Nate Baechtold, Enterprise Architect at EBSCO Information Services, says it was going to be too hard to automate the companys VMware environment so the firm shifted to OpenStack, which natively abstracts underlying components much like AWS. But the next sticking point was how to enable developers to build in load balancing? A self-service model using the existing hardware-based system was too complex, Baechtold tells Network World Editor in Chief John Dix, but a new software-defined tool fit the bill.
Nate Baechtold, Enterprise Architect at EBSCO Information Services
Lets start with a thumbnail description of your organization.
EBSCO Information Services is a discovery service provider for many things, including private journals, research databases, historical archives, medical reference databases, ebooks and corporate learning tools. Many of these are things you couldnt find on the public Internet. So, universities and other organizations subscribe to our services and we are able to federate searches over all these databases to provide the information they are looking for. This past year we peaked at somewhere close to 400 million searches per day.
Does it appeal to certain vertical markets, say legal or healthcare, or is it any and all of them?
Any and all of them. A large amount of traffic comes from libraries and universities providing research services to students.
What does the technical environment look like?
We have a public cloud based in AWS and three private data centers, two that support our live application and one that primarily supports development resources. The majority of our live runtime apps are supported by a private cloud we built on top of OpenStack.
The main data centers are in Boston and Ipswich Mass. for redundancy sake and to create failure domains, and we have a large fiber link between them, but the idea is each data center is autonomous and can run without the other one. We have roughly 400 physical servers in each data center, and the majority of our workloads are virtualized, so we have 5,000-6,000 VMs. From a virtualization perspective, were using a combination of VMware and OpenStack, but were actually migrating everything over to OpenStack which is built on top of KVM.
How long have you been building the OpenStack environment?
We opened it up for development two years ago, and about a year ago we started using it for our live resources. Ever since then weve had a large percentage of developers using it for self-service provisioning, and that adapted into a model where we started automating provisioning, automating deployments, really trying to automate all of our infrastructure.
Why the shift to OpenStack?
Because it was going to be too hard to automate our VMware platform. When you look at a cloud platform like AWS, you go in and get a VM and it is automatically assigned an IP address and receives everything it needs to run from the cloud platform. You are insulated from a lot of the other underlying hardware implementation. VMware abstracts some elements of that, but ultimately you still need to know what data store to put on it, you need to name the network, maybe a VLAN identifier or something else that ties it to your infrastructure. Theres very little abstraction, and trying to build a fully automated model on top of that was going to be really difficult.
Thats why there are so many management platforms on top of VMware -- to insulate you from that API -- whereas OpenStack natively abstracts the underlying implementation. You create a consistent platform the same way you do in AWS, so you have an instance very analogous to Amazons EC2 (Elastic Compute Cloud), you have a volume in OpenStack thats just like an EBS (Elastic Block Store) volume in AWS, youve got load balancing as a service, youve got images and many other things. Theyre not API compatible, but they operate in a very similar way so it is easy to build infrastructure automation for your continuous integration/continuous deployment (CI/CD) pipeline.
We viewed the adoption of the OpenStack API as an easy onramp for getting full infrastructure automation and also getting integration with our CI/CD processes. Additionally, since its built to be a public cloud product, we didnt have to fight with permissions. With vSphere you have to deal with permissions to folders, resource groups, and many other things. Instead of having to fight with individual permissions, we give developers a project. That project is logically separated from all the other infrastructure, like theyre operating their own private data center.
It makes it easy for them to write automation because they dont need to worry about breaking things, bringing down the whole environment or affecting people on shared resources. It lowers the barrier to entry to write automation, to experiment and test. Those are really the core capabilities that OpenStack gave us, which is why we went with it. It was mostly focused around the API and accelerating our development efforts and accelerating our infrastructure automation efforts.
What percentage of your workloads are on OpenStack at this point?
Of our virtualized infrastructure, I would say around half. The goal is to migrate everything.
