SlipStream Use Cases

Case studies and use cases of real applications of SlipStream.

Enterprise App Store / Self-Service IT

Provisioning applications inside an organisation should be as simple as installing an app on a mobile...

Use case details »

Hybrid Cloud Provisioning

Hybrid cloud is an integrated cloud service which uses both public and private cloud infrastructures to...

Use case details »

LAMP and complex application provisioning

The current cloud landscape is busy with solutions that allow users to manage virtual machine life...

Use case details »

DevOps platform

The realisation that the agile practices traditionally focusing on software development activities could also apply to...

Use case details »

Cloud Marketplace (Helix Nebula Cloud Exchange - HNX)

Cloud offers are continually growing, providing an increasing level of choice and hopefully creating a healthy...

Use case details »

Auto-Scale and Mutable Deployments

Being able to automate complex deployments is important in order to reduce time to market, improve...

Use case details »

Enterprise App Store / Self-Service IT

Context: Enterprise

Enterprise App Store / Self-Service IT

Provisioning applications inside an organisation should be as simple as installing an app on a mobile device. Too often, the enterprise process for deploying an application triggers a chain reaction of hardware and software procurement processes that can take weeks, if not months. This drastically affects the ability of any organisation to be reactive and agile. And puts the organisation at risk of failing to meet Service Level Agreements, missing financial targets and exposing the system to security breaches.

What if we could deploy applications via an enterprise app store? These applications would have been vetted by the right department to ensure that once deployed they are configured in a secure manner and deliver the right level of service. Teams could contribute and publicise their work to the rest of the organisation via this app store, reducing duplication and costs, while increasing cohesion and awareness.

This is why we created SlipStream and included at it’s core an Enterprise Open App Store, so that provisioning applications is simple and safe. The ability to deploy with 1-click ensures that the application is provisioned automatically, minimising human intervention, risks and delays. The SlipStream multi-tenant capability means that different users can access different apps, with different privileges. The open part of the Enterprise Open App Store stresses the fact that SlipStream is an open system, where users can augment it themselves, within set parameters,sharing what they want to share, and keeping private what should be kept aside.

As a result, CIOs can avoid the shadow IT phenomenon, where teams prefer to circumvent the organisation’s infrastructure, often out of frustration, and use their own credit card to purchase VMs in public clouds. Thus SlipStream ensures a higher level of governance, policy and security. Meanwhile, CFOs can better control costs since provisioning is performed via a controlled process. But using the SlipStream app store feature doesn’t prevent organisations from taking advantage of public clouds. On the contrary. Look at the Hybrid Cloud Provisioning use case for details on how the app store works perfectly in a multi-cloud and hybrid mode.

Hybrid Cloud Provisioning

Context: Enterprise

Hybrid cloud is an integrated cloud service which uses both public and private cloud infrastructures to perform different jobs within an organisation. In other words, choose the best cloud for the job. In a hybrid environment, when the same PaaS can support both public and private services, organisations greatly benefit from this level of flexibility and agility. By providing a homogenous platform, workloads can easily be moved from a private cloud to a public cloud for deployment and efficient scaling. This allows users to have a high degree of control over where a particular application is running.

However, many organisations already struggle with the complexity of managing their own cloud infrastructure, and can’t contemplate taking on board a hybrid cloud model.

SlipStream makes this step easier, by providing a simple tool able to abstract the difference between private and public clouds, allowing users to provision on either or both without being exposed to the complexity and differences of each. Users can choose which cloud to target and SlipStream ensures that each application is deployed in the same way on each cloud, delivering the same result to end-users.

With the ability to deploy applications across several clouds in 1-click, hybrid deployment is now within reach of all cloud-user organisations, allowing them to significantly increase robustness and availability of applications, without compromising on security.

Mangers can ensure the right infrastructure is used to host the right applications, providing an agile infrastructure for their organisation, whilst maintaining control and governance.

If you want to see how this works, ask for a demo. It takes just 30 minutes and will save you hours.

LAMP and complex application provisioning

Context: SME, NGO and Enterprise

The current cloud landscape is busy with solutions that allow users to manage virtual machine life cycles. While this is an important building block, it falls short in terms of delivering on the full cloud potential. What most organisations want is the ability to reason in terms of application or even sets of interrelated applications working together to deliver certain functionality, or value. For example, a stateful web application, CRM system, WordPress or management application. Several of these applications are built on a n-tier architecture, such as a LAMP stack.

In most cases, such deployment will require the involvement of several hosts, which in cloud terms translates to different virtual machines. Deploying such an application is complex and error prone, calling for an automated solution. Indeed, being able to automate the installation, configuration and start of the different components, clients and services would deliver significant value in the software development and operations pipeline. Furthermore, such deployment should be as representative as possible of (pre-)production conditions, to avoid rollout issues. This automation capability is key and enables several higher level use cases, such as the ability for:

  1. End-users to provision applications in 1-click from the Enterprise App Store / Self-Service IT capabilities of SlipStream.
  2. IT experts to deploy applications on several clouds at once, taking advantage of Hybrid Cloud Provisioning SlipStream feature.
  3. DevOps engineers to deploy more often to more easily test, break and stress their applications, knowing that they can easily reset the application if broken by a set of tests. This feature is detailed in the DevOps use case.

