ChatOps has been around for a while now but it is still a method of working, communicating and collaborating that likely means different things to different people. This blog provides a Cloudsoft perspective on ChatOps and how it relates to deploying and managing applications in/across hybrid clouds.
ChatOps brings work that is already happening in the background to the forefront in a common chatroom. Why does that matter? People are looking for ways where they can easily interact with applications and services from the comfort of their chat/conversational interface. This shift of operational paradigm is considered a more natural way to work. In many organizations, chat is now a vital part of many daily workflows. To chat is to talk in a friendly and informal way and there are many tools available to let you do this. They seek to remove silos within organizations and help busy teams to move quickly and have a fully informed view. By converging the usage of tools and conversations into the same space, they create a shared context for working (and learning).
A cornerstone of the ChatOps paradigm are “bots”. A bot is software that is designed to automate the kinds of tasks you would usually do on your own. They empower people to accomplish complex self-service tasks and can enable workflows to accelerate the IT delivery pipeline.
A bot should also recognize the value of play - adding a bit of humour to your dealings! Much like a human colleague should!
Bots at Cloudsoft
At Cloudsoft, we rely heavily on Slack for collaboration and communication. We use several bots and integrations to link tools such as Jenkins, ZenDesk, Jira, IRC, NewRelic, PagerDuty and Twitter into our open and conversational workflow. As the company behind the Cloudsoft Application Management Platform (AMP), it felt like an obvious natural extension to consider the benefits of combining ChatOps with AMP. AMP is a hybrid cloud platform that orchestrates services, platforms, and infrastructures to ensure that they directly meet the needs of applications, dynamically and in real time. Organizations use Cloudsoft AMP as the active management plane across their application estates. This can mean thousands of applications, shared across multiple AMP servers around the world.
Managing this complex and changing application landscape requires more than a single channel. This is why the AMP ecosystem already offers several options that cater to the organization’s differing needs:
- AMP web application
- Command Line Interface (CLI)
- REST API
- Service Broker for CloudFoundry
- Service management integration tools for ITSM platforms such as ServiceNow
So, how can we extend that ecosystem to include the obvious benefits of ChatOps? Our answer is “AMP Bot”, a conversational bot that lives in a Slack channel and allows people to interact with their AMPs and the applications that are deployed and managed by those AMPs. Unsurprisingly, AMP Bot is also deployed and managed by AMP - often by one of the AMPs that AMP Bot is connected to. This is a virtuous circle!
What can you ask AMP Bot?
- What AMPs are in my landscape (including their health, version, location etc)?
- What applications are being managed by those AMPs?
- Tell me about those applications
- What applications are running in X cloud or region?
- Are there any applications with issues?
Being able to do all that from within Slack is convenient and also provides an easy way to never be more than a click away from being able to drill-down into detailed information about your application (sensor and configuration data) and/or to take actions (via effectors). AMP Bot can also be proactive by letting you know when an application has a problem. AMP Bot has an AMP Policy, that be attached to any AMP application, that will immediately post an alert to Slack when an application’s state stops, has a problem or restarts.