You mentioned you have some AWS cloud resources. Is part of the reason to go with OpenStack because it will make it easier to use AWS in a spillover capacity?
Due to data locality and a whole bunch of other problems, it isnt easy to realize a hybrid cloud where you transparently migrate workloads back and forth. We, like probably most companies, are actively working to get into AWS and to get to the public cloud, but we realize we still need a private cloud to be able to serve our own internal data centers in the meantime.
Do you think long term youll be all-in with a public IaaS service, getting away from managing your own stuff?
Yeah. I would say that is our long-term goal. How long it takes to get there is another question, but that would be our long-term goal. Today we use AWS for BI processing and hosting some of our runtime services.
As I understand it, another thing you virtualized was your Application Delivery Controllers. What lead you down that path?
We created this private cloud where users could provision and tear down VMs to their hearts content, and they did it very, very frequently. The level of change velocity in this environment is incredible. Weve had over 420,000 VMs created and destroyed in the past two years.
But really a cloud isnt useful until youve given your development and operations teams the ability to self-service all the capabilities they need to build their live applications. Out of the box they can build VMs. Thats great. However, they couldnt hook them up to load balancing or many of the other things they needed. Load balancing was the number one pain point because you couldnt build a highly available application without some semblance of load balancing.
So first we tried to create a self-service model on top of our existing hardware-based load balancing system, where we could enable teams to provision new content rules, new virtual IPs, everything they need to build and manage their applications. But it was surprisingly hard to do. To create a system that could be fully automated was almost impossible on our existing solution.
Did your hardware ADC provider offer a software version of their appliance?
Yes, they did. They offered a VM version but all it did was shift the problem. It didnt solve the problem. The only way it helped us was to say, Okay teams, now you configure and manage your own virtual load balancers. They werent too happy with that because it added complexity.
It wouldnt have been very efficient to take this problem that was solved before by a dedicated load balancing team and shift it so that now everyone had to become subject matter experts on a specific load balancing technology. So we looked into tapping into load balancer as a service on OpenStack and pointing it to our existing vendor, and that didnt work out very well. The driver wasnt very mature at that point in time and it wound up causing all sorts of problems. Thats what caused us to start looking for alternatives.
Can you give us some perspective in terms of what the load balancers were being asked to do?
We had a very SOA-heavy architecture. We probably had around 80 or so services in our mid- and back-tiers communicating with each other, so the edge, the front tier, was a small portion of what the load balancers were doing in this environment.
And what solved the problem for you?
We wound up seeing a company called Avi Networks at the OpenStack Summit and they had some really interesting demos. The attraction was multifold:
* First, from an access perspective and API perspective, they aligned perfectly with OpenStacks multitenancy system. What they do is view a load balancer as a project, a tenant, just like OpenStack creates a project and a tenant, and that represents your view of the world. You can only see things in your tenant, you can only affect things in your tenant. If I give you a logical slice of Avi through a tenant, just like through OpenStack, you can only break things in your own world. It makes it easy to hand load balancing responsibilities off to different teams. We give you access to your view of the load balancer and you can perform all of the functions you need to build and manage your applications from the ground up automatically. That was really cool.
* The second thing, which wound up appealing to us even more, was the insight and analytics engine that came with it. We used to get some very raw metrics from a load balancer, but the analytics we get out of Avi are extremely valuable; things like better end-to-end performance results and automatic anomaly detection and tracking. And something that wound up being very useful was significant event detection. It logs what it sees as significant events and weve used that to find network issues that werent detected before.
Our development operations teams wound up liking that element probably the most out of all because now theyve got all this visibility, all this insight into application performance they didnt have before. It created a strong desire to migrate over to the product.
How did Avi address the need for simplicity, the problem you were having with the other product?
The setup and usage of Avi was straightforward. It literally took us 20 minutes to get a highly available instance deployed, configured and integrated into our OpenStack cloud, which was awesome.
