One of my very first contributions to AppScale was a component named AppsCake. AppsCake is a dynamic web component, which provides a web frontend for the command-line AppScale Tools. It enables the users to deploy and start AppScale over several different types of infrastructure. This greatly reduces the overhead of starting and managing a PaaS as most of the heavy lifting operations can be performed easily by a click of a button. Users do not need to learn the AppScale Tools commands nor they have to be familiar with any command-line interface. With AppsCake, a regular web browser is all you need to initialize AppScale and start deploying applications in the cloud.
As of now AppsCake supports deploying AppScale over virtualized clusters (eg: Xen), Amazon EC2 and Eucalyptus. Users can select the environment in which AppScale should be deployed and provide the required credentials and other metadata for the target environment through the web interface. AppsCake takes care of invoking the proper command sequences with the appropriate arguments to initialize AppScale. The web frontend also allows the users to view deployment logs and monitor the deployment progress in near real-time.
This component can be further extended and be offered as a service of its own if needed. That way, users can access AppsCake through a well-known URL and setup an AppScale deployment remotely for the purpose of executing a specific task or an application. As an example consider a group of scientists who want to run various scientific computations in the cloud (say as MPI or MapReduce jobs). The group can use a private Eucalyptus cluster or a shared EC2 account as their computing infrastructure. The group can be provided with a single well-known AppsCake instance as the entry point for AppScale. Then whenever a member of the team wants to run a computation on the target shared environment, he or she can use the AppsCake service to initiate his or her own AppScale instance and run the required computation in the cloud. This scheme maximizes resource sharing while providing sufficient isolation between applications/jobs initiated by individual users.
AppsCake is implemented using Ruby and Sinatra. To try this out, simply checkout the source from Github, and execute the bin/debian_setup.sh script (build script only supports Debian/Ubuntu environments as of now). Then execute bin/appscake to start the AppsCake web service. Now you can point your browser to https://localhost:28443 and start interacting with the service.
Chris has posted a neat little screencast that explains how to use AppsCake to deploy AppScale on Virtual Box. Don’t forget to check that out too.