The fast, flexible infrastructure provided by public cloud makes it possible for a developer to spin up resources almost instantly. Not only that, but public cloud services, like Amazon Web Services (AWS), offer an enormous number of products and services you can combine into thousands of unique combinations to run your workloads. This is both exciting and a formidable challenge to scale in the enterprise. Large organizations have distinct business units and siloed development teams. Different teams will approach cloud and container configurations in varied ways. Even when done well, manual configuration and customization introduces complexity and a higher risk of human error.
This isn’t a new or novel perspective. Others have made similar observations and articulated the high stakes nature of enterprise cloud environments.
“Done poorly your cloud environment stands to be less secure, harder to maintain, and more chaotic than anything you have today. Done well, your cloud environment will accelerate time-to-market and lower your infrastructure costs so that you can spend more time building software your customers love.”
So, how do you get the benefits of public cloud infrastructure while maximizing the time spent writing new code and minimizing time spent on deployment, maintenance, and security tasks?
Daniel Baston, a senior software engineer at German insurance company Talanx Group, shared his insights on this topic at SpringOne Platform 2018. During his talk, It's All About Delivering: A Journey from AWS to [Pivotal Platform], Baston explained why Talanx’s digital labs team switched from native AWS to Pivotal Platform on AWS.
“[Pivotal Platform] as a service helped us to keep up with actual business development, and not with maintaining technologies."
In the beginning, Baston loved how quickly developers could access resources with AWS. But as their AWS footprint increased, so did the complexity. Soon, the efficiencies they had gained from on-demand infrastructure were lost in a mire of operational tasks. The key takeaway from Baston’s talk? You need an application platform to get the most out of public cloud. “[Pivotal Platform] as a service helped us to keep up with actual business development, and not with maintaining technologies,” Baston said.
The learnings recounted in Baston’s talk are relevant to any business that wants to run production workloads on public cloud. In Baston’s experience, here are some of the benefits of building and running apps with Pivotal Platform on top of public cloud:
1. Pivotal Platform Automates Deployment and Day 2 Operations
Baston works in Talanx’s digital lab, building and testing new insurance products. His team needed a fast and flexible infrastructure to build, release and iterate MVPs as quickly as possible. They chose AWS and immediately benefited from the speed with which they were able to access reliable resources. “There is no waiting, nothing,” Baston said. “The performance and availability are just awesome. I have never seen an AWS instance crashing.”
While AWS gave Talanx’s digital lab a jump start on accessing infrastructure, the day 2 operations required a significant amount of time. So much so that Baston’s team struggled to meet product goals. “We noticed that this part, this ops part, always popped up again,” said Baston. “We had stuff like creating docker images. [Amazon] ECS is actually quite easy to use, and I'm a big Docker fan actually, but in production, it raises some concerns like: What image do you use? Is that an actual image? Is it secure? Who maintains the image?”
"We stay with AWS because they're very good at resource scheduling, but on top of it, we put [Pivotal Platform], and all our deployment issues were gone. Just cf push. Works like a charm."
These are just some of the questions developers must consider when manually configuring containers and writing custom deployment scripts to push code to public cloud.
In contrast, deploying code with Pivotal Platform is a single command: cf push. That’s it. Pivotal Platform takes care of the rest with uniform automation that eliminates the risks inherent in manual processes. As Baston pointed out, this is especially important given that public cloud is “only as secure as you make it.” Asking developers to manually build, configure and deploy containers is an unnecessary risk and ultimately takes time away from building new products.
"We stay with AWS because they're very good at resource scheduling, but on top of it, we put [Pivotal Platform], and all our deployment issues were gone. Just cf push. Works like a charm," said Baston.
2. Pivotal Platform Automates Security Patching and Updates
Before adopting Pivotal Platform, Baston discovered the value of automated security patching the hard way. He was about to go on vacation when the Meltdown and Spectre vulnerabilities were announced. At SpringOne Platform, he recalled the pain of having to manually patch his EC2 instances, docker containers and java libraries. “That was a long day,” Baston said.
By running Pivotal Platform on top of public cloud, Talanx can leverage Pivotal’s security capabilities to repair vulnerable operating systems and application stacks within hours of patch availability, with zero downtime. In the case of Meltdown and Spectre, Pivotal’s Cloud Operations team was able to update tens of thousands of application instances running on Pivotal Web Services (our multi-tenant version of Pivotal Platform) in a matter of hours, with no impact on customers. The total engineer-time to do this was less than an hour; manual tasks were just pipeline configuration and initiation.
Wells Fargo, one of the world’s largest banks, uses the same functionality to repave its entire platform multiple times per week — with a goal of doing so every day by the end of 2019.
Because Pivotal Platform is an integrated, purpose-built platform, there are fewer surfaces vulnerable to attack. The platform also continuously rotates credentials and reduces instance sprawl and credential sharing by automating how developers access, provision and share services.
3. Pivotal Helps You Achieve Better Business Outcomes Faster
Being fast and agile is central to the mission of Baston’s digital labs team as they build and test MVPs for new products. Pivotal Platform is a key enabler of these important agile processes. Baston’s team embraces many of the cloud-native, agile methodologies taught by Pivotal Labs to build software. These practices include pair programming and iterating quickly with fast feedback loops. Pivotal Platform abstracts away the complexities of running a platform so developers can focus on building features. After all, building new features that drive value for the business is the end goal. Pivotal helps Baston reach that goal more quickly. “Features bring money,” said Baston. “I'm working for an insurance company. We don't get paid for 'Oh yeah, you played with the cloud.'”
“Right now we have two guys who are operating our [Pivotal Platform] installation, and as a software developer, I make cf push, cf bind servers, and it works. All the network security stuff happens somewhere in magic land.”
Pivotal Platform also makes it easier for Baston to stick to agile practices and cloud-native patterns, such as building with microservices. On native AWS, Baston said that “integrating new microservices wasn't that easy because we had these dependencies in our CloudFormation stacks.” It posed dilemmas such as, “If I delete this stack now, does it delete my RDS instance?” said Baston. “And then, we got very cautious about changing stuff in our AWS and then it wasn't that agile anymore.”
When it’s time to work on something new, Baston uses Pivotal Platform to provision and access everything he needs without having to use one template for every application or rebuilding from scratch. “I need new servers, I need a new product, I need the software. Do I have to build all this Amazon stuff again and again?” said Baston. Not with Pivotal. “Right now we have two guys who are operating our [Pivotal Platform] installation, and as a software developer, I make cf push, cf bind servers, and it works. All the network security stuff happens somewhere in magic land.”
Magic or not, Baston and team now have the best of both: the flexibility of public cloud paired with the exceptional developer experience Pivotal provides.
“We shifted, and I recommend it to you too, from...infrastructure to platform,” said Baston. “Platform as a service helped us keep up with actual business development and not [deal with] with maintaining technologies.”
Join us at SpringOne Platform in Austin, Texas October 7-9 and get an extra $200 off when you use code S1P200_DBurrow. Check out these talks to learn how Pivotal Platform helps you achieve velocity in the cloud at enterprise scale:
Putting PCF to the Hybrid Cloud Test: Azure by Brian Smith, Fiserv
170 Live Apps Migrated to PCF in 18 Months: The Business of Transformation by Terry Miles, Intrado (formerly West Corporation)
Accelerating the Developers Road to the Cloud by Nick Penston & Gerard McMahon, Fidelity Investments
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