Administering Your IBM Cloud Account – A script to help

Note: This post has been edited and updated multiple times, and the most recent and accurate copy of this post can be found on the IBM developerWorks website, in a blog post titled, Administering Your IBM Cloud Account – A script to help.

As many of you know, if I have to do something more than two or three times, I tend to put in some effort to script it.  I know a lot of what I can do on the command line with the IBM Cloud, but I don’t always remember the exact syntax for all of those bx command line commands.  I also like to have something that I can call from the command line, so I can just script up common administrative scenarios.

Other Options

There are some options which already exist out there.  I wasn’t aware of some of them, and none of them allow for scripting access.  One of the best that I have seen is the interactive application discussed in the blog post on Real-Time Billing Insights From Your IBM Cloud Account, written by Maria Borbones Garcia.  Her Billing Insights app is already deployed out on Bluemix.  It’s nice –  suggest you go and try it out.  She also points you to her mybilling project on GitHub, which means that you can download and deploy this app for yourself (and even contribute to the project).  Another project that I have seen is the My Console project, which will show a different view of your IBM Cloud account.

Why Create a Script?

This all came home to me this past week as I began to administer a series of accounts associated with a Beta effort at IBM (which I’ll probably expand upon once the closed beta is complete).  I have 20 different IBM Cloud accounts, and I need to manage the billing, users, and policies for each of these accounts.  I can do it all from the console, but that can take time, and I can make mistakes.  The other thing that I thought of was that I often get questions from our customers about, “How do I track what my users are using, and what our current bill is?”.  So that led me to begin writing up a Python script that would allow you to quickly and easily do these types of things.

So I began to develop the IBM_Cloud_Admin tool, which you can see the code for in its GitHub repository.  Go ahead and download a copy of it from GitHub.  This is a simple Python script, and it just executes a bunch of IBM Cloud CLI commands for you.  If you go through a session and then look at your logfile, you can see all the specific command line commands issued, and see the resulting output from those commands.  This allows you to do things in this tool, and then quickly look in the log file and strip out the commands that YOU need for your own scripts.

How To Use The Script

To run the script, you can just type in:

python IBM_Cloud_Admin.py -t apiKey.json

The script has a few different modes it can run in.

  • If you use the -t flag, it will use an API Key file, which you can get from your IBM Cloud account, to log into the IBM Cloud.  This is the way that I like to use it.
  • If you don’t use the -t flag, you’ll need to supply a username and password for your IBM Cloud account using the -u and -p flags.
  • If you use the -b flag (for billing information), then you will run in batch mode.  This will get billing information for the account being logged into, and then quit.  You can use this mode in a script, since it does not require any user input.
  • If you don’t use the -b flag (for billing information), then you will run in interactive mode.  This will display menus on the command line that you can choose from.

The Output Files

There are a number of output files from this tool.  There is the IBM_Cloud_Admin.output.log file, which contains a log of your session and will show you the IBM Cloud command line commands issued by the tool, and the responses returned.  This is a good way to get familiar with the IBM Cloud command line commands, so you can use them in custom scripts for your own use. 

You may also see files with names like, MyProj_billing _summary.csv and MyProj_billing _by_org.json.  These are billing reports that you generated from the tool.  Here is a list of the reports, and what they contain.

  • MyProj_billing _summary.csv – this CSV file contains billing summary data for your account for the current month.
  • MyProj_billing _summary.json – this JSON file contains billing summary data for your account for the current month.  It shows the raw JSON output from the IBM Cloud CLI.
  • MyProj_billing _by_org.csv – this CSV file contains billing details data for your account, split out by org and space, for the current month.
  • MyProj_billing _by_org.json – this JSON file contains billing details data for your account, split out by org and space, for the current month.  It shows the raw JSON output from the IBM Cloud CLI.
  • MyProj_annual_billing _summary.csv – this CSV file contains billing summary data for your account for the past year.
  • MyProj_annual_billing _summary.json – this JSON file contains billing summary data for your account for the past year.  It shows the raw JSON output from the IBM Cloud CLI.
  • MyProj_annual_billing _by_org.csv – this CSV file contains billing details data for your account, split out by org and space, for the past year.
  • MyProj_annual_billing _by_org.json – this JSON file contains billing details data for your account, split out by org and space, for the past year.  It shows the raw JSON output from the IBM Cloud CLI.

