F5 Networks DevCentral Online Community Site Improves Performance and Agility with Bluelock Virtual Datacenters

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Jumping to the Public Cloud:
F5′s Migration to Critical App in Less Than 30 Days

Seattle-based application delivery networking vendor F5 Networks runs a technical user community site called devcentral.f5.com where over 100,000 global IT professionals collaborate with peers to enhance and create solutions to better deliver applications. DevCentral is a key competitive differentiator for F5 who is the recognized market share and innovative leader in its space. An increased desire to accelerate deployment lifecycles and deliver more features quickly to the community required the DevCentral team to quickly improve the site’s manageability, scalability and lifecycle management without adding headcount or significantly increasing operating costs.

Until now, DevCentral was deployed in a one-size-fits-all enterprise IT environment designed to support financial applications and key business functions. To support the team’s business plans to grow and strengthen its global community, DevCentral needed to accelerate and optimize its DevOps initiatives.

It was determined the needs were best met by virtualizing the entire site, including F5 application delivery appliances and by migrating to Bluelock Virtual Datacenters (VDCs) hosted in the public cloud, a certified VMware vCloud® Datacenter service offering. This move from an internal IT environment to the public cloud required enterprise architecture that mirrored what you would normally see in an internal datacenter.

The architecture needed to address typical cloud concerns regarding security and performance while providing a reusable cloud framework that could be used for future F5 cloud projects.

F5’s goal was to fully execute the migration in less than 30 days from contract signing.

Propelling a Community Forward with Greater IT Agility

The F5 DevCentral team manages their architecture through a process of mapping and understanding the intersections of infrastructure and data for this core community application. The community has immense value to F5 as it is proven to increase customer satisfaction and increase the likelihood
of customers to recommend F5 to peers. The application features and functionality are directly linked to continued positive influence of those metrics.

As successful as DevCentral was at the time, and continues to be today, the success created some challenges that needed to be addressed. The biggest challenge was the ever-increasing number of users, applications and modules. The more successful it became, the more the needs of every component grew. Not only were there more users and internal customers, but also more globally-distributed users. There were also more security risks stemming from social application complexity and the open source framework.

The DevCentral team identified clear changes that would be required to be made due to the stress on the system.

“We knew the application would need to perform faster overall and we would need more frequent code pushes,” explained Jeff Browning, Sr. Director, Product Management at F5 Networks. “To be successful, we needed an improved understanding of application and infrastructure dependencies, better performance and a manageable security plan.”

The DevCentral team wanted the community to be able to grow and expand rapidly. There was a desire to propel the community forward in a way that traditional IT infrastructure couldn’t. IT wanted a cloud infrastructure they could implement, embrace and manage successfully that reduced complexity and increased agility.

Cloud was an obvious option when weighing the various paths that could be chosen to grow DevCentral. All typical cloud concerns needed to be addressed when evaluating cloud providers. F5 Networks ruled out traditional hosting vendors that were on the path to cloud, because their patchwork approach of infrastructure wasn’t really cloud and it was on a cost basis too high to consider. F5 wanted to find an enterprise-focused cloud provider that had a clear focus on cloud and that understood enterprise reservations and needs.

Setting Sail on a 30-day Cloud Migration Journey

F5 Networks, and DevCentral, chose Bluelock as their public cloud provider due to their established position as cloud leader, their use of F5’s BIG-IP products, which could be easily integrated into DevCentral’s architecture and, their existing partnership with F5 that guaranteed an equal stake in the success of the project.

“With DevCentral’s move to Bluelock’s public cloud environment, we’ve increased DevOps agility, achieving faster, more frequent application upgrades that optimize development cycles.”

Bluelock’s team had technical credibility with the F5 team, guaranteed security and compliance and was VMware platform compatible. Also, the cost of Bluelock’s Virtual Datacenters was a lower operational expense than the existing environment.

“Migrating F5’s DevCentral global community to the cloud wouldn’t have worked with just any cloud provider,” Browning said. “To complete the migration in our timeframe with an environment that supported F5 technology, we needed a cloud partner with an enterprise frame of mind not only committed to a successful implementation, but also our long-term success in the cloud—both from a financial and technical perspective. Bluelock was that partner.”

After performing a 14-day test drive, DevCentral and Bluelock initiated a 30-day build out in which the design and infrastructure build, functional and scale/failure testing, operational and process testing would occur.

