These are interesting times for IT pros. The pressure is on to assess how their company’s tech is running and what deployment model will be best going forward. And they are inundated with claims that a) public cloud is best for everything, b) a mix of public and private resources is best, c) stark, bare metal is faster than cloud, d) co=location is cheapest once you have a grip on your workload … the list goes on. As is usually the case, the truth is somewhere in the middle of that scrum.
Tapjoy, a mobile app marketing firm based in San Francisco, did its due diligence and decided to move a big chunk of its workload from bare-metal servers running at SoftLayer to OpenStack — but to OpenStack managed for it by Metacloud.
Here’s the thing, according to Tapjoy Head of Operations Wes Jossey (pictured above) who manages devops for the San Francisco-based company: “We wanted the efficiency and the flexibility of a cloud environment but OpenStack was too complicated to do on our own without hiring a lot of new people.”
And that’s the rub on OpenStack: It can probably do everything you want, provided you know how to set it up and deploy its many modules properly. It is complicated and upgrades and migrations from one version to the next can be a bear. Not to mention that hiring OpenStack experts is expensive.
Bare metal vs. cloud brawl
The discussion of bare metal vs. cloud is common these days. Virtualization — a key cloud underpinning — can take its toll on performance — while bare metal can “wring every last bit of performance from your gear,” Jossey said. Many companies prefer to run I/O intensive applications including databases on bare metal partly for that reason. But it’s also less flexible and forgiving than cloud, Jossey noted in an interview.
“We decided that what we lose in performance, we gain back in predictability, in scale and in flexibility,” he said.
Tapjoy first assessed a couple of open-source cloud technologies, including CloudStack and Eucalpytus, and ended up opting for OpenStack largely because of the huge community that has coalesced around that effort. Then it talked to an array of OpenStack providers — Jossey wouldn’t say what other companies were on the short list, but he did say Tapjoy ruled out the big legacy IT guys pushing Openstack because they were not at all price competitive and basically they all seemed to promote lock-in, a key concern. Instead, it focused on smaller, younger entities.
Priority: Offloading maintenance
Metacloud won the day largely because of its team and the promise that that team would handle all infrastructure management. Tapjoy made the decision after a final, three-hour discussion with Metacloud and then the teams adjourned to a bar for another less formal — but arguably equally productive — bonding session, for the rest of the night.
It’s important to note that this is not an all-or nothing proposition. A portion of the company’s work still runs on bare metal and Tapjoy will continue to run significant loads in Amazon Web Services which Jossey views as a strategic place to try out new infrastructure. He’s also open to evaluating Google and Microsoft public clouds for those kinds of jobs as well.
For this in-house deployment, Tapjoy bought its hardware — Metacloud supports all the major chips and server brands — but the implementation was rolled out and is supported by Metacloud so Jossey and his small team can focus on other more critical things, like working on Tapjoy-specific work (or perhaps arm wrestling.)