox, which is free from Oracle and supported by Red Hat for this purpose, but I didn't feel like putting another virtual machine manager on my iMac at the time. (I later installed VirtualBox to run Vagrant, a tool to automate the management and provisioning of development environments.) I also could have used dd or hdiutil or Apple's Disk Utility to make an ISO from the mounted image. Instead, I copied the Zip archive across my LAN to my MacBook, where VMware Fusion was able to load and run the OpenShift Origin VM with no problem.

I was pleasantly surprised that the OpenShift VM pretty much configured itself, right down to using Bonjour for local DNS. OpenShift told me its admin URL, told me the full command line to use for configuring rhc setup correctly, generated SSH key pairs on my MacBook, uploaded the public key to the server VM, and asked me for a domain namespace name so that it could publish itself to the LAN. Finally, it offered to create and save an access token to allow me to avoid constant logins and told me the approximate token lifetime.

Deploying apps with cartridges and QuickStarts
All versions of OpenShift offer menus of cartridges -- Web frameworks, databases, and JBoss services -- and menus of QuickStarts. As I noted earlier, OpenShift Origin has the newest versions, OpenShift Online has older and more stable versions with bug fixes, and OpenShift Enterprise has the most stable versions. All the various cartridge types are plentiful and easy to install, as are the QuickStarts.

To get a feeling for what an application QuickStart installation involves, I installed the WordPress QuickStart both in OpenShift Online and in the Origin VM locally. I expected the local install to take longer because of download time, but I was wrong: The online install took two minutes, while the local install took 25 seconds. The online installation makes the application URL public in DNS, which is part of the reason for the additional time. The online installation can also be aliased to your own public DNS name, and a form lets you configure this easily.

The online installation asked if I'd be modifying the WordPress code and didn't supply the Git URL when I said no. The Origin installation didn't ask -- it simply gave me the URL to git clone the code. I guess there's no harm in posting a URL to a private LAN endpoint.

QuickStarts combine code and one or more cartridges. They make it easy to install whole applications. While the OpenShift team doesn't maintain QuickStarts, anyone who is willing to be responsible for keeping one up-to-date with security issues is free to create and post one. Not surprisingly, WordPress, Drupal, and Ghost are among the top QuickStarts.

OpenShift Online Started
Here WordPress is installed in OpenShift Online. Note the options to add Jenkins and phpMyAdmin. In case you want to modify the application code in the future, OpenShift also offers to display the Git URL to the application source.
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