Four people from F5 were responsible for the complete build. That team consisted of individuals from operations, development, security and testing. The team tested, mitigated and documented 47 total failure scenarios and deployed over 100 sensors to monitor top-to-bottom health from a single point, including mobiles. 44 total processes were provisioned across two virtual datacenters and only 124 GB of memory was utilized.

The final architecture resulted in a multi-faceted strategy utilizing F5’s BIG-IP Local Traffic Manager with datacenter firewall services, BIG-IP Application Security Manager and BIG-IP Access Policy Manager along with BIG-IP Global Traffic Manager, BIG-IP WebAccelerator and BIG-IP WAN Optimization Manager solutions. Together these represent an industry-first true cloud-enabled Application Delivery Network (ADN) that delivers the agile benefits of the cloud while leveraging best practices from the enterprise. Having a virtual datacenter that established enterprise best design practices was critical to making the cloud a viable option.

Post-migration, Results are Successful Across the Board

Post-migration DevCentral immediately began experiencing the benefits of the public cloud and DevOps’s hoped-for agility became a reality with faster, more frequent pushes of updates.

“With DevCentral’s move to Bluelock’s public cloud environment, we’ve increased DevOps agility, achieving faster, more frequent application updates that optimize development cycles,” explained Browning.

He continued, “By integrating development and operations into one team and by virtualizing all systems and infrastructure, upgrades, code pushes and security policy updates take minutes or hours instead of days or sometimes weeks. The result is a better experience for users and a faster path from ‘idea’ to ‘feature’.”
Security was no longer a concern with an integrated perimeter firewall, web application firewall protection for HTTP-level attack prevention and ongoing vulnerability scanning. DevCentral assets are protected using enterprise best practices in a more dynamic cloud environment.

Scaling of cloud resources was instantaneously available post-migration. To constantly tune performance or handle community traffic changes for resources from the edge to the core, DevCentral can instantly reallocate CPU, memory and storage to maximize investment without the constraints of physical hardware. Bluelock’s cloud cost-analysis tool, PortfolioTM, provides usage reports any time, day or night, so there is never any uncertainty about what costs are, where they occurred and where more or less resources are needed.

As a result, new features ship faster, valuable information assets and community trust are comprehensively protected, and F5 can scale cloud resources on demand and inline with their strategic plans. F5 can also respond quickly and confidently to tactical events and ensure the best community member experience.

In the end, F5 experiences the tremendous agility of Bluelock Virtual Datacenters while maintaining an architecture and delivery scheme that makes sense to enterprise architects and IT leadership.

What’s Next on F5′s Cloud Journey?

“F5’s move to the cloud has provided a significant step forward in terms of agility and scale to accommodate aggressive community growth plans,” explains Browning. “We are looking forward to ways in which we can continue to increase agility and deliver the best community experience.”

“By integrating development and operations into one team and by virtualizing all systems and infrastructure, upgrades, code pushes and security policy updates take minutes or hours instead of days or sometimes weeks.”

Browning went on to describe the future as including Cloud CDN-F5 Web Accelerator virtual appliances requiring a very small cloud footprint.

“By mapping user activity and geography with ongoing performance testing, we can target cloud locations in other continents and create Points of Presence (PoPs) that pre-fetch web application objects to position them closer to the user and dramatically accelerate page load speeds. We can do this for a fraction of the cost of mainstream CDN services with better integration with our existing cloud architecture,” explains Browning.

F5 Networks also plans to evolve its own architecture and can use the best practices framework for cloud architecture that was created during the 30-day DevOps cloud implementation process. DevOps plans to educate other F5 teams about the available architecture and make it available for their use to support other cloud needs.

About Bluelock

Bluelock provides enterprises flexible IT infrastructure solutions with its Bluelock Virtual Datacenters hosted in the public cloud. Bluelock’s unique customer approach leads to innovative solutions that offer unprecedented visibility and control, enabling customers to more tightly manage resources and costs. Bluelock Virtual Datacenters, a VMware vCloud Datacenter service, provide enterprise service levels, high uptime, and guaranteed platform compatibility. Bluelock’s customer proven cloud services are hosted in SSAE Type II and SAS 70 Type II audited datacenters with strong security controls.

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