At the start of 2020, I joined the HPCC Systems Platform Team at one of their offsite meetings, where the main focus of the discussion was implementing a Cloud Native version of our big data analytics platform. HPCC Systems 8.0.0 is the first release that provides a Cloud Native version of our platform that is feature complete. While it may be not fully production ready, it is now at the point where it is ready for Cloud performance evaluation. What does this mean for you?
It means that it is ready to start developing and testing cloud deployments, but it is brand new, so expect to see some issues and potentially some missing functionality, or cosmetic issues. We would like to know about your experience, so do let us know how your evaluation went by posting in our Community Forum (requires registration and a login to post).
If you do find issues along the way, we want to know about them. Please report any issues you find using our Community Issue Tracker, so we can investigate and fix them!
Getting started with the HPCC Systems Cloud Native Platform
To get a complete overview of our Cloud Native platform, including the main changes we have implemented and how to use the helm charts, read our HPCC Systems and the Path to the Cloud blog by Richard Chapman, VP and Head of Research and Development, LexisNexis Risk Solutions Group.
More resources are available on our HPCC Systems is going Cloud Native Wiki, which includes some How To videos, links to our GitHub Repository and Helm Charts as well as more blogs on topics such as persisting, exporting and importing data, using a service mesh, log visualisation and getting set up using Azure AKS and AWS EKS.
I'm already using HPCC Systems in the Cloud, why should I change to the Cloud Native Platform?
Using HPCC Systems in the Cloud has been possible for a number of years now via the 'lift and shift' approach, which involves setting up virtual machines on a Cloud service using our bare metal platform. To preserve the local data storage, these virtual machines need to stay running constantly (and be paid for), whether or not they are in use. Our Cloud Native platform allows you to take advantage of all the benefits of Cloud capabilities, including significant cost savings, by ensuring that you are paying only for what you are using when you are using it.
I'm an HPCC Systems Bare Metal user, what changes do I need to make to get started using the Cloud Native Platform?
ECL developers, will find that not much has changed, in terms of using the ECL language. However, there may be some differences to bear in mind linked with:
- Where your data is stored
- How foreign files are accessed
- How data is shared between environments
The biggest changes are more related to the way the system scales. Currently, using a Bare Metal system, a fixed number of Thors are available to users. These Thors are (ideally) kept as busy as possible, although sometimes users may find they need to wait for a Thor cluster to become available. The hidden costs associated with this approach revolve around someone not being able to use a cluster when they need to, or a cluster sitting idle.
Using the Cloud Native platform, your system can be configured to launch a new Thor cluster when a job is submitted, so the cluster is never idle and users are not waiting for the queue to become available to run their job. Thor clusters will expand according to the demand although there are cost consideration to bear in mind here too, since the costs also expand with the cluster, so users will need to be aware of the costs involved in running a job.
The main change for system management is that the Cloud Native platform will be managed using Helm and Teraform rather than by using Genesis and the HPCC Systems Config Manager. In the Cloud Native platform, systems are configured by defining what the system should look like, rather than by making the new system look a certain way by modifying the configuration of a running system. Each Cloud Native system uses a completely new configuration.
The Cloud Native platform offers easier upgrades to new versions and moreover, there is no machine provisioning involved with clusters that are managed on demand in the Cloud.
What's new in the HPCC Systems 8.0.0 Cloud Native Platform
HPCC Systems 8.0.0 also includes features and enhancements that are relevant to both our Cloud Native and Bare Metal platform users, which are covered separately in our HPCC Systems 8.0.0 - Cross Platform Highlights blog.
This blog highlights the new features and enhancements added to our Cloud Native platform since 7.12.0 Gold was released. If you want to track the journey from the start, here are some helpful resources:
- Highlights included in 7.12.0 Gold
- What's new in HPCC Systems 7.10.0 Gold
- Fly on the Wall - Developer Offsite Meeting 2020
System Setup and Helm Chart Usage
The platform team have been improving the helm charts continually throughout the ongoing development of our Cloud Native platform. You will find them along with usage information in our Helm Chart GitHub Repository. You can also read Richard Chapman's Path to the Cloud blog for more information on how to get started.
Early adopters have also helped us to work through other system setup testing. A team from Infosys has been looking at using a service mesh and two team members have produced blogs providing more information about how to install our Cloud Native platform using Istio and Linkerd on Microsoft Azure. During this work, they ran into a known issue in Kubernetes, which does not support sidecar termination ordering properly. Read these blogs to find out more:
We have added a feature that allows you to run with Linkerd, Istio or any sidecar mesh, without jobs stalling or lingering indefinitely because the sidecar has not been properly terminated.
