Etsy Icon>

Code as Craft

Making it Virtually Easy to Deploy on Day One main image

Making it Virtually Easy to Deploy on Day One


At Etsy we have one hard and fast rule for new Engineers on their first day: deploy to production. We’ve talked a lot in the past about our deployment, metrics, and testing processes. But how does the development environment facilitate someone coming in on day one and contributing something that takes them through the steps of committing code, running it through our tests, and deploying it with deployinator?

A new engineer’s first task is to snap a photo using our in house photo booth (handmade of course) and upload it to the about page. Everyone gets a shiny new virtual machine with a working development version of the site, along with their LDAP credentials, github write access, and laptop. We use an internal cloud system for the VM’s, mostly because it was the most fun thing to build, but also gives us the advantage of our fast internal network and dedicated hardware. The goal is a consistent environment that mirrors production as closely as possible. So what is the simplest way to build something like this in house?

We went with a KVM/QEMU based solution which allows for native virtualization. As an example of how you may go about building an internal cloud, here’s a little bit about our hardware setup. The hypervisor runs on HP DL380 G7 servers that provide us with a total 72G RAM and 24 cores per machine. We provision 11 guests per server, which allows each VM 2 CPU cores, 5G RAM, and a 40G hard drive. Libvirt supports live migrations across non-shared storage (in QEMU 0.12.2+) with zero downtime which makes it easy to allocate and balance VM’s across hosts if adjustments need to be made throughout the pool.

We create CentOS based VM’s from a disk template that is maintained via Openstack Glance, which is a tool that provides services for discovering, registering, and retrieving virtual images. The most recent version of the disk images are kept in sync via glance, and exist locally on each server for use in the creation of a new VM. This is faster than trying to pull the image over the network on creation or building it from scratch using Kickstart like we do in production. The image itself may have been kickstarted to match our production baseline, and we template a few key files such as the network and hosts information which is substituted on creation, but in the end the template is just a disk image file that we copy and reuse.

The VM creation process involves pushing a button on an internal web page that executes a series of steps. Similar to our one button deployment system, this allows us to iterate on the underlying system without disruption to the overall process. The web form only requires a username which must be valid in LDAP so that the user can later login. From there the process is logged such that it that provides realtime feedback to the browser via websockets. The first thing that happens is we find a valid IP in the subnet range, and we use nsupdate to add the DNS information about the VM. We then make a copy of the disk template which serves as the new VM image and use virt-install to provision the new machine. Knife bootstrap is then kicked off which does the rest of the VM initialization using chef. Chef is responsible for getting the machine in a working state, configuring it so that it is running the same version of libraries and services as the other VM’s, and getting a checkout of the running website.

Chef is a really important part of managing all of the systems at Etsy, and we use chef environments to maintain similar cookbooks between development and production. It is extremely important that development does not drift from production in its configuration. It also makes it much easier to roll out new module dependencies or software version updates. The environment automatically stays in sync with the code and is a prime way to avoid strange bugs when moving changes from development to production. It allows for a good balance between us keeping things centralized, controlled, and in a known-state in addition to giving the developers flexibility over what they need to do.

At this point the virtual machine is functional, and the website on it can be loaded using the DNS hostname we just created. Our various tools can immediately be run from the new VM, such as the try server, which is a cluster of around 60 LXC based instances that spawn tests in parallel on your upcoming patch. Given this ability to modify and test the code easily, the only thing left is to overcome any fear of deployment by hopping in line and releasing those changes to the world. Engineers can be productive from day one due to our ability to quickly create a consistent environment to write code in.