Thursday Aug 30, 2007

N1 SPS Modeler with NetBeans 6.0

With N1 Service Provisioning System 6.0, we shipped a set of NetBeans plugins called the SPS Modeler for modeling SPS artifacts like plans and components. The SPS Modeler which you can download from here, needs NetBeans 5.5.1 and Enterprise Pack 5.5.1
beta. But, if you want to try out the SPS Modeler on the upcoming Netbeans 6.0, here's what you can do.

Note: Netbeans 6.0 is not a supported platform for the SPS Modeler.

To start off, download and install NetBeans 6.0 Milestone 10 from the NetBeans site. For the SPS Modeler, the basic version of NetBeans (23 MB) is good enough. I am assuming here that you have a JDK 5 installed on your system. This is a significant reduction in download time, since NetBeans 5.5.1 and the Enterprise Pack 5.5.1 Beta collectively take more than 150 MB of download.

Grab the SPS Modeler bits from here. It's free (as is N1 SPS).

Fire up your Netbeans 6.0 M10 and open Tools -> Plugins

Tools Menu 

This will open up the Plugin Manager. Select the Downloaded tab and click on the Add Plugins... button to start installation of the SPS Modeler.

NetBeans Plugin Manager 

Clicking on the Add Plugins... button will bring up a file chooser. Navigate to the directory where you have unzipped the SPS Modeler zip file that you downloaded earlier. Select all the nbm files as shown below and click on the Open button.


The modules are now queued for installation. Click on the Install button to start off the installation.


The NetBeans module installation wizard will start. Accept the relevant options (use the following screen shots as reference).


Ignore the validation warning by clicking on the Continue button.


The SPS Modeler is now installed.

The SPS Modeler causes exceptions to be thrown in Netbeans
6.0 due to API differences between Netbeans 5.5.1 and 6.0. To get rid
of these, you will need to deactivate the Netbeans Profiler which comes
along with NetBeans 6.0. Go to the Installed tab of the Plugin Manager, select the Netbeans
module, right click and click on Deactivate Module option in the context
menu. Follow the steps of the wizard which pops up, to deactivate the


Close the Plugin Manager. You are now all set to start using the SPS Modeler. You can start off by creating a new Basic Project (go to File -> New Project... -> Provisioning -> Basic Project) or if you are totally new to SPS, you can read the online help to get started.

Tuesday Aug 07, 2007

N1 SPS 6.0 Goes Live

The N1 SPS 6.0 release is now available for download. This new release includes several features that a few of you have been waiting for, including:

  • User Interface Enhancements, including integrated task flows and wizards for creating plans, components, and containers
  • N1 SPS Modeler, a NetBeans module that enables you to create N1 SPS components, plans, and plug-ins in your NetBeans IDE
  • Plan Variable Sets, enabling you to capture plan execution information, as well as other common plan parameters, as a complete variable set
  • UNIX <reboot> Step, allowing you to include reboot instructions in your execution plans
  • User Name and Password Constraints, giving you the option to specify the minimum character length, maximum character length, and acceptable character set for you N1 SPS user names and passwords
  • Linux RPM Installers, allowing you to install the Master Server and Command Line Interface client as Linux RPM packages
  • Native Call Cancel on Timeout, enabling you to use the <execNative> and <execJava> elements to perform a remote procedure call (RPC) and terminate code that is running on a remote agent
  • Red Hat Enterprise Linux Workstation 3 Update 5 Support
  • JDK Upgrade to include version 1.5
  • PostgreSQL Upgrade to include version 8.1

This new release also includes the new features first introduced in the N1 SPS 5.2 Update 2 release:

  • Import/Export Bundles, enabling you to copy N1 SPS artifacts (plans, components, etc.) between master servers as bundles
  • Dynamic Targetting, allowing you to use variable substitution on a component targeter.
  • Installed Components Display Commands, enabling you to list installed components and their dependencies with the cdb.ic family of commands
  • Unrestrictive Host Locking, enabling you to customize the locking behavior for your hosts while executing plans

Get Started With N1 SPS 6.0

  1. Download the software here
  2. Download the N1 SPS Modeler here.
  3. Install the software by following the instructions.
  4. Learn more about N1 SPS.


Friday Jul 27, 2007

Handy N1 SPS Import-Export Feature

The N1 Service Provisioning System just got a lot easier to use,
thanks in part to a great new import-export feature. Now, you can very
simply copy a whole raft of artifacts at once between your SPS master
servers. You can roll a bunch of SPS artifacts up into what's called a "bundle
" on, say, master servers your test environment. What SPS artifacts might these be? They might be things like host types,
components, component types, folders, and any plans you want. 
And you can then get access to these SPS artifacts from another master server. How is this done? Well, you declare a list of  "search criteria" that
represent these SPS artifacts. This list of search criteria forms the bundle template. For example, a bundle template might contain criteria for searching for component types and plans. Then, with a few simple clicks, you can save this bundle template, and export it into a bundle jar. On another master server, import that bundle jar. Once you've imported the bundle jar to a master server, the SPS artifacts are now held on that master server. This means of course that you can easily copy several SPS artifacts from one master server to another, which is great for testing things out before putting them in live environments. This new feature will make things easier for those customers who want to really be able to test complex things out on in one or several SPS environments before going live. Learn how to do this using the command line. This feature is already available through the command line in the recent N1 Service Provisioning System 5.2 Update 2 release. In the upcoming N1 Service Provisioning System 6.0 release, you can also use this feature through the new, improved browser user interface.

