If you’ve ever looked at cloud server prices, or deployed a cloud server instance, you’ve likely noticed that most providers have a selection of “templates” to choose from. Users browse and select from a library of pre-baked server templates that contain combinations of compute, storage, operating systems, database technology, web servers, and commercial software. This isn’t the approach we take at CenturyLink Cloud, however.
We see at least two challenges with templates.
Impossible for providers to match complete need, and difficult for customers to maintain custom templates. The number of templates offered by leading cloud providers range from dozens to thousands. With templates, the provider aims to offer as many useful combinations of OS + software as possible. However, this requires providers to engage in an endless quest to assemble server images that are useful to customers.
What if the customer doesn’t see anything they like? Sure, you can upload custom templates, but that shifts the maintenance responsibility to the customer. The provider may have automation tools available for updating and patching images, but enterprise IT departments may not have the necessary capabilities to do the care and feeding of a custom template library.
- Not a complete replacement for the way enterprise IT builds servers today. IT organizations don’t typically rely on a library of server templates when they build new machines. Instead, they follow a more assembly-line approach to stand up a server for a particular system. This includes selecting the operating system, joining a server to a domain, adding storage, and installing the relevant software. Advanced organizations have software catalogs that help with automated installation, but many companies still rely on physical media or installation files residing on shared network drives. So what’s the problem? We find that a template-driven model can give a misleading sense of deployment speed as the server is available quickly, but still requires a significant number of follow on tasks until the server is actually enterprise-ready.
So what is CenturyLink Cloud’s model?
The Better Way
Instead of relying on templates, CenturyLink Cloud offers a reliable orchestration engine (called Blueprints) that lets you choose what software and script commands to run when creating a new server.
There are three things that our customers like about this.
Match unique needs through just-in-time software combinations. It’s impossible to pre-build server templates that match the individual needs of each customer. While a good template can serve as a foundation for subsequent manual activities, we went a step further. We offer a diverse set of base operating system templates, and offer a catalog of enterprise software products that can be layered on after the server is built.
The logical – and automated – extension to how IT builds servers today.Building a server isn’t just about installing an operating system and some software. System administrators go through a series of activities to provision storage, join network domains, acquire IP addresses, disable unnecessary services, and much more. Besides just offering a software catalog, we also provide a series of tasks and scripts that you can run against a new server. Tasks include activities such as adding a (public) IP address or taking a snapshot of the new server.
Scripts are commonly used to configure the server (and its corresponding software). CenturyLink Cloud’s build process lets you run a variety of scripts to get your server into a finished state. ![Choose Scripts to Run Against CenturyLink Cloud Servers](/assets/images/blog/buildprocess04.png)
- Extensible to meet enterprise standards. We won’t claim to have all the software and scripts that you need to meet your enterprise security and software standards. That’s why we fully encourage you to upload your own software and scripts into a private library just for your organization. Anything in your library can be applied to your new or existing servers.
Do you have a unique script command to run just for a single server build process? The CenturyLink Cloud Blueprints engine supports custom PowerShell, Command, and SSH script statements that get executed after the server is built. ![Run Custom Script Against CenturyLink Cloud Server](/assets/images/blog/buildprocess06.png)
Customers are free to create and maintain server templates in the CenturyLink Cloud environment, and some do. But we’re seeing more and more customers opt for the orchestration engine approach. This way, customers can build servers exactly how they want them, every time! Check out our ctl.io Servers and Blueprints pages to learn more about how we help you automate the server build process.