Blog Post

Rackspace offers Dreadnot as window into development

Rackspace (s rax) is open-sourcing Dreadnot, a tool it developed to help its own software developers better monitor and track their projects as they deploy.

Dreadnot aims to facilitate continuous development methodologies that, in theory, deliver needed features to users over time without service interruption. Toward that end, Dreadnot lists the tasks that need to be accomplished to roll out a given piece of software and defines how the deployment works and what code is deployed. If there is a snafu, the work is redirected, the problem process is stopped, and the developers are alerted.

The devops school of software development holds that developers work closely with operations people rather than in an independent (and isolated) silo. The team then continually rolls out software features over time, as opposed to holding off deployment until the whole piece of software is finished. The benefits of devops include faster, cleaner, more agile development — where problems are sniffed out and fixed sooner than in the traditional process. The close working relationship between developers and operations also means that developers get the infrastructure they need when they need it.

Devops is taking hold as more companies no longer want to wait out long, monolithic software development projects. But that incremental development model requires management and monitoring tools to watch that process as it unfolds. That’s what Dreadnot offers.

Rackspace’s internal developers had used Etsy’s Deployinator to do this work, but they found that open-source tool lacking, especially for multisite deployments, said Paul Quema, an engineer with Rackspace’s cloud monitoring team.

“The problem with devops is that everyone talks about it but not very many are doing tooling to help us do it. That’s why we developed and open sourced Dreadnot,” Quema said in an interview.

According to Quema’s blog post,

The Deployinator was developed for a single region product, and took some shortcuts, but the basic ideas were sound.  We were also looking at using Deployinator for multiple products inside Rackspace, and each team was faced with creating many customizations in Deployinator to fit the models we desired. Due to this, we developed a new project that we are open sourcing today called Dreadnot.

Dreadnot, which is offered under the Apache License version 2.0, is a Node.js application built with the Express web framework and Twitter’s Bootstrap JavaScript and CSS utilities, according to Rackspace.

If devops is to gain traction, more professional-class tools — open-sourced or not — need to be made available. Dreadnot, coming as it does from a hosting powerhouse that is building a big cloud services business, is a step in the right direction.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user zzpza