From a user perspective, the interface is very intuitive and easy to use. There arent any superfluous options, and if there are they are cordoned off into their own little bounded context area; network settings, for example, are in a network profile section and, unless you care about that, you dont need to deal with it or know it exists. You just take whatever the standard is. We were able to point dev teams at it and people with no load balancing experience were able to quickly create highly available load balanced environments.
Where we used to have a centralized network team do all of our load balancing functions, writing custom rules trying to distill them down for other people to use, now were able to distribute these functions to all the operations team because they are so much simpler.
How is it deployed?
We point it at our OpenStack cloud and it integrates with it. It integrates with the projects, aligns with its multitenancy model, and provisions load balancers on the OpenStack cloud to use. Theyre called the service engines. It automatically scales up and scales down the service engines based on demand. From our perspective, pretty much we carved out an OpenStack project, we told Avi to put load balancer VMs here and it autoscales them in and out as it sees fit.
Were you concerned at all about a potential performance hit, shifting from a hardware to a software-based product?
Initially we were concerned, but so far every single performance test weve done, and every single live application we converted, hasnt shown any performance hit. In fact, in some cases we wound up getting better performance due to the insight and analytics engine pointing out inefficiencies that we had not noticed before.
Did you justify the migration on the promised ease of use, or was there a cost factor as well?
I would say the ease of use. The integration with our strategy, with our private cloud, were the real drivers, but there was a cost-saving element to it as well. It wound up being considerably cheaper than our existing solution because it didnt rely on proprietary hardware, we are just paying for the software, and it is scaling on the same x86 virtualization platform all of our systems are running on.
Any hiccups along the way in terms of implementation or lessons learned?
There are always hiccups. In converting one of our applications over we found one of the performance settings we had set wound up being inefficient for the type of application, and it was sending very large quantities of HTTP post data to this service and we didnt know it. It wound up being an application where we saw performance increase once wetuned the TCP Windows scaling settings.
It sounds like the product has worked out well for you.
It has. Weve gotten to the point where now were using it to do blue-green deployments of our applications to achieve full infrastructure automation. As part of a software release well spin up an entire new farm of servers, hook it up to our load balancer, validate it independently, and just switch the load balancer to feed traffic to the new software in one atomic action. Were automatically standing up new environments, virtual services and load balancer rules through complete automation, and we still get the visibility required. Its been one of the more successful things at our company.
View original post here:
- Don't be afraid of paint automation - Canadian Metalworking - May 25th, 2020
- Why Is Automation Of Utmost Importance Now? - Express Computer - May 25th, 2020
- A Case for Cooperation Between Machines and Humans - The New York Times - May 25th, 2020
- How Do AI and Smart Automation Impact Modern Testing and QA? - IoT For All - May 25th, 2020
- How is automation and predictive analysis changing banking? - FinTech Magazine - The FinTech & InsurTech Platform - May 25th, 2020
- IoT and automation help to save the world's honeybees - IT Brief Australia - May 25th, 2020
- Microsoft updates Teams with new automation and scheduling tools, NDI support for broadcasting and more - TechCrunch - May 25th, 2020
