Cloud

How to sign up, create a VM, and destroy it on Rackspace

Are you shopping around for cloud infrastructure? Nick Hardiman takes you through the basic Rackspace sign-up and virtual machine creation process.

Creating a Rackspace Cloud account is similar to creating an AWS account and creating an HPcloud account. There is no upfront cash or regular base payment. The money is spent later, renting infrastructure services.

You need a few things to get started - a credit card, a web browser, a solid Internet connection, half an hour, a basic knowledge of Internet infrastructure and an IT need.

All self-service sign-up is done using that global universal customer access tool, the web. The Rackspace Cloud website is simplified, stabilized and beautified to the point where even my dad - who has the IT skills of a caveman -- would find it acceptable.

You can also view a short gallery of the Rackspace basics that are explained in more detail below.

Terms of service

During the sign-up process, you must agree to the dozens of paragraphs in the terms of service. There are 33 sections, from "Access" to "Who may use the service". It's easier for an individual to agree than for an enterprise.

An individual can assume that as long as he behaves reasonably, he can expect Rackspace to behave reasonably. It's easy to understand what the relationship will be and there is no need to explore the philosophy of what "reasonable" means.

A team in an enterprise must put in some work to make sure these terms match business requirements, and decide what risk the enterprise is taking.

Sign up for Rackspace

Rackspace offer a selection of cloud account types. For small-scale use and evaluation, choose the Cloud Account option. This gives you access to a good set of infrastructure components including servers, storage, and load balancers.

The Managed Cloud Account option (with the Recommended label) is for organizations who are ready to take the plunge and build up an ongoing relationship with Rackspace.

  1. Open a web browser.
  2. Go to the URL http://www.rackspace.com/cloud/. The Rackspace Cloud home page appears, with a SIGN UP button.
  3. Click the SIGN UP button. The first page of the sign-up form appears (https://cart.rackspace.com/cloud/).
  4. Fill in the sign up form. It's split into Create an Account, Account Information, Billing Information and Confirmation pages.
    • Choose some account details, such as picking a password.
    • Enter your identity information, including phone number and company name.
    • Add your payment information. Sign-up is free, so no money is taken.
    • A welcome page appears.
  5. Check your e-mail. The self-service system generates a welcome message for you. A little while later, a Rackspace employee sends you another welcome message for an extra personal touch.
  6. View the control panel (https://mycloud.rackspace.com/). First-time users get something unusual - a short welcome video. It's the first of a set of YouTube videos about Rackspace.
  7. Log out.
  8. Close the web browser.

Go for a spin

If you like the sound of Rackspace, why not give it a go? Here's a simple procedure to create a small Rackspace Cloud machine, check it works, and destroy it.

Rackspace offer dozens of ready-rolled images for you to choose from - half are Linux-based and half are Microsoft Windows based. It's a great selection. There is Arch Linux, for the rough and tough Linux nerd. There are Red Hat Enterprise Linux and Server 2012, for the enterprise sysadmin. There are Fedora and Ubuntu for the masses.

Rackspace's shift to OpenStack

If you had a look at Rackspace servers in the past, you may find things have changed. There has been a front-end shift to a next-generation cloud control panel. The next generation control panel (at https://mycloud.rackspace.com/) replaced the first generation control panel (at https://manage.rackspacecloud.com/) in 2012. The legacy technology stack is still in operation.

Rackspace has also migrated the back-end to OpenStack. If you have a look at the process list of your new Rackspace Cloud Linux machine, you will see something called nova-agent. Nova is the compute part of Openstack.

Create a new VM (Virtual Machine)

VMs are controlled using a web UI (User Interface). That's a snooty way of saying web browser.

  1. Open a web browser.
  2. Open the URL https://mycloud.rackspace.com/. A login page appears.
  3. Log in to the Rackspace cloud control panel. A servers page appears. It's pretty easy to spot what to do next because a great big arrow points to a Create Servers button. Being a bit of an idiot, I love idiot help like this.
  4. Click the Create Servers button. A Create Server form appears.
  5. Fill in the Identity section.
    • Server name: I typed test01 in the Server Name field. This server is going to have an extremely limited lifespan so I don't need a robust naming policy. Pick any region.
    • Region: The available regions are Dallas (DFW) (home of Rackspace) and Chicago.
  6. Choose an Image. I chose the cloud favourite, Ubuntu 12.04 LTS (Precise Pangolin).
  7. Specify the Size. The smallest and cheapest, with 1 CPU, 512MB memory and a 20GB disk, costs about two cents an hour.
  8. Press the Create Server button. An information page appears, but you can't really see it because a modal window is stuck on top of it. The window displays your new root password. The password is a random string of 12 characters, such as cD9sXAqrrLqP.
  9. Copy the new password. This is your complete set of security credentials. If you know this, you're in.
  10. Paste it somewhere safe. For this kind of transient test a text editor, word processor or even a piece of paper is fine.
  11. Click the Dismiss Password button. The modal window closes.
  12. Wait a few minutes for your server build to finish. The Server Status field counts up from 0% to 100% and finally changes from Building to Active. After a minute values appear in the Networks section of the page.
  13. Copy the Networks IPv4 address, in the PublicNet (Internet) field. It looks something like 50.56.175.220.
  14. Past your IP address wherever you put your root password.