Some new features and enhancements have also been added to the helm charts. You can now:
- Control the type of hardware that will be selected to run your system
- Be certain that the default image used will be the one that is recommended as a match for the Helm Chart you are using.
- Use Helm to deploy HPCC Systems services that were missing in 7.12.x such as the DFU Server ECL Scheduler and Sasha, (which works alongside Dali and is the component that provides housekeeping functionality by archiving work units to disk to save memory usage).
- Set your network packet sizes to values to something other than 1500 / 9600 in the ROXIE settings, so that Roxie take advantage of it and work more efficiently on Microsoft Azure
- Make changes to a configuration and update a helm deployment, so that any component will automatically be updated to the new configuration as needed without having the bring the system down and then up again.
- Reference better and more comprehensive examples in the Helm charts for deployments on different systems and configurations such as Azure storage and local Docker Desktop . The full list of available examples can be found in our Helm Chart GitHub Repository.
- Use an ELK stack for managing your logs. More details are available in our blog HPCC Systems Logs on the Cloud by Rodrigo Pastrana, Architect, LexisNexis Risk Solutions Group.
- Automatically set Thor memory options to match the available resources on the pod
Before we look at the new features and tweaks added in this area, these are the main security features supported by our Cloud Native platform:
At the system level, HPCC Systems 8.0.0 introduces the integration of cert-manager support providing a way of defining, generating and managing PKI certificates, which automates the process of setting up HPCC Systems to use HTTPS externally and MTLS internally.
For ECL HTTPCALLs and SOAPCALLs, the connection and authentication information can now be provided via Kubernetes secrets or Hashicorp Vault secrets. This provides a standard mechanism for securely storing service credentials and access information for remote services.
HPCC Systems has always provided mechanisms for controlling which operations are permitted in ECL code, to ensure that operations like PIPE and using embedded C++ cannot be used to circumvent access control on files. Our Cloud Native platform also supports ECL security options to the same level as in the Bare Metal platform
In the Helm files, signing keys may be stored in K8s secrets or a Hashicorps Vault and are now deployed automatically through the HPCC Systems helm deployment.
There is a new ESP service to give secure access to daliadmin functionality.
Please see our HPCC Systems 8.0.0 - Cross Platform Highlights blog for details of other security features and improvements that are available in this release.
One of the main focuses of the Cloud Native platform development project has been how to handle data in a world where storage is not local and your data and queries disappear when the system is uninstalled.
Gavin Halliday, Enterprise/Lead Architect, LexisNexis Risk Solutions Group, has written several blogs covering a number of different aspects relating to this issue to accompany the functionality added:
- Persisting Data in an HPCC Systems Cloud Native Environment
Using Persistent Volume Claims (PVCs) with Helm Charts
- Configuring Storage in the Cloud Native HPCC Systems Platform
Explains the issues involved, providing an introduction to Storage Planes and how to use them
- HPCC Systems Cloud Native Platform - Importing Data
Getting your data on to a cloud environment, more on persisting data and using Storage Planes
- Exporting Data from an HPCC Systems Bare Metal Platform to our Cloud Native Platform
Exporting files to a Kubernetes systems using Azure Blob Storage
The release of the Cloud Native platform in HPCC Systems 8.0.0, is the culmination of a development project that has been ongoing for over a year, so what's next on the agenda?
The Platform Team are looking at a number of research projects that will provide more detailed information about using our Cloud Native platform:
Providing ways of detecting when the load increases or decreases, so that the number of nodes in use are adjusted accordingly.
- Cost analysis
Providing information that automatically reports on the running cost for each workunit and the cost of storage for each file.
- More documentation
Case studies using different configurations on Microsoft Azure which will help us to fine tune the way our Cloud Native platform works
The team will also be responding to the findings of our Cloud Native platform users, providing features and fixes to address issues as they are discovered and reported. To report an issue or make a feature request, please use our Community Issue Tracker and keep up to date with known issues and workarounds in the HPCC Systems Red Book.
HPCC Systems is Celebrating 10 Years as an Open Source Big Data Analytics Platform
It seems very fitting that in the year we celebrate this anniversary, we are also launching our Cloud Native Platform. Join us as we mark this anniversary event with users, colleagues, ambassadors and collaborators via a series of video podcasts. It's great to reflect on how we got to where we are today with the stories shared in this series and look forward to what may lie ahead in the future. View the full list of podcasts on our 10 Year Anniversary Podcast Series Wiki.
Join Flavio Villanustre (VP Technology and CISO, LexisNexis Risk Solutions Group) and Richard Chapman (VP and Head of Research and Development, LexisNexis Risk Solutions Group) as they look back on what HPCC Systems looked like at the start in 2000 and our open source journey, bringing you right up to date with HPCC Systems 8.0.0 and our Cloud Native Platform.