- Global Industrial Automation Software Market Projected to Reach USD XX.XX billion by 2025- Emerson Electric, ABB, Accenture, Dassault Systmes, HCL... - May 25th, 2020
- Research Report with COVID-19 Forecasts - Healthcare IT Market 2020-2024 | Need for Automation Across Departments to Boost Growth | Technavio -... - May 25th, 2020
- Global Industrial Automation Control Market Projected to Reach USD XX.XX billion by 2025- ABB, Emerson Electric, Honeywell, Rockwell Automation,... - May 25th, 2020
- Global Automation Testing Tools Market Projected to Reach USD XX.XX billion by 2025- Selenium, TestComplete, QMetry Automation Studio, Testim.io,... - May 25th, 2020
- Process Plant Automation Market, Share, Growth, Trends And Forecast To 2025 -... - Azizsalon News - May 25th, 2020
- Global Airport Logistic Process Automation Market Growth Rises By 20202026: Industry, Size, Demand, and Revenue - Cole of Duty - May 25th, 2020
- Coronavirus threat to global Water Automation and Instrumentation Market Research Report Released with growth, latest trends & forecasts till 2030... - May 25th, 2020
- Automated Industrial Quality Control Market Overview By Growing Demands, Trends And Business Opportunities 2020 To 2027 - 3rd Watch News - May 25th, 2020
- Lab Automation Market (Impact of COVID-19) 2020 by its Scientific Reviews and Key Side-Effects - Cole of Duty - May 25th, 2020
- Coronavirus threat to global AR (Accounts Receivable) Automation Software Market: Recent Industry Trends and Projected Industry Growth, 2019-2033 -... - May 25th, 2020
- Global Main Automation Contractor (MAC) Market Projected to Reach USD XX.XX billion by 2025- ABB, Yokogawa Electric, Rockwell Automation, Emerson... - May 25th, 2020
- Top areas affected by Coronavirus (COVID-19) on Distribution Feeder Automation System Market Share, Size, Trends and Opportunities 2020-2029 - 3rd... - May 25th, 2020
- Ready or not, the automation age is suddenly upon us - VentureBeat - April 26th, 2020
- ROI of Automated User Provisioning - Security Boulevard - April 26th, 2020
- Coronavirus Shows That Fears About Automation Are Overblown - The National Interest Online - April 26th, 2020
- Global Irrigation Automation Industry (2020 to 2025) - Featuring Netafim, Lindsay and Valmont Industries Among Others - ResearchAndMarkets.com - Yahoo... - April 26th, 2020
- Defense is Embracing Robotic Process Automation But It's Not Yet Scaling It - Nextgov - April 26th, 2020
- The first mistake: Confusing cool automation with useful automation - Biometric Update - April 26th, 2020
- How AI and automation could impact supply chain roles - Supply Chain Digital - The Procurement & Supply Chain Platform - April 26th, 2020
- Pre & Post COVID-19 Market Estimates-System Integration Services Market for Industrial Automation in India 2020-2024 | Evolving Opportunities with... - April 26th, 2020
- Steady Operations with Automation - HomeCare - April 26th, 2020
- Will COVID-19 Speed Up Tech Automation and Job Loss? - Dice Insights - April 26th, 2020
- AI and Automation Accelerating Synthetic Chemistry and Streamlining Drug Development - Technology Networks - April 26th, 2020
- Intelligent Automation Brings Light in the Dark World of COVID-19 - EnterpriseTalk - April 26th, 2020
- 5 Automation Hurdles All Marketers Need To Overcome - Forbes - April 26th, 2020
- Huge Growth Seen for Robotic Process Automation in Healthcare Market by 2020-2027 Profiling key players Blue Prism, Automation Anywhere, UiPath,... - April 26th, 2020
- Technology, with a human touch: Why humanistic automation is the future of marketing - Express Computer - April 26th, 2020
- Medical Automation Technologies Market: Indoor Applications Projected to be the Most Attractive Segment during 2020-2027 - Bandera County Courier - April 26th, 2020
- Form Automation Software Market Segmentation, Application, Technology, Analysis Research Report and Forecast to 2026 - Cole of Duty - April 26th, 2020
- Creating an intelligent automation toolkit - KMWorld Magazine - April 26th, 2020
- Covid-19 is accelerating the use of automation - Inside Retail Asia - April 26th, 2020