Use the JSON output files as inputs to further processing that you might want to do of your IBM Cloud usage data.  The CSV files can be used as inputs to spreadsheets and pivot tables that you can build that will show you details on usage from an account perspective, as well as from an organization and space perspective.

Getting Your Api Key File

I’ve mentioned the API key file a couple of times here.  If you are not familiar with what an API Key file is, then you’ll want to read this section.  An API Key is a small text file which contains some JSON based information, which when used properly with the IBM Cloud command line tool, will allow anyone to log into the IBM Cloud environment as a particular user, without having to supply a password.  The API Key file is your combined username/password.  Because of this, do NOT share API keyfiles with others, and you should rotate your API Key files periodically, just in case your keyfile has become compromised.

Getting an API Key on IBM Cloud is really easy.

  • Log into the IBM Cloud, and navigate to your account settings in the upper right hand corner of the IBM Cloud in your web browser. Select Manage > Security > Platform API Keys.
  • Click on the blue Create button.
  • In the resulting dialog, select a name for your API Key (something that will tell you which IBM Cloud account the key is associated with), give a short description, and hit the blue Create button.
  • You should now see a page indicating that your API Key has been successfully created. If not, then start over again from the beginning. If you have successfully created an API Key, download it to your machine, and store it somewhere secure.

Note: A quick note on API Keys. For security reasons, I suggest that you periodically destroy API Keys and re-create them (commonly called rotating your API keys or access tokens). Then if someone had access to your data by having one of your API keys, they will lose this access.

Other Tasks

Do you have other administrative tasks that you would like to see the tool handle?  Find a bug?  Want to help improve the tool by building a nice interface for it?  Just contact me through the GitHub repository, join the project, and add issues for problems, bugs, and enhancement requests.

A Final Thought

This script is a quick hacked together Python script – nothing more and nothing less.  The code isn’t pretty, and there are better ways to do some of the things that I have done here – but I was focused on getting something working quickly, and not on efficiency or Python coding best practices.  I would not expect anyone to base their entire IBM Cloud administration on this tool – but it’s handy to use if you need something quick, and cannot remember those IBM Cloud command line commands.

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Deploying Production Cloud Applications – A Readiness Checklist

I just had a conversation today with my VP (Rob Sauerwalt – check him out on Twitter – time to do some shameless kissing up to my management team) about a recent internal communication that we both saw.  It was someone looking for a “readiness checklist” for the deployment of an application on the IBM Cloud.  Rob and I both agreed that this seems pretty simple, and we came up with a quick checklist of things to consider.

Now this list is not specific to the IBM Cloud, it’s pretty generic.  It’s just a quick checklist of things that you will want to make sure that you have considered, BEFORE you deploy that cloud based application into a production environment.  I am an Agile believer, so I would suggest that you address these checklist items in the SPIRIT of what they are trying to do, and that you should do what makes sense.  This means that each one of these areas does not need to represent some 59 page piece of documentation.  What you want to do is provide enough information so the poor guy who takes your job after you get promoted, is able to be effective and understand and maintain the application or system.

If you have suggestions about other things that should be on this list, please drop me a line and let me know.  I would love to add them to the list, and make this generic deployment readiness checklist even better.

Production Readiness Checklist

The Basics

⊗ Name and General Description of the Application – this includes the purpose of the application and the number of users that are anticipated to use the application.  Also have an idea of the types of users.  Is it for the general public?  Only for certain roles within our organization?  Is it only for your customers?  Do this in two to three paragraphs – anything more is adding complexity.

⊗ Description of Needed Software/Hardware/Cloud Resources – a list of the needed software packages, and the clou resources needed to run the application.  Do you use third party utilities or libraries?  Do you run on Cloud Foundry buildpacks?  Virtual machines?  Do you use Cloud services for database resources?  Often a high level architectural diagram is useful to help other people understand the system at a high level.  This should be done AS you build – so you can simplify things.  Are your developers using different libraries to accomplish the same thing?  Get them to standardize.  Reduce your dependencies, reduce your complexity, and you improve your software quality.

