GNU Smalltalk deployment with images and image resumption

Once up on a time I was sitting in a cold hall at the Barcelona exhibition ground, a power outage has taken down several DVB-H platforms (racks consisting of servers, streamers, RF equipment...) and once power was restored red LEDs were blinking, systems not coming up automatically, hordes of engineers trying to boot the right kernel, trying to remember the multicast routes they had typed in by hand, chaos, hectic. It was interesting to witness that as we could lay back, continue with our work, as our platform was configured to come up automatically and it did.

One has to assume that stuff breaks, software, disk, RAM, CPU, power supply, anything. The only answer to that is be prepared, build your software to deal with failure (or nicely try to restart), make sure all systems start automatically, have backups, have a plan.

For my GSM (telephony) in Smalltalk components I didn't do that yet, mostly because my code was not very mature, I was still building up the trust relationship and so my deployment consisted of manually running GNU screen, then GNU Smalltalk, manually loading my code, starting things up. It was about time to correct that.

The tool of choice is the gst-remote application, it will run a GNU Smalltalk image, it can daemonize and it will listen for input from other systems. While moving to this deployment my fellow Smalltalkers were kind enough to fix some bugs on the way. There was an issue of gst-remote exiting when saving an image, the Delay class not functioning properly on resume, the wrong FileDescriptors being closed on image resumption. It is very nice to get help that fast!

My deployment now consists of building GNU Smalltalk packages, having a Smalltalk script to load the package and call start method of that package followed by taking a snapshot and exiting. I can then resume the image and if the software is prepared to deal with image resumption it will work.

Eval [
  | name image |
  name := Smalltalk arguments first.
  image := Smalltalk arguments second.

  (PackageLoader packageAt: name)
       fileIn;
       start.
  ObjectMemory
       snapshot: image;
       quit.
]

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