- Using C# to automate web application testing in Edge with WebDriver - InfoWorld - April 26th, 2020
- Automation | Britannica - April 9th, 2020
- Bringing Automation to Physical Fiber Cross Connects to improve integrity of testing processes & more - Data Center Frontier - April 9th, 2020
- COVID-19's Impact on Industrial Automation, 2020 Thematic Research Report - ResearchAndMarkets.com - Business Wire - April 9th, 2020
- No, automation won't kill the CPA - Accounting Today - April 9th, 2020
- From virtualization to automationthe march to 5G service revenues - RCR Wireless News - April 9th, 2020
- Automation for Beginners and Experts | 2020-04-06 - Quality Magazine - April 9th, 2020
- Industrial Automation Is Paying the Price for Failing to Think Big and Invest Bigger:Globaldata - AiThority - April 9th, 2020
- Automation May Take Jobsbut AI Will Create Them - WIRED - April 9th, 2020
- AP Automation helps prevent the growing finance fraud problem - MSDynamicsWorld.com - April 9th, 2020
- AI and Automation's Impact on the Workforce - HR Exchange Network - April 9th, 2020
- Improving the Power Grid with Blockchain - Automation World - April 9th, 2020
- Remote Working: What It Means For RPA (Robotic Process Automation) - Forbes - April 9th, 2020
- McKinsey: what is the future of automation? - Supply Chain Digital - The Procurement & Supply Chain Platform - April 9th, 2020
- Global Automation Testing Industry - Yahoo Finance - April 9th, 2020
- Algorithms and automation - Council of Europe - April 9th, 2020
- Algorithms and automation: new guidelines to prevent human rights breaches - Council of Europe - April 9th, 2020
- Box bolsters cloud security with automated malware detection - VentureBeat - April 9th, 2020
- Automated Industrial Technologies takes stab at prototypes to help with ventilator shortage - Lynchburg News and Advance - April 9th, 2020
- 737 Max: Boeing usually downplays automation but MCAS made its crisis - Business Insider - Business Insider - April 9th, 2020
- BAL Earns Prestigious 'CIO 100' Award for Innovative Use of Intelligent Automation in Immigration Services - Yahoo Finance - April 9th, 2020
- Rockwell Automation taking measures to address COVID-19 pandemic - Greater Milwaukee Today - April 9th, 2020
- COVID-19 to bring in higher automation & digitalisation in Indian automotive sector: ETAuto Roundtable - ETAuto.com - April 9th, 2020
- Automation - Advantages and disadvantages of automation ... - April 2nd, 2020
- Automation - The Car Company Tycoon Game on Steam - April 2nd, 2020
- Bridging the Network Automation Skills Gap - DevOps.com - April 2nd, 2020
- Yard work: Automation strolls out the warehouse door - ZDNet - April 2nd, 2020
- Five Steps To Get Started With Robotic Automation - Forbes - April 2nd, 2020
- ValueLink drives efficiency in the valuation process through a combination of automation, AI and analytics - HousingWire - April 2nd, 2020
- Bosses speed up automation as virus keeps workers home - The Guardian - April 2nd, 2020
- What is Feature Engineering and Why Does It Need To Be Automated? - Datanami - April 2nd, 2020
- Parascript and Le Mans Tech Partner to Offer Integrated Automation Solutions to Small and Midsize Banks - Yahoo Finance - April 2nd, 2020
- Smartly.io Powers Digital Advertising Innovation and Automation on Pinterest - Business Wire - April 2nd, 2020
- Overcoming the challenges of intelligent automation - ITProPortal - April 2nd, 2020
- Will the COVID-19 Pandemic Promote Mass Automation? - Walter Bradley Center for Natural and Artificial Intelligence - April 2nd, 2020
- Attractive Opportunities in Automation - Morningstar - April 2nd, 2020
- Automating with a solid foundation - ITProPortal - April 2nd, 2020
- Industry could fast-track automation amid COVID-19 fallout - www.mining-journal.com - April 2nd, 2020
- Building automation to generate $44bn in revenue per annum - Smart Energy - April 2nd, 2020
- The Idea Behind Automating Your Commissions - Yahoo Finance - April 2nd, 2020
- Why Intelligent Automation is the Need of the Hour - CXOToday.com - April 2nd, 2020
- Using RPA to automate internal audits where to start - TechHQ - April 2nd, 2020