DevOps Considerations

⊗ Operating Systems and Patching Requirements – do you have specific OS requirements?  Do you require a particular framework to run properly (like .NET, Eclipse, or a particular Cloud Foundry buildpack)?  What OS versions have you tested and validated this application with – and do all of your components need to be on the same OS version?  This becomes important when fixes get deployed to containers, virtual machines get upgraded, and maintenance activities are done.

⊗ Installation and Configuration Guidelines – you should be deploying your application in some automated manner.  So your deployment and promotion scripts should be the only guide that you need…… except when they aren’t.  Take the time and DOCUMENT those scripts – explain WHAT you are doing and WHY, so your application can easily be reconfigured or deployed in different ways in the future.

⊗ Back-up, Data Retention and Data Archiving Policies – let your operations people know what data needs to be archived and retained.  How often do systems need to be backed up?  How will services be restored in the event of a crash?  Explain WHERE and HOW data needs to be retained.  Explain what your DEVELOPMENT teams need to review on a periodic basis.  This can be the biggest headache for development teams, because these are often scenarios that they have not considered.  Backup plans are not sufficient, they need to be executed at least once before you go into production – so you are sure that they are valid and that they work.

⊗ Monitoring and Systems Management – This includes runbooks – what do we need to do while the application is running?  Do we need to take the logs off of the system every day and archive them?  Or do we just let logs and error reports build up until the system crashes?  Should I monitor memory and heap usage on a daily basis?  Should I be monitoring CPU load?  Who do I notify if I see a problem, and what is a “problem”?  (CPU at 50%? CPU running at 20% with spikes to 100%?)  How will this application normally be supported?  You may not have complete information and definition of “problems” when you begin, bu define what you can and acknowledge that things will change as time goes on.

⊗ Incident Management – This details how you react to application incidents.  These could be bugs, outages, or both.  In the case of an outage, who needs to be called, and what actions should they take to collect needed data, and to get the application back up and running.  What logs are needed, what kind of data will aid in debugging issues?  Who is responsible for application uptime TODAY (get things back on track and running), and who is responsible for application uptime TOMORROW (who needs to find root cause, fix bugs, make design changes if needed, etc.).

⊗ Service Level Documentation -This is the “contract” between you and your customers.  How often will your application be down for maintenance?  If your application is down, how long before it comes back up?  Are there any billing or legal ramifications from a loss of service?  Do your customers get refunds – or cash back – when your Cloud application is unavailable?

⊗ Extra Credit – DevOps pipeline – you need to have an automated pipeline for the deployment of code changes into well defined development, test, and production environments.  You need to have a solid set of policies and procedures for the initiation and automation of these deployments.  Who has authority to deliver to test environments?  Production environments?

Software Architecture Considerations

⊗ Key Support & Maintenance Items – the team that built this thing knows where the weak spots are – share that knowledge!  Where does the team know that “tech debt” exists – and how is that impacting your application?  This information will help the teams maintaining and upgrading your application.  They will be able to do this with knowledge about how the application works, and why certain architectural choices were made.

⊗ Security Plan – Everyone is worried about the security of their applications and data on the cloud.  You need to be sensitve to this when deploying cloud based applications.  Your stakeholders and users will want to know that you have considered security, and that you are protecting their data from being exposed, stolen, or used without their knowledge/consent.

⊗ Application Design – This should include some high level description of your use case, a simple flowchart and dependencies.  Give enough detail so someone can easily get started in maintaining your application code, but not so much detail that you waste time and ultimately end up with documentation that does not match the code.

Is That Everything?

That’s not everything, but it is a good minimal list of things that you should have considered and/or documented.  Most applications need some sort of a support plan – who handles incoming problem tickets from customers?  Do you have a support process for your end users?  In your own environments and business context, you may have other things that need to be added to this list.  Do you need to check for compliance with some standard or regulation?  What are your policies for using Open Source software?

So this list is not meant to be exhaustive – but it is designed to make you think, and to help you ensure higher quality when deploying your Cloud applications.