HashiCorp finds a successor to Vagrant, introduces Otto and Nomad

Technology product nomenclature is hilarious. This is an industry which prides itself on coming up with some pretty bizarre names. But what's behind HashiCorp's change of naming convention?

HashiCorp is a company offering a host of different open source tools, all focused on helping developers and system administrators deliver and manage their applications. The company was founded by Mitchell Hashimoto (hence the name) and Armon Dadgar back in 2012. The two saw that the way data centers were being run was changing and that there was a need for a new generation of tools to help with development, delivery, and maintenance of applications.

Since that time the company has created a veritable feast of individual tools, including Vagrant, Packer, Serf, Consul, Terraform, Vault, Nomad and Otto. A couple of those names are new for today, so let's take a look at what Nomad and Otto are all about.

Otto is a new tool that is built upon the success that the company has seen with its first tool, Vagrant. Otto is an application delivery tool that aims to unify the workflow used from development to production. While Vagrant still exists, Otto takes the five years of experience that users have, and boils that down to the new tool, Otto. The tool is, like other HashiCorp tools, free and available to download. It is, however, like other HashiCorp tools, available packaged up with the rest of the suite as Atlas. Atlas, the management hub for HashiCorp's tool offerings, is priced at $40/node/month with the first 10 nodes free.

The hook into the commercial product is a logical one - to collaborate on Otto's configuration file, securely store credentials, save configurations, and enforce access control policies, Otto requires Atlas. The relationship between Otto and Atlas is similar to the relationship between Git and GitHub.

In terms of use, development, operations, and security teams collaborate on the design of applications and infrastructure through Otto's codified Appfile. Appfiles are a simple high-level specification that declare complex, multi-tier applications which can be deployed to multiple infrastructure providers as VMs or containers. For experienced users, Otto's Appfile specification still generates the configuration files for HashiCorp's other tools for service configuration, service deployment, environment provisioning, service discovery, and security policy.

“Otto is the successor to Vagrant and completes the HashiCorp vision for application delivery, building upon Vagrant, Packer, Terraform, Serf, Consul, Vault, and Nomad. Otto presents an efficient, simple developer and operator experience, and Atlas is the powerful management and collaboration counterpart," said Mitchell Hashimoto, co-founder and CEO of HashiCorp. "Otto builds upon five years of Vagrant success, active development and user feedback to deliver on the promise of simple, reliable, and secure application delivery.”

Alongside Otto, HashiCorp is today releasing Nomad, a scheduler for deployment. Nomad is a reaction to the increasing attention toward containers generally, and Docker in particular, and is designed to make the scheduling of container deployments easy, quick, scalable and flexible. Also a free download, but available within Atlas as a commercial product, Nomad looks set to create some waves in a space that already sees a host of different projects and vendors jockeying for position.

As for how Nomad works, it is a single binary that handles resource pooling, job management, and task scheduling. It is not dependent on any other services. A Nomad agent is installed on each host to collect information on available resources (CPU, memory, disk). This information is sent to the Nomad servers, which are responsible for accepting jobs, determining which hosts have available resources, and finally scheduling tasks on those hosts.

HashiCorp is in a relatively busy space but has a couple of things going for it. Firstly, the fact that its tools are open source and hence can easily be adopted by individual developers and slowly built into the way they work will help with ground-up adoption. Secondarily, Hashimoto told me that the company isn't focused on building tools so much as it is supporting distinct parts of the DevOps workflow. That seems to me like a slightly semantic distinction, especially given that the individual components that HashiCorp builds look very much like tools by another name. That said, HashiCorp and its suite of tools workflows do seem to have some industry buy-in. The last word goes to a happy customer:

"We've put tremendous trust in the full suite of HashiCorp tools to be the foundation of our infrastructure at Conde Nast Commerce. The simplicity that Otto brings will now make our lives as developers and operators easier, save us time, and improve our productivity," said Ben McRae, Head of Technical Operations at Conde Nast Commerce. "The industry has needed this kind of abstraction in ops for a long time, and it's finally here with Otto."

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