Getting started with BlueMix


Recently everyone has their heads in the clouds (no pun intended) and I decided to have a peek to find out what it is all about.

This post is a summary of my first experiences with the IBM BlueMix Cloud Computing offering and how I got started with developing my first applications for it.

Note: this is not an RTC API post. However, RTC is involved.

There are several posts of my peers. Look into Dan Toczala’s and Tekehiko Amano-san’s blog and see these posts about BlueMix:

There are more posts available.

BlueMix has been around for some time now here at IBM and I wanted to understand what it is providing. I have seen some high level presentations and demos already. Unfortunately I am not the kind of person that can learn to fly by reading books and looking at slides. I have to get things into my hands, use and experiment with it to understand how they work. This usually also involves accidents, painful crashes and recovery from them. This is however the best way for me to understand how it works and is most beneficial from my point of view.

As you can read in the BlueMix documentation about what BlueMix provides.

Citing the web site, IBM® Bluemix is an open-standards, cloud-based platform for building, managing, and running apps of all types, such as web, mobile, big data, and smart devices. It can be used to develop and run server applications.

You can use your own development environment as well as IBM Dev Ops Services to develop the applications and manage the source code.

You should familiarize yourself with the architecture of BlueMix to understand the details. I will try to use the concepts described there in the post with only a short summary what they represent.

BlueMix provides several ways to start with developing applications.

  • Runtimes are a preconfigutred set of resources used to run applications
  • Boilerplates are preconfigured containers used to run applications that usually also contain services
  • Services hosted by BlueMix provide capabilities such as session caches, persistance and other capabilities

Looking at the Runtimes there is support for Node.js applications Liberty for Java (a lean profile for WebSphere Application server), Ruby on Rails and others available.

Since I am not a Web developer but have some few JavaScript experience, I decided I wanted to go for Node.js. I got myself some material to learn about it first. After understanding the basic concepts by reading, I started to set up a local development environment.

Setup a local Node.js Development Environment

I followed http://www.nodeclipse.org/updates/ to install the local Node.js environment. I downloaded Node.js from http://www.nodejs.org/download/ and installed it as suggested in the previous link. I skipped CoffeeScript and I had a JDK 7 already on m machine.

Setup Eclipse for Node.js Development

I needed a local environment to be able to play with it and have a quick turn-around time. I downloaded Eclipse Juno, because I heard that would be the best option, and followed http://www.nodeclipse.org/updates/ to install what is needed into Eclipse.

Having done this, I was good to go and I was able to create Node.js projects in Eclipse and run and debug them locally.

I ran some examples until I felt reasonably familiar with how the language works and decided to pursue my quest to BlueMix.

Setup Eclipse with RTC

Since I intended to use Eclipse with RTC embedded to be able to use RTC against IBM Dev Ops Services, and not using Git for SCM (sorry guys, but I can’t do that), I downloaded the RTC 5.0 p2 install package from the RTC All downloads Page. After the download succeeded, I installed RTC into Eclipse. I logged into IBM Dev Ops Services from RTC using my Jazz.net ID and my IBM ID password. Weird.

However, now my local environment works with RTC and I can use any RTC repository, including IBM Dev Ops Services, to manage my work and source code.

Logging into BlueMix

I logged into BlueMix. Please note, you can use or create an IBM ID. This basically provides you with an evaluation period of some months.This should be easy to follow and work like a charm.

If you are an IBM’er you can use your Intranet ID. I would suggest to do that. I unfortunately used my IBM ID and had to follow the explanation text and links to the right of the user and password fields to link both up. There seem to be still problems with this, because I happened to end up on a staging version of BlueMix that did not work for me.

Note: After logging into BlueMix, make sure your URL is https://ace.ng.bluemix.net.

Creating a Sample Project on BlueMix

To get started, I created a sample project on BlueMix.  I went into my dashboard and clicked the tile Create An App. I picked the Runtime SDK for Node.js, provided a unique host name for example rsjazz01 and accepted all the default settings.

Note: The host name needs to be unique which basically means, anyone following this will have to pick a different name and replace it in the images and text below.

The project gets opened, but won’t run, since there is nothing in there yet. In the top section to the left, underneath the application icon and name is a link named View Guide. This link provides more information about how to get started. The following is what it shows if you chose a project name RsJazzTest03. The project name will be reflected in the downloaded sample files at some places.