Use SSH to connect to your new server

This part happens with a CLI (Command Line Interface), not the web browser.

The only way of talking to an AWS EC2 machine and an HP Cloud machine is by following the SSH (Secure SHell) protocol. If, like most people, you use Windows, you can install PuTTY to connect to your new machine. If you use Linux or Mac OS X you already have the OpenSSH client ready to go.

Anyone on the Internet can try to log into your new VM (Virtual Machine), if they can find it. SSH only lets someone with the right security credentials in. AWS and HP Cloud use public key authentication to stop strangers accessing the VM, and Rackspace uses a root password.

1.     Gather the information you need to connect.

a.     IP address: 50.56.175.220 b.     Name: root c.      Password: cD9sXAqrrLqP

2.     Use an SSH client. I use a Mac so I open a terminal and type ssh root@50.56.175.220, like this.

My-MacBook-Pro:~ nick$ ssh root@50.56.175.220

The authenticity of host '50.56.175.220 (50.56.175.220)' can't be established.

RSA key fingerprint is f5:80:11:c9:65:09:17:af:c2:55:95:96:83:19:9a:67.

Are you sure you want to continue connecting (yes/no)? yes

Warning: Permanently added '50.56.175.220' (RSA) to the list of known hosts.

root@50.56.175.220's password: cD9sXAqrrLqP

Welcome to Ubuntu 12.04 LTS (GNU/Linux 3.2.0-24-virtual x86_64)

* Documentation:  https://help.ubuntu.com/

System information as of Sun Jan 13 17:44:57 UTC 2013

System load:  0.13              Processes:           60

Usage of /:   5.0% of 19.68GB   Users logged in:     0

Memory usage: 8%                IP address for eth0: 50.56.175.220

Swap usage:   0%                IP address for eth1: 10.180.37.43

Graph this data and manage this system at https://landscape.canonical.com/

0 packages can be updated.

0 updates are security updates.

The programs included with the Ubuntu system are free software;

the exact distribution terms for each program are described in the

individual files in /usr/share/doc/*/copyright.

Ubuntu comes with ABSOLUTELY NO WARRANTY, to the extent permitted by

applicable law.

root@test01:~#

My new system displays all sorts of information. I'm not interested in any of this right now. I just wanted to make sure I could connect to my new VM.

3.     Log out.

root@test01:~# logout

Connection to 50.56.175.220 closed.

My-MacBook-Pro:~ nick$

4.     Close the SSH client.

Destroy the VM.

  1. Go back to the web UI.
  2. Click on the Actions button on the right (the one with the picture of a gear). A drop-down menu opens, with many commands.
  3. Click the Delete Server... option, at the bottom of the list.
  4. An "Are you Sure?"-style box opens, asking: Permanently delete server test01?
  5. Click the Delete Server button. The Cloud Servers page opens, with a list of machines (you only have one). You may see a message saying Performing server deletion or Server successfully deleted.

Clean up.

  1. Click your name top right. A drop-down menu appears with a few account options.
  2. Select Log Out. The login page appears again, but this time with the confirmation message You've successfully logged out.
  3. Close the web browser.

Check your bill.

Remember to check your bill from time to time. Use the link at (account name) > Billing to keep an eye on what cash you have spent.

Compare and contrast AWS, HP Cloud and Rackspace Cloud.

How many ways can you use a web UI to create a virtual machine? Click a button, spin one up, do your stuff, click another button and it's gone, right? Well, there are a few differences. If you have a few pennies and an hour or two to spend, go through this procedure to create and destroy a Rackspace machine, and also work your way through these procedures.

About

Nick Hardiman builds and maintains the infrastructure required to run Internet services. Nick deals with the lower layers of the Internet - the machines, networks, operating systems, and applications. Nick's job stops there, and he hands over to the ...

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