In my last blog post on Formulas with Forms last November I explained the basic ideas and concepts behind this new powerful feature and gave you some insight how Formulas with Forms started as a SUSE Hackweek project.
I won’t repeat all that today, but for those of you who, like myself, usually don’t read all the documentation and collaterals, this is what makes Formulas with Forms so special:
Usually, when we are talking about managing system configuration, there are only two extremes:
Either you can use the cool wizard that’s great for the very first installation, but not so great if you have to use it hundreds of times, again and again, for every single system you need to set up. In German, we have a nice term for that kind of user experience: Klickibunti (roughly translated as “colorful stuff to click”.
Or you can use the “expert-style” API or command line approach. Easy to automate, but not always easy to grasp for the admin who is doing it for the first time and maybe doesn’t have a major in bash scripting or Python.
At SUSE, we’ve always tried to bring those two worlds together as well as we could. Just think of how you can use the SUSE Manager UI or script Manager from the API, or how AutoYaST allows you to automate the very same steps you would usually go through in the graphical installer for SUSE Linux Enterprise Server.
But even our great YaST framework sets bar pretty high for writing your own modules. You need to learn Ruby, get familiar with the YaST framework, learn how to package things up for SUSE, you name it.
Formulas with Forms change that:
Let’s say that you are the developer of that cool next-generation “not even No-SQL” database and you want to make it really easy for your end users to install it on their systems. Of course you want to address both the “DevOps” audience that wants to automate things in a truly “Infrastructure as Code” style as well as the first-time user who just wants to try out things by clicking through a few UI pages.
Salt Formulas give you one of the most comfortable ways of writing the DevOps automation. Formulas, by convention, even come with an example file that helps the user of the Formula with knowing which parameters (or pillars, as they are called in Salt speak) they need to provide to customize the installation to their needs.
Now, what if we could take that very same code implementation and re-use it for the UI experience we want to provide to the end user?
That’s exactly what we did: With just another easy to write metadata file that marks up the pillar example with information about what the default values are and how to present them to an end user (check box, drop-down menu, password field, …), the writer of a Formula can add UI support!
See the previous post for more details. And now for the well-kept secret: If you want to give Formulas with Forms a try, just run the following command on your fully patched SUSE Manager 3.0 server (as root or using sudo):
zypper install locale-formula
Now you have some new tabs in your SUSE Manager 3.0 UI that allow you to add a form to an individual system or a whole system group in SUSE Manager to configure the keyboard layout, time zone, and language on your systems!
To learn more about this feature, and all the other new things in SUSE Manager, join one of our upcoming webinars:
- June 28 (recorded) – Getting ready for a world of compliant containers with SUSE Manager
- July 6 – Compliant containers with SUSE Manager – Grow Your Technical Knowledge
We also have the Formulas with Forms documentation online now!
This is Joachim Werner blogging live from the SUSE headquarters in Nuremberg, where we can keep secrets if we want to, but sometimes prefer sharing them with you. 🙂