BlueMix Sample

Install The CloudFoundry Commandline

BlueMix uses CloudFoundry to upload and deploy applications. Follow the link and desription in the guide to download and install the CloudFoundry command-line.

Also download the example code for the application. Store the compressed code somewhere and extract the file into a Folder, for example c:\temp. Assuming the application name is rsjazz01 there would be a folder C:\temp\rsjazz01 that contains the source code of the project.

You can follow the instructions to push the example to BlueMix and run it. However, lets get it into Eclipse so that we can look at it in a more convenient way.

Create an Eclipse Project

Create an Eclipse Node.js project. It can have any name as far as I can tell, but in the context of Eclipse choose the name of the application as the project name, e.g. rsjazz01.

From the folder C:\temp\rsjazz01 that contains the uncompressed example, select all files and folders. Copy the files and folders using CTRL+c and paste them into your Eclipse project. You can do this in the Eclipse project explorer or in the filesystem. If you did it in the Filesystem, refresh the Eclipse project to see the files. The Project content should look like this:

Examlple ProjectThe main application file is represented by the file app.js. The folders public and views and their contained files are used by the framework used to create web pages.

Run the Application on the Local Development Environment

Before trying to run the application in the cloud, let’s try to run it on the development environment. In order to do so lets examine the application first. The file app.js looks as follows:

Example AppThe application prepares itself first, then gets some data, such as the host name and the port it is using from the environment, or used some defaults if not. Then it starts to listen as a server on that port and host.

The description of the sample mentions some other pieces it is using. Lets look what it is.

The files

  • manifest.yml
  • package.json

marked in the project screen shot above, are used by BlueMix to deploy and run the application. Any application that runs on BlueMix needs this kind of information to be able to deploy and run.

Lets look at the manifest.yml file first. This is the content for our sample.

ManifestThis describes some of the properties of the application, such as the host, the application name, the command to start it as Node.js application, domain, number of instances and required memory and disk. When creating an application from scratch, this is important information to look at.

The package.json file looks like this:

PackageThis file describes the application and, more importantly it describes the packages that the application requires to be able to run. It needs the Express web application framework, version 3.4.7 and the Jade Template Engine, version 1.1.4 to run on a node engine.

Install Express and Jade 

To install these packages, on your local machine, in order to be able to run the application, open a shell and use the package manager. Type each line below and hit enter. The versions needed are from the dependencies. Note, the newest version of express won’t work. There have been changes to it that will break the application.

npm install express@3.4.7
npm install jade@1.1.4

Wait for Node.js to download and install the packages.

Now right click on app.js and select to run it as a Node application. Open http://localhost:3000/ and see the web page displayed.

It is now possible to develop the application further on the local development environment. It is possible to use RTC to put it under version control, to share it and to plan the work. Any other source control providers that Eclipse supports can be used as well.

Deploy the application on BlueMix

Lets try to deploy the application on BlueMix. How this works is described in the guide above. Open a shell. The first three commands can be run anywhere.

First set the API URL for Cloud Foundry:

cf api https://api.ng.bluemix.net

Log into the server (use your own ID):

cf login -u 

This prompts for a password. Provide your password and finish the login.

Set the target space for the application. By default the space is called dev.

cf target -o  -s dev

Now change the directory to the folder that represents the project on disk, named rsjazz01 in this example. this folder is directly in the workspace folder you chose to use with Eclipse when you started it.

Now push the application to the BlueMix server:

cf push rsjazz01

The data gets uploaded, deployed and started. In the BlueMix Dashboard on the application tile you should be able to see that there are activities happening in BlueMix, while they show up in the shell. Once the process finishes the application is deployed and you can open the URL and see the same result you had from the local run.

Create a Simple Custom Sample Application

Running a sample application that is supposed to be running is – relatively – easy. But what about running a custom application? What is needed to do that?

Create a new Node.Js project and give it a name. In the example we will use rsjazz02. Pick a name that suits you if you want to perform this as well.

The new project is empty. Create a new JavaScript file and call it app.js. The file should have the following content:

/*jshint node:true*/

/**
 * New node file
 */
var http = require("http");

function onRequest(request, response){
	response.writeHead(200, {"Content-Type": "text/plain"});
	response.write("Hello World - this is rsjazz's first BlueMmix application!");
	response.end();
}

//There are many useful environment variables available in process.env.
//VCAP_APPLICATION contains useful information about a deployed application.
var appInfo = JSON.parse(process.env.VCAP_APPLICATION || "{}");
//TODO: Get application information and use it in your app.

