Alan Bottom Up

In this article we’ll take a look at how everything in Alan connects, from the bottom up.


A typical Alan runtime environment, e.g. as provided by our standard ISO, looks like this:

║[            alan server             ]║
║[   linux kernel + some core utils   ]║  <- or macOS, Ubuntu 16.04+, etc

We depend on a number of Unix utilities, so Alan runs on top of a tiny custom Linux distro. The initial Alan layer provides a basic infrastructure server to interact with.

When you deploy an image to the server, it will pull additional runtimes from the cloud based on information in that image. This creates the final runtime “stack”. For a basic project, this includes:

Systems in the stack can expose interfaces, but otherwise stacks are isolated containers running on top of the server:

┌────────────── stack A ───────────────┐
│[ datastore ][ reporter ][ webclient ]│
│[        alan operating system       ]│
║[            alan server             ]║
║[   linux kernel + some core utils   ]║


An “image” for deployment contains data for each system and configuration for the runtime environment. This includes ports, scheduled tasks, etc. An image also contains a versions list, telling the server which runtimes to download.

The image also contains the project package, which (via the wiring) tells the alan operating system how all the systems should talk to each other.

So, you can think of the image as the complete set of instructions for the server to create the stack you’ve designed.

You compile an image using ./alan package <project.pkg> <deployment>, i.e. by combining the project package with a deployment configuration.

┌────────────── image ───────────────┐
| deployment.alan                    │
│ system instance data               │
│ data migration packages            │
│ runtime ("minor") versions         │
│                                    │
│ ┌─────────── project ────────────┐ │
│ │ wiring.alan                    │ │
│ │ interface configuration │ │
│ │ system configuration           │ │
│ │ design time ("major") versions │ │
│ └────────────────────────────────┘ │


A project contains the “source code” for the systems you want to use, and a configuration for how the systems are wired together. E.g. the server provides data that the client then consumes. When you bootstrap a project, Alan downloads the specifications for each system-type, that tell us exactly what each system can provide or consume.

When two systems talk to each other, they do so based on an “interface” specification. E.g. an application model serves as the interface between client and server.

In the systems directory you find each system, each with their own configuration. The reporter system type has queries for each report, the webclient has some settings like the display name of your application and the datastore can define how to implement external interfaces.

You compile a project using ./alan build, resulting in the project.pkg that’s the basis for creating an image.

See also the FAQ for more information about versions.