Cloud Native / Cloud Services / Containers / Data / DevOps / Kubernetes / Microservices / Sponsored

Microservices Platform Management with Giant Swarm

30 Sep 2015 1:20pm, by

As more software development teams shift into utilizing a container-based workflow, the need for services to help companies manage their development stack has risen to the forefront with microservices taking center stage. Giant Swarm is one such microservice stack, centered on helping businesses large and small better manage their stack, work with containers, and spend less time focusing on operations setup that could better be spent actively developing products.

Working in a container-based workflow presents a unique set of challenges to every business or startup using them to develop applications and software.

By utilizing microservices and their corresponding platforms, companies no longer have to devote time and energy to micro-managing every aspect of their development stack, or researching every new container technology to determine if it will suit their business.

Managing containers at scale can be difficult. Whether working in Kubernetes, Docker, or utilizing Mesos clusters, one must evaluate their stack, their build pipeline, and goals for development many times throughout building and shipping an application. This process continues during production, amplified as users begin to use a particular product en masse. With the potential of managing hundreds of thousands of pods, companies must decide which aspects of the container ecosphere will suit them. Giant Swarm offers users dedicated clusters which allow them to choose the microservice stack which will best work with their application. This can also be accomplished via a PaaS or even through service discovery offerings such as HashiCorp’s Consul.

Choosing a Microservice Platform

Giant Swarm is just one of the microservices management tools available today. There are a number of options available to users looking to manage their container-based applications.

An alternative to Giant Swarm is Mantl, developed by Cisco. Mantl uses similar technology, built around easing the workload of those in DevOps. Mantl offers cluster management, infrastructure services, VM provisioning, and supports many of the popular apps used on a daily basis in container-based development, such as Docker, Marathon and Vault.

Giant Swarm offers its users access to the Giant Swarm image hub along with the official Docker Hub, a private registry, shared volumes and more.

Microservice management is still very hands-on, requiring businesses to go “into the trenches,” to experiment with, test and evaluate particular services to discern how they will work within their application.

Giant Swarm and other microservice platforms help to ease this pain point by offering users a managed platform that has been researched, tested, and utilizes familiar, enterprise-level components already in daily use by DevOps teams worldwide.

When choosing a microservice platform, there are often roadblocks that teams can run into when scaling an application running in containers. Managing an in-production build requires a microservice stack that allows for not only scalability, but will also handle failing pods or clusters, log data, store information between data centers and allow for teams to collaborate remotely during QA or when pulling support tickets.

Structuring Microservices

Under the hood, Giant Swarm is similar to Kubernetes. Both platforms use the concept of pods to orchestrate between clusters of Docker containers. In terms of security, Giant Swarm pods are placed under a proxy in order to allow for transparent service discovery. As such, only the proxy knows how to find a particular container’s IP from behind the proxy. Giant Swarm can be run on bare metal, AWS or a CI platform such as Travis.

Building a microservice platform often uses the same building blocks in different ways. While a service may be used in a particular way by one business, it may be utilized by an enterprise-level company in a different way. When creating a platform to handle the needs of both small businesses and larger companies working with sensitive data, this must be handled with care. Both Giant Swarm and Mantl offer users flexibility in regards to scaling their products with the use of Mesos and Kubernetes, with private registries able to be created for corporations that are working on applications under an embargo.

Changing DevOps Stack Management

With more DevOps teams moving to use microservices in their development pipeline, the need for platforms to help manage these stacks continues to rise. Microservice platforms can be similar on the surface, though companies should be aware that others may not offer particular services that may be useful for their application. Giant Swarm and Mantl are just two of the microservice platform managers available, with both utilizing similar structures to help DevOps teams better work together.

When testing an application, removing barriers to developing quickly is crucial. Microservice platforms actively aim to reduce the amount of time it takes DevOps teams to finish daily tasks. Whether this be creating test environments, servicing tickets or adding new features to an application already in production, microservices exist to help DevOps achieve these goals quickly. Removing roadblocks to issues faced by DevOps in their daily workflow stack results in faster, higher-quality work that doesn’t require as much “active maintenance” time from one’s team. Microservice platforms allow for developers to focus on their applications, rather than on writing hours of code to ensure that different pieces of a service will work well together without conflicting.

There are a number of benefits to switching from a traditional stack management service to a microservice approach. Giant Swarm CTO Timo Derstappen notes that,

“There’s organizational change involved, and it helps people to innovate faster.”

When making the shift toward microservices, companies working with containers must weigh the pros and cons of such a decision. Creating and innovating quickly is beneficial to any team, as is the hands-off approach of microservice platforms such as Giant Swarm or Mantl. Rather than wasting valuable time and effort trying to evaluate lots of new tools, microservices help companies to design and manage their perfect container-based development stack. With microservice platforms, companies can be assured that the services and tools present have been evaluated and are currently in use among other DevOps teams. A microservice platform will also help users put together a stack that will suit their unique needs, while managing it for them. This takes away the need to build a platform from one’s DevOps team, so that they can focus on building and shipping products.

Regardless of the microservice stack a user chooses, there are more options arriving in the container ecosphere on a daily basis. Each offers benefits to consider, while easing common issues faced by those in DevOps.

Cisco and Docker are sponsors of The New Stack.

Feature image: “Stack of Stones” by Sonny Abesamis is licensed under CC BY 2.0.


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