How Tiles Work

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Product tiles make it easy for cloud operators to offer new and upgraded software services to developers in a Pivotal Cloud Foundry (PCF) deployment. Pivotal Network distributes these tiles as zipped code directories, with filename extension .pivotal, that contain or point to all of the software elements that perform the tile’s functions.

This topic explains what each functional element of a tile does and how you create or specify it as input to the Tile Generator tool that creates .pivotal files.

This topic also describes the typical structure of a tile directory. This is useful information for modifying generated tiles or legacy tiles that were created without the Tile Generator.

Tile Functions

PCF service tiles perform multiple functions that streamline the use of software services on PCF, including:

  • Deploy a service broker that interfaces between the Cloud Controller, PCF’s main executive component, and the service.

  • Publish a catalog of available service plans to the Services Marketplace.

  • Define an interface for configuring service properties in Ops Manager.

  • Generate a BOSH manifest for deploying instances of the service, populating it with both user-configured and fixed properties.

  • Run BOSH errands: deploy errands that set PCF up to run the service when an operator first deploys the service, and delete errands that clean up when an operator deletes the service.

  • Define dependencies for the tile, to prevent Ops Manager from installing the service when its dependencies are missing.

  • Support one-click installation and upgrading from previous versions.

These functions are described in more detail below.

Service Broker

Service brokers integrate services with PCF by providing an API for the Cloud Controller to create service instances, bind them to apps, and perform other operations. The Service Broker API v2.10 topic specifies requirements for this API.

Each service tile acts as a wrapper for a service broker. Installing the tile creates its service broker, registers it with the Cloud Controller, and publishes the service plans that the broker offers.

You can write a service broker in any language, and it can run anywhere, inside your PCF installation or external. See Example Service Brokers for sample code in Ruby, Java, and Go.

Specify the service broker for a tile in the tile directory’s tile.yml file, as a package with type: set to app-broker, docker-app-broker, or external-broker. The external-broker type requires a uri value, for the service broker location.


Service brokers include catalog metadata that list their service plans. This information publishes to the Marketplace that app developers use to browse and select services.

Developers on either PCF or open-source Cloud Foundry see a plain-text version of the Marketplace by running cf marketplace. But PCF also features a graphical Marketplace, and PCF service brokers support this Marketplace with additional catalog metadata fields for display names, logo images, and links to more information and documentation.

Define this catalog metadata for your service by writing your service broker to return the API calls listed in the Catalog Metadata topic.


In the Ops Manager Installation Dashboard, service tiles present a form-based interface that cloud operators use to configure the service. These configured properties become part of the BOSH manifest that PCF uses to deploy instances of the service.

You define this configuration interface in the forms: section of the tile.yml configuration file that you pass to the Tile Generator. Each named form element defines a configuration pane accessible under the tile’s Settings tab.

A left-side menu lists all configuration panes and indicates with check marks which ones have been configured. The menu lists service-specific panes, defined by the tile developer, between system-level panes like Assign AZs and Networks and Resource Config that all PCF products and services use.

Form Layout

Each form, or configuration pane, has label for the menu text, a description to appear up top, and property_inputs that define the configuration fields themselves. Construct your forms by following the Property and Template References topic.

For each property, you can combine specifications for name, type, default, configurable, options, and constraints, under both the Form Properties and Property Blueprints sections of the topic.

Note: In the tile installer .yml that Tile Generator creates, form properties appear in two locations: a form_types section that defines the contents and layout of the configuration interface, and a property_blueprints section that defines the corresponding field value types and constraints.

Tile Appearance

In the Ops Manager Installation Dashboard, your service tile bears an identifying label, description, and logo icon. Specify these at the top of your tile.yml configuration file as label, description, and icon_file. The value of icon_file should be the name of a 128×128 pixel PNG image.

Fixed Properties

A tile also writes fixed, unconfigurable properties into the BOSH manifest that it creates. You specify these properties in your tile.yml configuration file using Double-Paren Expressions format.


Include credentials to pass into a BOSH manifest as salted_credentials in your tile.yml file. But you need not include credentials that already exist in other tiles, such as Pivotal Application Service. BOSH automatically generates these for any packages that require them.


Tile Generator automatically generates deploy and delete lifecycle errands for packages that deploy to PCF. These errand scripts deploy the service to PCF and publish its plans in the Marketplace, and remove the service from PCF and the Marketplace.

You can also define additional post_deploy and pre_delete errand scripts in tile.yml that prepare PCF to host the service or clean up before deleting it. You can configure these errands to run on their own dedicated VMs or co-locate them on existing errand VMs.

For bosh-release and docker-bosh packages, which run jobs directly on BOSH rather than on the PCF layer, you need to include post_deploy and pre_delete errands with their package definitions in tile.yml. Label them as lifecycle errands using lifecycle: errand and either post_deploy: true or pre_delete: true.

Tile Generator writes the bosh-release errands into the main BOSH release that it creates for the service, and adds docker-bosh errands into a separate Docker BOSH release that the main release depends on.


Include product dependencies under requires_product_versions at the top of your tile.yml file.

