DEA Auto Scaling

Helion Stackato can automatically add DEA nodes to a cluster to handle increasing numbers of user application instances. This feature, called auto scaling, is available for clusters running on vSphere, EC2, or OpenStack.

When auto scaling is enabled, stackato will automatically grow the pool of DEA nodes to accommodate new app deployments. Scaling events are triggered when the available memory in the pool falls below a certain threshold.

DEA Template

Before enabling auto scaling, you will need to create a DEA template from the standard Helion Stackato VM. Typically you would do this by running the following commands on a fresh Helion Stackato VM:

$ kato op defer "node attach -e dea <CORE_IP>" --run-as-root
$ ssh-copy-id stackato@<CORE_IP>

This defers the attach command and enables the DEA role on the next boot. Shut down the VM once this is done (for example, sudo shutdown -h now).

vSphere Templates

When shutting down in vSphere, right click the VM in vCenter and click Create a Template. It is important that it is a template object so that it can be seamlessly deployed to any of the available ESXi hosts.


Select the stopped DEA instance and choose Actions > Instance Management > Create Image. Set an image name and optional description, then click Create Image. This saves the instance as an AMI which will appear in the AMIs view. Use the AMI ID for this template image in the autoscaling.yaml configuration file (below).

DEA Scaling configuration

The DEA auto scaling configuration file is /s/etc/autoscaling/autoscaling.yaml. This file must be modified on each node running the Controller role.

Comments throughout the file describe in detail what each option does, and what information is required for each infrastructure platform.

The enabled_plugins key must be set to one of the following:

  • EC2
  • OpenStack
  • vSphere
  • CloudStack


It is possible to enable multiple plugins, but this is generally not recommended. You could use this feature to implement a "ping" plugin that does not provision a DEA, but instead sends a notification email, or pings a remote API.

Each platform has specific tunable settings under the platform key in autoscaling.yaml for setting authorization credentials, DEA template IDs and so forth. Configure the settings for your platform in this file before proceeding.


The security_group key in the EC2 section of autoscaling.yaml has been changed to security_group_ids. Specify the AWS Security Groups by ID rather than name in this setting.

Enabling Auto-Scaling

Run the following command on the Primary node:

$ kato config set cloud_controller_ng autoscaling/enabled true
$ kato config set health_manager autoscaling/enabled true


If you are running more than one cloud controller in your cluster, enable the scaling plugin on only one of the cloud controllers, otherwise each one will provision a separate DEA on every scaling event.

After saving this change, restart the following processes:

$ kato process restart health_manager cloud_controller_ng

You should then start seeing some scaling information in the Health Manager's log file:

$ kato log tail health_manager

Configuration and Tuning (Advanced)

A number of configuration options in the autoscaling file can be customized to fit your particular requirements.

The options in /s/etc/autoscaling/autoscaling.yaml are:

Specifies how long the scaler will wait for the plugin to complete a scale up operation (Default: 300, Unit: seconds).
After a scaling event, ignore subsequent scaling requests until this period expires. Prevents duplicate scaling events. (Default: 120, Unit: seconds)
Gives the new Helion Stackato VM instance a name with this prefix to easily identify autoscaled instances.

Further settings are found in the health_manager configuration (see kato config get health_manager autoscaling):

Number of cycles to wait before issuing a scaling request. The health manager monitors the DEA pool continually. If the forward buffer is not maintained during the number of cycles indicated by this value, the scaling event will be sent to the cloud controller. Decrease this value to make autoscaling more aggressive (Default: 3)

The number of megabytes of free memory to maintain in the DEA pool.


Application memory usage on each DEA is also accounted for (Default: 4096, Unit: MB)

After a scaling event, ignore subsequent scaling requests until this period expires (Default: 180, Unit: seconds)
Maximum time to wait for DEAs to report their status via NATS. If a DEA fails to report in during this period (for example, it becomes unresponsive) it will be removed from the pool, which may lead to a new scaling event being triggered (Default: 180, Unit: seconds)

Writing custom scaling plugins (Advanced)

Autoscaling plugins are written in Ruby. You can see the built-in plugins in the /s/etc/autoscaling/plugins/ directory. A simpler "skeleton" plugin might look like this:

require 'rubygems'

class SkeletonPlugin < Plugin

  def platform_name

  def scale_up
    log "Scaling up..."
    log platform_config.inspect

  def handle_command
    log "Handling command: #{cmd}"


The log function is available to all plugins and operates at the cloud controllers global log level.

Once you have written a plugin, install the file in /s/etc/autoscaling/plugins/. Add configuration for the plugin in /s/etc/autoscaling/autoscaling.yaml under the platform_config key in a new section corresponding to the plugin name (in this case above: skeleton). Enable the plugin by adding it to the enabled_plugins list.


Most of the output from the scaling triggers comes from the health manager:

$ kato log tail health_manager

Once scaling has been triggered by the health manager, you can check for the relevant platform API output in the controller:

$ kato log tail cloud_controller_ng

If you are using vSphere, make sure to monitor any logs and events on the vCenter GUI. A common issue is running out of available disk space on the filestores for new deployments.

For EC2, you can monitor using the AWS console. It can provide useful insights into the health of the instance such as network reach-ability and OS responsiveness, as well as setting administrative alerts.