//VCAP_SERVICES contains all the credentials of services bound to
//this application. For details of its content, please refer to
//the document or sample of each service.
var services = JSON.parse(process.env.VCAP_SERVICES || "{}");
//TODO: Get service credentials and communicate with bluemix services.

//The IP address of the Cloud Foundry DEA (Droplet Execution Agent) that hosts this application:
var host = (process.env.VCAP_APP_HOST || 'localhost');
//The port on the DEA for communication with the application:
var port = (process.env.VCAP_APP_PORT || 3000);
console.log('Start my server on port ' + port);
//Start server
http.createServer(onRequest).listen(port,host);

console.log('App started on port ' + port);

This application basically waits for an HTTP request on a port on a host and responds with a simple text. It reuses the parsing of the environment variable we saw in the sample application to get the port and the host name.

Run the application on the local Node.js and connect to it using http://localhost:3000/. It should run and provide the expected output in the browser window.

It does not have any dependencies to any other packages. However, it would not yet run on BlueMix. It lacks the information required to deploy end run it there.

Copy the manifest.yml and the package.json files from the sample application over. You can also copy the readme files, but these are not required.

Open the manifest.yml file and edit it to use a new host name. To make sure the host name is unique you can create an empty project on BlueMix, but you don’t have to. BlueMix will tell you if the host name is already taken. In the code below I use rsjazz02 as name of the application and as host name.

applications:
- disk_quota: 1024M
  host: rsjazz02
  name: rsjazz02
  command: node app.js
  path: .
  domain: mybluemix.net
  instances: 1
  memory: 128M

The line

  command: node app.js

can stay as it is. If you chose to use a different name for the main JavaScript file, you would put the name in here.

Open the package.json file and edit it to match the new situation. You can change the name and the description. Remove the dependencies, as there are no dependencies to other packages needed. Keep the rest as it is.

{
	"name": "RSJazzSampleApp",
	"version": "0.0.1",
	"description": "A sample nodejs app for Bluemix - by rsjazz",
	"dependencies": {},
	"engines": {
		"node": "0.10.26"
	},
	"repository": {}
}

Save all the changes to these files.

The application is now ready to deploy on BlueMix. Change the directory of your shell to the new folder e.g. using cd ../rsjazz02.

Now push the application to the BlueMix server using the shell command:

cf push rsjazz02

The data gets uploaded, the application deployed and you can test it using http://rsjazz02.mybluemix.net/ once it is running and the health shows green (replace the name of the application in the URL with your application). The result should be the same as in the local run.

User RTC and IBM Dev Ops Services

You can use IBM Dev Ops Services to develop and deploy BlueMix Applications with RTC. You would basically create a DevOps Services project to manage your source code and use it to deploy your application. I will try to blog about this later.

You would still do all the above steps to set up your local development environment.

Enable Eclipse To Deploy Directly to BlueMix

So far a local shell and the cf command is used to push the application up to BlueMix. As mentioned above you could also use IBM Dev Ops Services to do this.

There is a third option available. You can configure your Eclipse client to connect to BlueMix and to deploy the application automatically if you did changes, if you desire.

You can install the IBM Eclipse Tools for Bluemix into your local Eclipse Client.

Once you have done that, you can open the Eclipse View Servers and add a new server to it.

The server view would look like below. The overview shows the configured BlueMix connection. The Applications and Services shows the applications and services you have configured. The server view shows the applications on the server as well as the locally connected ones.

BlueMix Eclipse ToolsTo be able to deploy you Node.js application, you have to change it a bit first. You have to convert it to a Faceted form, using Configure in the context menu of the project.

Configure Faceted FormIn the following dialog you have to select the application type, in this case Node.js Application. Once you have done it, you can see it in the Add and Remove dialog for the server.

Configure ServerYou can add applications and remove them. If configured to do so, any save will trigger a deployment.

Summary

This post shows how you can use RTC and Eclipse to start developing Node.js applications for BlueMix. It shows how to configure the environment and the first basic steps in a way to support getting over the first questions. After reading this you should be able to do some basic experiments in half a day or so.

As always I hope this helps someone out there to save some time and I appreciate feedback.

 

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About rsjazz

Hi, my name is Ralph. I work for IBM and help colleagues and customers with adopting the Jazz technologies.
This entry was posted in BlueMix, cloud, Jazz and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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