Update Rules

Tile Generator automatically generates the JavaScript migration file that enables one-click updates from Ops Manager. This file describes how to change existing tile property names and values in order to match the new version of the tile.

A mature tile may contain several of these .js files, from previous versions and the current one, to enable tile updates to automatically chain together in sequence.

You can add custom update code in the tile.yml Tile Generator configuration file, following the properties documented in the Migrating Tile Versions topic.

Tile File Format and Structure

Tile directories contain the following components, which include each other as shown:

  • BOSH release
    • Service source code
    • Service broker
    • Language-specific buildpack(s)
    • Errands (service start and stop scripts)
    • BOSH manifest (deployment properties for service)
      • Packages
      • Dependencies
  • Tile manifest template (adds properties into BOSH manifest)
    • Configuration forms and properties
    • Catalog metadata (for the Marketplace)
  • Migrations

The three required top-level subdirectories in a .pivotal tile directory are:

  • metadata - high-level information for configuring and publishing your service.
  • migrations - rules that govern tile upgrades.
  • releases - the BOSH releases that deploy your service.

The tile manifest template defines these subdirectory locations, so they can reside anywhere in the directory, but the typical structure looks like this:

├── example-product
│   ├── metadata
│   │   └── example-product.yml
│   ├── migrations
│   │   └── v1
│   │       ├── 201512301616_convert_14_transmogrifier_rules.js
│   │       ├── 201512301631_convert_15_16_transmogrifier_rules.js
│   │       └── 201611060205_example_migration.js
│   └── releases
│       └── example-release-18.tgz

.pivotal File Format

The entire tile directory is a zip file, with the .zip extension renamed to .pivotal.

$ file -.pivotal
p-example-product-1.0.0.pivotal: Zip archive data, at least v1.0 to extract

You can use any zip utility to create a .pivotal file. Ensure that the top-level subfolders as seen above in the example-product folder remain.

Within the tile’s releases subfolder, the BOSH release exists as a gzipped tarfile.

Example Workflow

$ cd example-product
$ zip -r example-product.pivotal metadata/ migrations/ releases/
$ unzip -l example-product.pivotal
Archive:  example-product.pivotal
  Length     Date   Time    Name
 --------    ----   ----    ----
        0  08-09-16 16:10   metadata/
    89458  08-09-16 16:10   metadata/example-product.yml
        0  07-08-16 09:32   migrations/
        0  07-08-16 09:32   migrations/v1/
      423  07-08-16 09:32   migrations/v1/201512301616_convert_14_transmogrifier_rules.js
     1228  07-08-16 09:32   migrations/v1/201512301631_convert_15_16_transmogrifier_rules.js
      582  07-08-16 09:32   migrations/v1/201611060205_example_migration.js
        0  08-09-16 16:11   releases/
        0  07-12-16 17:19   releases/example-release-18.tgz

GitHub Repository Structure

Tile developers typically develop and archive their code on GitHub, and their Concourse build pipeline pulls from GitHub to perform continuous integration.

Tile Generator does not dictate any directory structure for a GitHub repository, but by convention your tile repository might look like this:

/src        # source code for all components deployed by the tile
/resources  # other resources, such as icon images and imported Docker images or bosh releases
/release    # generated bosh release(s)
/product    # generated tile


PCF services typically require multiple component job processes to run concurrently, such as a main app, a helper app, and a service broker. They also require buildpacks that run as one-time compilation tasks. Services also require components such as external brokers or storage, which do not run as jobs, but nevertheless need to remain available.

The tile yml file that you pass to Tile Generator defines these service components it its packages: section. Each package has a name and a package type. The list of possible package types to pass to Tile Generator is in the Tile Generator code. It includes:

  • app - cf pushed to PCF
  • docker-app - cf pushed to PCF (image will not be embedded so requires Docker registry access)
  • app-broker - cf pushed to PCF and registered as a broker
  • docker-app-broker - cf pushed to PCF and registered as a broker (image is not embedded, so requires Docker registry access)
  • external-broker - Registered as a broker
  • buildpack - installed with cf create-buildpack; runs as a one-time task rather than a long-running process
  • docker-bosh - describes a collection of Docker images that embed in the tile and run on BOSH-managed VMs, not PCF
  • bosh-release - a pre-existing BOSH release wrapped in a tile, to run on BOSH-managed VMs, not PCF; requires you to describe all jobs (long-running processes and errands)

Packages typically contain a single process, but can include more than one, packaged to run in the same location.

Where Package Processes Run

Where packaged processes run depends on their package type, as follows:

  • app, docker-app, app-broker, and docker-app-broker packages call cf push to run processes in containers on a Diego cell.

  • docker-bosh and bosh-release packages run their processes on VMs in the underlying BOSH layer.

  • external-broker and buildpack packages run one-time tasks, not long-running processes, on Diego cells.

Package VM Resources

The service tile’s Resource Config pane lets the operator configure resources individually for each package. This pane also lets operators provision resources for VMs that handle one-time tasks, with the acceptance-tests, deploy-all, and delete-all rows.

Service Tile Resource Config