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Welcome to the Fabulous Laboratory

(This is a work-in-progress document where sections may end randomly and abrubptly. Stay tuned)

The Fabulous Laboratory (fablab) is incubating an evolved set of tooling addressing operational development concerns for large-scale, distributed deployment models. These tools are being created to directly address the needs of developing, deploying, researching, and managing geo-scale Ziti networks (and Ziti network applications) in development and testing environments. We also foresee these tools being useful beyond our specific purpose, and finding uses in many areas of operational development.

"As Code" as Actual Code

A great number of "as code" tools use hobbled, miserable DSLs (or they repurpose structured markup like YAML or JSON) to express their structures. These can be useful, up until the point where you need to start remotely operating and controlling these systems with any kind of complex choreography, where these DSLs tend to break down, badly. To compensate, you might end up stringing together multiple disparate layers of tooling to assemble a Rube Goldberg contraption to meet all of your needs.

Programmers solved these kinds of problems long ago with general purpose programming languages. A reasonable general purpose progamming stack, equipped with strong extension points (a "framework") is much better "glue" than trying to assemble different self-contained systems using scripts and cron jobs (even if they're disguised as microservices) to meet the entirety of your operational needs.

fablab is a programming toolkit, implemented in golang, which seeks to support the creation of self-contained, concise, repeatable, expressive, workflow-laden operational tooling. We anticipate that fablab will have roles across the entire operational spectrum, from conception to retirement.

fablab is designed to support the development and exploration of programming models for geo-scale, distributed systems.

The Components of fablab

Like many other software tools that offer multiple degrees of freedom and extensibility, fablab is best described as a set of orthogonal ideas, which combine to facilitate extremely powerful, extensible software concepts. In order to understand the entirety of fablab, you'll want to make sure you understand each of the core capabilities that it provides.

Once you've grokked those ideas, you'll begin to see how they can be combined to create extremely powerful implementations, which dovetail seamlessly into your development environment.

The Model

All fablab environments are represented by a "model" (model.Model). The model contains all of the data structures (model.Host, model.Region, etc.), static definitions (model.Scope, etc.), dynamically (late) bound components, and the logic (model.Action, lifecycle stages (model.InfrastructureStage, etc.), model.Factory) that comprise your distributed system.

fablab also includes a comfortable, convenient command-line user interface for working with and manipulating instances of models. The fablab command-line interface is conceptually similar to tools like docker and vagrant, where you can manage and work with multiple runtime environments ("model instances") from a host (typically a developer workstation).

Conceptually, fablab breaks these architectural concepts into three layers: the "structural model", the "behavioral model", and the "instance model".

The Structural Model

The structural model maintains a "digital twin" of the distributed environment as a set of data structures expressed in golang (JSON representations coming!). You define the structure and configuration of your distributed deployment by arranging components from the model package (model.Model, model.Region, model.Host, etc.) into a hierarchy that matches your desired environment footprint.

You can generate your Model statically in code, or programmatically in response to any stimulus you might want to observe. You can reconfigure the shape of your Model according to stimulus as well, and fablab will reconfigure your concrete environment to match.

Define the structural model directly. Define it programmatically by reverse engineering existing environments. Define it dynamically according to external data sources (dynamic, workload-responsive deployments?). Define it how it best way that makes sense for your domain, and allow the other parts of your deployment to develop without having to understand anything about how the underlying model structure was derived.

The Behavioral Model

fablab provides a rich set of interfaces, which define the contract between the structural model, and the behaviors implemented against that model. This separation of concerns is a classic solution to subdividing complexity across complicated software domains.

There are a core set of concepts support intrinsicly as part of a fablab behavioral model, these include:

Factories

fablab uses a collection of model.Factory instances, wired into your model, to contain and manage the code related to building the model itself. These modules have clear interfaces, and a specific role inside of fablab, focused on constructing the components of your model.

Lifecycle Stages

fablab models have a lifecycle that consists of a number "stages" that an "instance" of the model can progress through, both forward and backward. Each of the lifecycle stages focus clearly (and orthogonally) on a specific portion of the life of a model instance. fablab provides interfaces that define the contract that must be fulfilled by lifecycle stage bindings. See model.InfrastructureStage, model.ConfigurationStage, etc. for more details.

fablab currently offers 7 lifecycle stages: Created, Infrastructure, Configuration, Kitting, Distribution, Activation, Operation, and Disposal.

Actions

fablab provides a general-purpose programming facility for developing and packaging discrete functions against a model. The model.Action interface defines a component model for these functions. fablab will execute actions against models, regardless of the current lifecycle stage of the model instance.

Actions are useful for supplying your models with coherent, isolated functionality that end-users can run against their instances of your model.

The Instance Model

fablab provides an instance model, which can be used to manage many instances of models, maintaining the unique operational state and data output from the model for a specific hosted environment. Users of your fablab model can create instances, which fablab will express concretely in one or many hosting environments.

The instance model includes command-line tools for managing model instances, as well as interacting with the data that goes into and out of those models from the environment.

The Kernel

The fablab "kernel" includes all of the low-level components and concepts that the various behavioral model components can be constructed from.

The kernel includes primitives for remote puppetry using ssh, along with reliable, easy-to-use mechanisms for interacting with operating systems, whether local or remote. It can be extended to integrate with anything that can be controlled from code.

Getting Started with the Examples

See the Getting Started with the Examples guide for details about how to get started with the stock example models.

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