DemandBridge - CF Managed Services for Small Business

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Read the client's perspective here.

Primary Client

DemandBridge - A marketing automation provider focused on back-office services and sales support.

Background

DemandBridge, a marketing automation provider with approximately 600 clients, provides back-office services and sales support. Their products focus on brand management and marketing communications, inventory management and accounting software for distributors, and web-based procurement tools.

With their major application services developed as a monolith, DemandBridge was seeking to gain development and production efficiencies by switching development to a microservices approach. To help facilitate this change, open source Cloud Foundry was chosen, which provides many advantages through the automation of sandbox, development, and production environments while also eliminating the risk of vendor lock-in.

Problem Area(s)

With a four-person development team, DemandBridge didn't have additional resources to dedicate toward learning the intricacies of Cloud Foundry or managing such a complex platform. With those factors in mind, they elected to hire Stark & Wayne to build and manage the platform for them. This decision allowed the DemandBridge development team to maintain continuity in their role as developers and focus on splitting up the monolith to microservices while Stark & Wayne was working to set up the platform. By leveraging Stark & Wayne's skill at managing Cloud Foundry, once the applications were split into microservices, DemandBridge could move application improvements to market more quickly, scale more efficiently, and put in place measures to minimize downtime and/or recover environments in the event of failure.

When initially setting up Cloud Foundry, Stark & Wayne engineers hypothesized that automating a number of functions that were critical to the smooth operation of the platform would be a good thing. Unfortunately, some of those functions, such as platform and server upgrades, proved to be impractical in the real world. For example, when upgrading a spcific VM, automated processes would then work to upgrade every VM being used by the platform, which might take place during peak usage hours. While the concept of automating upgrades was a noble pursuit, it wasn't optimal when trying to ensure that a platform runs as smoothly as possible. With that realization, Stark & Wayne elected not to pursue this approach on every facet of the platform in order to maximize the availability of applications during peak periods.

Ultimately, Stark & Wayne either developed or adapted the following tool chains in order to manage DemandBridge's Cloud Foundry effectively and efficiently:

Genesis 2.0 - The first version of Stark & Wayne's Genesis to fully support BOSH v2, it is primarily geared to deployments that make use of Cloud Config and Runtime Config. Genesis v2.0 builds upon the previous generation of Genesis, eliminating the vast majority of YAML files in many locations. It also supports the next generation of deployment templates - kits.

Spruce - Designed to be an intuitive utility for merging YAML/JSON templates together to generate complicated YAML/JSON config files in repeatable fashion, Spruce can be used to stitch together soem generic/top-level definitions for the config and pull in overrides for site-specific configurations to DRY your configs up as much as possible.

Safe - Stark & Wayne developed Safe to enable operators to use pipelines safely when handling the retrieval and storage of credentials and generated passwords. Originally built for a specific client, we started adding features and functionality as their needs grew, which leads us to the version that many companies use today.

Vault - Stark & Wayne opted to use Vault in order to securely store and control access to tokens, passwords, certificates, and encryption keys for protecting secrets and other sensitive data using a UI, CLI, or HTTP API.

Concourse - Stark & Wayne customized Concourse specifically for the environment DemandBridge was planning to put in place. This automation tool makes continuous integration and continuous deployment (CI/CD) easy. It provides pipelines to reliably test, deploy, and publish using the same approach for each iteration, which cuts down the time needed to push out large projects.

Solution

After considerable effort, with Stark & Wayne building several toolchains to help automate various aspects of the Open Source Cloud Foundry platform, DemandBridge now enjoys the advantages of agile application development and a smoothly running platform.

Understanding that Cloud Foundry is a very complex platform to manage effectively, DemandBridge made the decision to not hire operators as full-time employees but to have Stark & Wayne manage their platform directly. The advantages of that decision include reduced headcount and associated costs along with having experienced operators overseeing their Cloud Foundry platform. With experienced operators, DemandBridge was assured of having proper configurations, timely updates, and the implementation of their best practices from teh very beginning, all of which helped their Cloud Foundry perform at or above expectations.

The DemandBridge engagement ultimately led to Stark & Wayne's development and launch of their Cloud Foundry Managed Services Offering, which seamlessly allows Stark & Wayne engineers to manage another company's Cloud Foundry platform, eliminating the risk of losing critical personnel and ensuring that any problems that arise are handled quickly and competently.

For another perspective on our engagement with DemandBridge, consider reading the following write-up by Cloud Foundry.