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The Contegix Promise: Continual Cloud Infrastructure Improvements in 2020 and Beyond

By Elizabeth Clor

As we enter 2020, Contegix is migrating all customers running on our OpenStack platform to one of our new VMware clouds. We’ve invested a significant amount of resources and capital into building this new infrastructure and we are confident that the new clouds will provide a more stable environment for high-performing applications. We’ve outlined the benefits and technical details of these new clouds below:

Enterprise vs. Open-Source

The decision to choose VMware over OpenStack as our cloud platform didn’t come lightly. VMware is a powerful, flexible, scalable, and secure virtualization platform, but to be completely honest, so is OpenStack. The biggest differentiator between the two platforms, as is the case when comparing any enterprise product to an open-source equivalent, is supportability and maintenance. Some of the advantages of VMware are:

  • Much longer product lifecycle support - 5 years for a major release compared to 12-18 months
  • Well documented knowledge base
  • Upgrades and maintenance are comparatively easier to perform and can typically be run behind the scenes
  • 24/7 vendor support
  • Center for Internet Security (CIS) provides security hardening guidelines for VMware products

Storage Design

Even when considering moving from OpenStack to VMware, the biggest change in our environment is the storage design. Our OpenStack clouds rely on an open-source software designed storage solution. For our new clouds, we’ve instead used a dedicated hybrid-flash storage array. This new SAN provides highly resilient hardware that is capable of delivering greater performance and analytics.

Monitoring Capabilities & Automation

Both of the above advantages also come with increased monitoring capabilities, including advanced analytics that we use to predict bottlenecks and hardware issues before they impact our environment.

To demonstrate the impact of these advantages with an example, imagine that one of our compute nodes running your single webserver began reporting hardware degradation. We can quickly—and undetectable by you—move all the workloads off of that failing node to a healthy node in the cluster.

Let’s say, in a more extreme example, that the compute node running your single webserver fails without warning (it happens!). The high-availability (HA) master will detect that one of its peers has gone offline and that all the virtual machines that it was running are also offline. HA will quickly identify everything that’s down, relocate the affected virtual machines to another healthy node, and initiate a VM reboot. This all happens automatically without any human intervention; however, our engineers have the visibility to monitor the activity and intervene if necessary. To further enhance HA, we put rules in place to ensure our customers with application level HA workloads are always running on different compute nodes.

Visibility Over Workloads

VMware’s distributed resource scheduler (DRS) allows our engineering team to see when a compute node is running a particularly high workload. DRS automatically moves heavy workloads to other less busy compute nodes, increasing stability and reducing what’s known as “noisy neighbor." In the past this rebalancing was a manual task as a response to a customer complaint.

“From a technology standpoint, everything has been designed to the best of our ability to improve service for our customers,” said Senior Cloud Engineer Matt Habel. “The technology is smart enough to automatically handle individual hardware failures."

“This is not a comparison of OpenStack/Ceph to VMware/SAN, but rather a comparison of our implementation of OpenStack/Ceph when our clouds were designed a few years ago to VMware and how we designed our clouds today,” said Tim Blankenship, Director of Cloud Engineering. “The technical capabilities available to us have changed and we are excited to offer those very tangible advantages to customers. By consolidating technologies, we are able to offer a better service and will be able to offer some more interesting capabilities in the future.”

The Promise of Continuous Improvement

In the spirit of transparency, we want the entire Contegix community to know that we are constantly working to improve the level of service we offer, and that means investing in improvements to our infrastructure and support operations. All of these system improvements have been made with a single goal in mind: To help customers achieve their business goals, stress free, knowing that Contegix is taking care of all of their application hosting and management needs.

If you have any questions, please contact your account manager or get in touch through our website.