Tuesday Jun 12, 2007

Workaround for Installing N1 SM and N1 SPS on Same System

The latest sets of release notes for N1 System Manager and N1 SPS include a workaround for installing the N1 SM managed server and N1 SPS master server on the same physical host. Essentially, you install the N1 SPS master server in an alternate root directory by prepending the following to your N1 SPS installation script.

alias -x pkgadd='pkgadd -R $NEW_PKG_ROOT'
alias -x pkginfo='pkginfo -R $NEW_PKG_ROOT'
alias -x pkgparam='pkgparam -R $NEW_PKG_ROOT'

One limitation: You can't install the OS provisioning plug-in for N1 SPS on the master server.

This is a really brief description of what's involved. Take a look at the release note for the full details.


Sunday May 27, 2007

SPS - More Best Practises and hints

Have you always wondered how things are coded and why, or why someone uses more execNative than others. Some people like to distribute a whole bunch of scripts that they run after deploying them. Why should I create a component type and when you I just create XML templates and use a lot of copy paste.

We have tried to answer some of these questions in documents that we would refer to as best practises document but also guidelines based on years of experience.

Here is one example (taken from the document):

5.6. Plan Parameters

 Pros Flexible to use since you set them when installing the components.
Static components due to "interactive" installs... Passwords since they
may not always be allowed storing somewhere.
 Cons The variables are not stored after install of component. Hard to re-use
variables. This will however change a little bit when we release SPS
6.0 later this year, where we are introduciong Variable Sets for Plans.
 Example of usage
 Using this kind of variables is perfect for non static data that is
only needed when doing the installation and when you need an
interaction from the operator running the plan. This should be used
when doing ad-hoc plans where one just need a quick response back
without the complexity of updating the component or container and also
avoid the version number increase. A typical example when this is used
is when you have a plan that simply reports a specific logfile or
textfile back to the Web UI, i.e. /usr/bin/cat <filename> where
filename would be the parameters inputted by the user at run-time.

The following example is a complete XML of a working plan. This is because all sections are needed to exemplify the use of plan parameters, e.g. paramList is needed to be able to use the parameter in combination with the execNative procedure.

<executionPlan xmlns:xsi='' name='StartServer-plan' version='5.0' path=/ >
        <param name='ServerName' prompt='Enter server to start:'>
        <var name='RunUser' default=':[session:UserName]'>
        <execNative userToRunAs=':[RunUser]'>
            <exec value=''></exec>
            <arg value=':[ServerName]'></arg>

For more information, please read at the following links:



Stay tuned for information about the SPS 6.0 release coming up...

Friday May 04, 2007

More Buried Treasure: N1 SPS Developer Guidelines on BigAdmin

Digging around on BigAdmin can really pay off where N1 SPS is concerned. In my last post, I talked about the N1 SPS Usage Best Practices Guide (PDF). For this post, I'll highlight the N1 SPS Developer Guidelines (PDF) document.

This guide describes a lot of key information about how to work with the N1 SPS XML schema for containers, components, and plans. Personal highlights for me:

  • Pro/Con tables describing the advantages and disadvantages for using key features of the N1 SPS XML schema
  • Good section describing how to use variables in components and plans
  • Detailed discussion of how to use the <execNative> element to execute commands native to the target operating system
  • Command line samples for common or useful commands
Definitely worth a look, as is the IT Management Hub on BigAdmnin.

Friday Apr 27, 2007

Hidden Jewel: N1 SPS Usage Best Practices on BigAdmin

BigAdmin can be a tough place to find information. It's big, it's community driven, and it's trying to satisfy the needs of a variety of customers. It's your best friend -- and, sometimes, your best friend can be incredibly frustrating to work with.

 So let me be your BigAdmin search engine, and point you to a great document you might not know about -- the N1 SPS Usage Best Practices Guide (PDF). Peter Charpentier and Toli Kuznets, the authors, have compiled a bunch of great information here to help you get the most of out N1 SPS software. And it's short and sweet -- 31 pages total. Not even long enough to put you to sleep.

 The two sections of this guide that got me interested?

  • CLUI Command Deciphering (p. 12, despite what it says in the table of contents) - This section breaks down the N1 SPS command line syntax, mapping out the architecture of the CLI.
  • Modeling (p. 17) - This section describes two approaches to modeling your applications in N1 SPS -- essentially, how you break down your application into distinct parts, then capture those parts as SPS objects.
This guide's been available on BigAdmin for a while, and perhaps many of you have seen it already. But, for those who haven't, there's a lot of good information there, and on the IT Management Hub on BigAdmin.





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