By Ron Breault
If you’ve ever been responsible for maintaining a software baseline for a group of servers, you know that software management is an important, and a very time consuming activity. Said more succinctly, keeping “patch current” is labor intensive and costly. Wind River’s Titanium Server Release 3 delivers a powerful new system facility designed to automate the patch management process and save Communication Service providers hundreds of hours in reduced labor.
If you’re on top of your game as an administrator, you’d regularly read industry publications to learn of system vulnerabilities which have been discovered and fixed. On top of that, you’d receive notices of application bugs reported and addressed. From time to time suppliers might publish feature enhancements for individual software packages that you believe will benefit your user community. If you’re working in an Enterprise facility, you might schedule a few weekends of downtime to take systems off line and apply all these important updates. But if you’re working for a Communications Service provider, where the expectation is continuous system availability, you don’t have that luxury; you have to find a way to apply these patches without impacting any applications. Compounding the challenge, when you take into consideration the sheer number of nodes and virtual machines which comprise today’s typical cloud infrastructures (potentially hundreds to thousands), the scope of the task might seem overwhelming.
From its initial release in 2014, Titanium Server has shipped with a comprehensive software management facility to help cope with this responsibility. This facility is used by system administers to determine which patches apply to which nodes; it manages patch dependencies and patch prerequisites, and it tracks which patches had been applied to which nodes. In other words, it has all the “bells and whistles”, but it still needed someone to drive the process and use the tool to manually patch one node after another. This last step, the manual patching process, has been effectively eliminated with Titanium Server Release 3.
Orchestrated Patching is a compelling new Titanium Server feature included standard with every installation of the product. This feature allows an entire Titanium Server cloud – comprising Controller Nodes, Compute Nodes, and optionally Storage Nodes – to be patched with a single operation. That’s potentially hundreds of systems managed through one operation vs. repetitively patching each node, one by one, across potentially hundreds of node. Incredible! So how does it work?
A blog post may not be the best medium to adequately describe a system as powerful and as sophisticated as Orchestrated Patching, but here’s a simplified summary:
First, the system administrator defines a plan or “strategy” which the automation engine uses to guide the patch application process. This strategy includes a variety of parameters which influences the patching process. A few examples of parameters include: the list of node types to be patched (all nodes; Controllers + Storage nodes but not Compute nodes; or a different combination); whether or not nodes should be patched in parallel or serially; and the action to take to move running workloads off Compute nodes being patched (e.g. live migrate or stop/start).
Once the strategy is defined, the system can move forward, patching the entire system automatically, or it can step through individual stages one at a time, allowing the administrator to interactively monitor and control each stage – if so desired. The entire process is carefully designed, with intelligent safe guards to ensure system stability and availability. One initiated, the process can be aborted if so desired, with the locked hosts automatically being brought back into service and instances restarted if stopped.
Patch Orchestration can be accessed via the standard Titanium Server Horizon GUI, through a command line interface (CLI), or using our open VIM REST APIs.
Orchestrated Patching is part of Titanium Server Release 3 and is Generally Available for immediate deployment. This feature can save Operators thousands of dollars in reduced labor; the larger the cloud, the greater the savings. It’s yet another example of the 25+ years of Telecomm experience that went into the architecture and development of Titanium Server. To learn more, or to see a live demo, contact us at www.windriver.com.