An open cloud for any altitude.
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enjin: Meta as a Service

円陣: クラウドのむこう

clouds endless clouds climbing beyond

ask nothing from words on a page

一休宗純 (Ikkyu)

Core principles

  • Your Hypervisor can read your memory, live with it.
  • Moore's "Law" implies that stack depth gets cheaper over time.
  • The overall trend is toward dense, bare-bones application VMs bound to diverse services.
  • Linear increases in stack depth represent exponential increases in abstraction.
  • Maintaining OS distributions and packages is lame, let someone else do it.
  • Anything that can be phrased as an asynchronous broadcast on an encrypted socket probably should be.


Pick your own altitude in the cloud. Always a work in progress.

Today's popular cloud implementations generally target a single abstraction of computing, and offer a product or set of products using it. "Ruby Cloud", "Node.js Cloud", are the terms of the day. Customers often have complex and evolving needs however, and most clouds either abdicate automation of key infrastructure (e.g. key management, failure recovery, DNS), or box customers in a limited platform abstraction to simplify maintenance and development. This is understandable, and many such products are successful. If customer needs change enough, previous decisions can start to look like fierce technical debt.


  • Commercial cloud or your hardware guarded with guys with rifles
  • Learn from the domain of hierarchical protection to unify IaaS and PaaS
  • Don't write encryption software
  • No clouds that can't host and deploy themselves
  • Build a truly fault-tolerant open-source multi-cloud abstraction

Just as the root user creates accounts with fewer privileges and continues to manage them, the 'infrastructure' layer should be able to run 'in-platform' when needed for greater isolation and modularity. For example, you might imagine taking a backup of yourself by starting a 'guest' and granting it very specific privileges to do so, thereby benefiting from existing, well-tested isolation techniques.


ring 0 is Meta as a Service, ring 1 is Infrastructure as a Service, ring 2 is Platform as a Service.

  • a 'ring 0' node communicates on the ring 0 network and is expected to be able to supervise 'ring 1' nodes
  • a 'ring 1' node communicates on the ring 1 network and is expected to be able to supervise 'ring 2' nodes
  • a 'ring 2' node typically supervises only its own internal processes

One possible ring 2 node is a UNIX user, but it could be a nested VM or FreeBSD jail. In a typical PaaS a ring 2 node would generally be serving HTTP traffic on a port allocated to it by ring 1.

A ring 0 node could be a physical machine, a VM with the privileges required to instantiate others like itself, or anything else with suitable resources.

Each ring manages access to the ring it contains, whether that means virtualizing network devices or just running iptables commands. Rings communicate with private broadcast messaging networks e.g. ZeroMQ, NATS, &c. Private channels carry signed messages from whitelisted hosts. We trust the ring that runs us to tell us of new trusted keys and hosts.

Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS)

Groups of machines that share a locality, either physical (in the same rack) or logical (on some mysteriously-fast private network with each other) are a key abstraction for infrastructure. Let's call them 'Compartments'. They might as well be able to contain other compartments, and be a directed graph. This is really just more metadata and is used to decide what to do while running machines. The point is that you care about both:

  • Which 'partition' your fellow nodes are in
  • What group or role you are in (database slave, redis server, user with resources on ubuntu vm)

Traditionally the latter is called a 'Tier', and the former 'compartmentalization' is implemented in some buggy ad-hoc management code. Let's address it directly. At the end of the day you have, for example, a master PostgreSQL server and a pile of slaves. You need to be able to transactionally represent the idea of a slave being promoted to master and a new slave being brought online to replace the "pawn" you just made a "queen". Everything will go a lot better if you do that in the same datacenter as the failed master, while you also ensure your slaves are geographically distributed.

This is going to come in handy for labeling power metrics as well. They can be rolled up by logical grouping.

(Especially since actual machines in racks these days tend to be homogenous. HP has their neat vertically-cooled blades, Cisco has the 'Unified Computing System', &c.)

These compartments can share private communications with each other, and agree on reciprocal access to each other if needed. Assume such links have the semantics of OpenVPN. In an IaaS offering, both ring 1 (the services running the product) and ring 2 (customer instances) may be running on the same hypervisor, though faster machines will eventually make this not much of a performance optimization. Honestly though, you end up trusting the bare-metal hypervisor. This is reality after all, and the guy who designed the hardware could be a spy.

Platform as a Service (PaaS)

In a PaaS offering, ring 2 nodes are 'applications', rather than VMs. Plan for multi-tenant capabilities; once you have them, single-tenant is a degenerate case. Practical options for multi-tenant, lightest to heaviest:

  • ring 1 is a UNIX box where apps run as separate locked-down users
  • ring 1 is a FreeBSD box (lol) where apps run in separate jails
  • ring 1 is a box running a hypervisor where apps run in separate VMs
  • ring 1 is a mysterious combination of the above

Ring 2 nodes are therefore PaaS apps and are in the end simply open sockets managed by the ring 1 agent. Successfully presenting that illusion requires various other machinery running in ring 1, such as HTTP routers, a watchdog process for apps, &c. Arguably a 'ring 2 compartment' is analogous to 'customer application environment running various instances' at this layer. The chosen configuration (using the various implemented strategies) determines what actually happens at the end of the day. There are as many possible clouds as there are potential managed product offerings.

What Goes Where

ring 0 services:

  • meta http api
  • ip address assignment
  • key generation
  • security configuration management
  • ring 0 resource allocation (bootstrap)
  • ring 1 instance management
  • ring 1 resource allocation (e.g. creating persistent volumes)

ring 1 services:

  • http api
  • dns
  • user authentication
  • persistent data storage
  • package management (os packages,gems, &c)
  • vm pool management
  • infrastructure monitoring
  • job execution (code updates, periodic tasks, &c)
  • ring 2 resource allocation (e.g. running multi-tenant user code)

ring 2 services:

  • deployment packaging
  • sockets and traffic management
  • application monitoring
  • backup and recovery
  • logging
  • metric collection

Whats That Go Where

(TODO: This section now seems quaintly out of date)

  >  ring
  >  strategy (e.g. vpn or local)
  >  uuid
  >  ring
  >  type
  >  parent_compartment
  >  uuid
  >  ring
  >  label
  >  uuid
  >  ring
  >  label
  >  supervision_strategy
  >  tiers
  >  compartment
  >  node_id
  >  observation_strategy
  >  state
  >  timestamp