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Cloud Management: The Agentless Approach

Why at Kaavo we selected the agentless approach instead of using agents

Automating the deployment and runtime management of large application deployments running on multiple cloud resources across various cloud providers is a challenging problem.

Managing remote resources is not a new problem the big difference is that in cloud the resources are added and removed dynamically and at a larger scale. Before cloud people have built management systems using two approaches:

  1. Agent
  2. Agentless

Historically the major trade-off between the agent and the agentless approach has been control vs. rollout time and maintenance costs. You usually get more control with the agent approach compared to the agentless approach. Whereas, the agentless approach is easy to deploy and manage as it doesn’t require rolling out new agents and maintaining their versions.

At Kaavo for deploying software and performing runtime configuration we choose to use SSH instead of requiring proprietary agents to be installed on the managed cloud resources. Some of the design considerations for our decision are:

Easier Rollout and Ongoing Maintenance: Using SSH for management gives you same or more control and security compared to an agent based approach without the overhead of deploying and maintaining proprietary agents on all images across all supported datacenters.

Better Security: Both the agent approach vs. the agentless (SSH) requires communication between the group of manager servers and the servers/resources being managed. As a result you have to manage the firewall rules on the communication ports (for incoming and outgoing packets) properly on the cloud servers/resources to avoid holes for the intruders to exploit. However, since SSH protocol has been around for a while and has been well tested on a large scale it is less likely to have any unknown security vulnerability compared to writing your own proprietary agent or protocol.

Greater Control and Flexibility: In agent based approach the agent code that is executed on the servers or the server side scripts can’t be changed on the fly in case there is any unexpected change in the environment. Whereas in our agentless approach we generate the configuration scripts and files just in time and send them to the servers for execution. This on-demand just-in-time generation of scripts gives us greater flexibility and control in managing cloud resources.

To rollout a scalable agentless approach for cloud management we had to solve some interesting complex problems like managing firewall rules automatically for managed servers in a dynamic cloud environment, handling distributed event queues, and handling execution order dependencies for parallel processes. We solved these hard problems because we didn’t want to take the easy way out by using configuration agents. If you have any further questions about this or want to learn more about why we choose agentless approach for cloud management please contact us.

More Stories By Jamal Mazhar

Jamal Mazhar is Founder & CEO of Kaavo. He possesses more than 15 years of experience in technology, engineering and consulting with a range of Fortune 500 companies including GE and ING. He established ING’s “Center of Excellence for B2B” which streamlined $2 billion per month in electronic money transfer operations. As Lead Architect at GE Capital e-Business team, Jamal directed analysis and implementation efforts and improved the performance of the website generating more than $1 billion in annual lease revenues. At Trilogy he provided technical and managerial expertise for several large scale e-business implementation projects for companies such as Boeing, NCR, Gartner, British Airways, Quantas Airways and Alltel. Jamal has BS in Electrical and Computer Engineering from the University of Texas at Austin and MBA from NYU Stern School of Business.

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