What We’ve Shipped: Docker Machine, Moving Secondary Discs & More

Picture by Ibrahim Rifath

We’re committed to making Bytemark Cloud the best choice for your cloud hosting needs. This means developing Bytemark Cloud with new features and enhancements based upon your feedback.

Since our last post back in September, we’ve added:

  • Improvements to our new billing system, Dynamic Billing
  • The ability to use Service Credits on Dynamic Billing
  • Usability improvements to the Panel, making account management easier
  • Improvements to our Simple Load Balancers to add ‘Sticky Sessions’
  • Docker Machine Driver support,
  • Support for long-life API keys
  • The ability to move secondary discs between VMs
  • One Click Installs – Start a new VM with WordPress, Nginx or other OSS software installed in one click.
  • Behind the scenes improvements to increase performance and ensure reliability

These features will be rolling out to all customers within the next 2 weeks.

Dynamic Billing Improvements

Dynamic Billing is an essential part of our vision for the future of Bytemark. When we launched Bytemark Cloud in June 2011, we started charging in-advance for Bytemark Cloud. This works when you rarely change your account and your Bytemark Cloud usage is the same, using servers for months at a time.

In June 2018, the world has changed. Development is fast-paced and our customers expect to be able to use Bytemark Cloud dynamically, using our cloud servers as required, often for hours at a time. This leads to inconsistent usage patterns and complicated invoices.

Whereas our in-advance billing refunds and re-issues invoices upon account changes, ‘Dynamic Billing’ charges you for your total usage at the end of the month, calculated per minute. Not only does this simplify invoices, but it also enables you to watch your server usage closely, ensuring your infrastructure is efficient and on budget.

Since the initial test in July, we’ve added the following improvements:

  • Your current balance is now in account overview, helping you to keep on budget.
  • You can now buy ‘Service Credits’. Service Credit is like having a pot of money which can be used to purchase Bytemark services.
    • This enables pre-payments for Bytemark services without needing to contact support. Simply purchase service credit to cover your usage and we’ll debit from it each month. We hope this makes your accounting easier!
    • Sponsorships, refunds, overpayments, and other credits will now be issued as service credits, making invoices easier to understand.
    • This enables various Cloud Native billing situations. For example, paying a predictable monthly fee upfront for a cluster with a service credit, then paying for spot/dynamic usage (overage) in-arrears.

I’m delighted to share that ‘Dynamic Billing’ for Bytemark Cloud is now the default option for all new customers, and current customers can switch to Dynamic Billing by emailing product@bytemark.co.uk.

Usability Improvements to the Panel

Bytemark Panel is the easiest way to manage your Bytemark account and services. In this update, we’re preparing for our exciting rebrand and making Panel even easier to use:

  • Improved navigation, making your profile and account settings easier to find
  • A new lighter color scheme and improvements to responsiveness on wider displays
  • Additional documentation links within the Bytemark Panel
  • Speed improvements

Docker Machine Driver

We’ve written our own Docker Machine Driver for Bytemark Cloud. This enables you to install Docker Engine on Bytemark VMs, and manage these VMs with docker-machine commands. It can also be used as part of Docker Swarm and Kubernetes, to automatically provision and configure VMs.

The Docker Machine Driver will be available soon here.

Using docker-machine commands, you can start, inspect, stop, and restart a managed host, upgrade the Docker client and daemon, and configure a Docker client to talk to your host.

Point the Machine CLI at a running, managed host, and you can run docker commands directly on that host. For example, run docker-machine env default to point to a host called default, follow on-screen instructions to complete env setup, and run docker ps, docker run hello-world, and so forth.

Support for API keys

In the past, we only offered short-lived expiring tokens, which needed to be requested and reissued frequently for dynamic infrastructure creation. Now, we have platform-level support for long-life API keys with privilege support – so you can dynamically provision infrastructure without giving whole account access via a token. Please contact support@bytemark.co.uk to request API keys.

In coming weeks, we’ll be offering the ability to create privilege limited API keys within Panel, enabling you to dynamically create Bytemark Cloud infrastructure via Terraform, Kubernetes, Docker Swarm and other orchestration platforms.

Improvements to our Simple Load Balancers to add ‘Sticky Sessions’

Our Simple Load Balancers are configured within the Bytemark Panel, with no code or complicated configuration required. Simply select your target instances, point your web traffic at the load balancer and we handle the rest. They are also available via the Bytemark Cloud API, enabling dynamic on-demand scaling for our advanced users.

In this update, we’ve added ‘Sticky Session’ support.

Previously, our Simple Load Balancers independently routed each request to the registered instance with the smallest load. However, they will now use sticky sessions by default (also known as session affinity), which enables the load balancer to bind a user’s session to a specific instance. This ensures that all requests from the user during the session are sent to the same instance. This prevents user states, such as sessions or other data, from being lost.

The ability to move secondary discs between VMs

One of our most request features is coming to Bytemark Panel! You can now move secondary drives instantly between powered-off Cloud Servers from Panel, enabling instant moving of large amounts of data and easier migrations and upgrades.

One Click Installs

Skip the installation and setup, get straight to deploying your code using one of our pre-built images, straight from our documentation. We’ll be adding support for WordPress, Node.js, Ruby on Rails, MongoDB, Docker, and many more in the coming weeks.

Thanks for reading!

These features will be rolling out to all customers over the next few weeks. As ever, we plan to continue to develop Bytemark Cloud over time with more features that are useful to you. If you have feedback or feature suggestions we’d love to hear them – please send me an email [peter.white[at]bytemark.co.uk] – I’d love to talk to you.