To illustrate the ability of SlipStream to manage complex deployments, we have created a demo LAMP model. This model includes the following layers:

  • Load balancer: configured for round robin between the Apache2/PHP nodes. We use the open source HAProxy solution for this layer.
  • Apache2/PHP: cluster of state-less Apache2/PHP applications. For demonstration purposes, we have included in the PHP layer a simple application running on the default port 80. The PHP scripts running behind the scene are configured to connect to the MongoDB layer. The configuration also includes failover logic in case of database node failure, including switch over to the next healthy node.
  • MongoDB: the database cluster configured by default with a majority replication scheme.

By default these layers run in the same cloud, but users can assign each layer to a different cloud. Further, the number of VMs assigned to each layer is parameterised, such that users can define the number of VMs forming, for example, the MongoDB database cluster or the Apache/PHP servers. Best of all, this is only an example. Any user can create its his/her own configuration, using the LAMP example as a starting point.

Another interesting feature included in this example is SlipStream’s ability to provision extra disks. In the case of the database layer, this means that users can define at provisioning time the size of data assigned to each cluster node. The MongoDB cluster in the LAMP example can also be used in a stand-alone mode or used in other deployments, encouraging sharing and re-use.

DevOps platform

Context: Enterprise

DevOps platform

The realisation that the agile practices traditionally focusing on software development activities could also apply to operations gave birth to the DevOps movement. Or, as we like to call it, common sense. DevOps is a way of combining software engineering, technology operations and quality assurance. In order to deliver a DevOps environment, teams need to be able to fluidify their development and deployment process, allowing software and configuration changes to be deployed in the (pre-)production stage in the most efficient way. It is of fundamental importance to capture operational issues early and integrate them as first class citizens when considering architecture and design. The best way to do this, is to deploy and operate as early and as often as possible. This generates a natural feedback flow, ensuring that operational issues (e.g. monitoring, troubleshooting, configuration, performance) are addressed early and effectively.

What if we had an environment where different teams and/or team members could deploy each others components, clients and services? What if this deployment process was as convenient as clicking a button (or executing a single command at the prompt)? What if the resulting deployment was as representative as a (pre-)production environment and as complete as the final system? What if a team member could capture an automated procedure in a tool for deploying his/her software (including all its dependencies) so that others could reuse them? Oh and what if this process was version controlled, multi-tenant and cloud agnostic? These things are no longer out of reach, due to SlipStream.

SlipStream provides a simple and powerful automation engine in which simple and complex deployments can be captured. SlipStream targets Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) endpoints, but in a cloud agnostic manner. This means once captured in SlipStream, the same deployments can be applied to any configured cloud endpoint. Even better, deployments are built out of parts, which means they can be re-used and modified in modular ways, to maximise re-use.

Used via its simple API, the provisioning process can be integrated into a complete build/test/deploy/feedback process, so that, for example, code commits into a version control system can trigger a complete software deployment procedure, including end-to-end test execution. The same can apply to production deployment, once a given release has been stamped for production.

As a result, fewer manual, boring and error prone tasks are required, freeing expensive engineers to focus on more creative work. Time to market is significantly reduced with the ability to push to production more often with fewer defects, thanks to more rigorous and regular testing.

Cloud Marketplace (Helix Nebula Cloud Exchange - HNX)

Context: Enterprise, Federated Organisations

Cloud offers are continually growing, providing an increasing level of choice and hopefully creating a healthy marketplace which will keep prices low and quality high. However, CIOs are rightly under pressure to make the correct choice, since changing cloud provider is an expensive business. Each cloud has its own API and value proposition and it isn’t easy to switch. So how can you take advantage of this world of choice without risking important changeover costs? And how can you take the time to reach such a difficult decision without causing a delay in implementation? Having the possibility to federate several clouds under the same broker or facade would alleviate the risk of choosing the wrong cloud.

Furthermore, being able to use a wider range of cloud providers can be a smart strategic choice to ensure optimum up time. Indeed cloud services are not infallible, therefore using more than one basket is a sensible solution to alleviate the risk of breaking all your precious eggs. Being able to use different cloud providers can also mean having better geographical coverage in terms of application placement. For example, being able to deploy applications in specific countries or regions can be important.

Another important benefit is scale. A federated cloud resource is much more likely to scale better than a single provider, allowing peaks of demand to be more easily be absorbed, even with a very short-notice request.

What if you could provision to many different clouds, using the same interface? What if you could describe application deployment logic in a cloud-neutral way, allowing applications to be deployed on any or many clouds in exactly the same way? What if selecting a cloud provider was as simple as selecting a roaming mobile operator?

This is exactly why the Helix Nebula public/ private partnership chose SlipStream to implement its federated provisioning engine for its Helix Nebula Marketplace (HNX). Users, such as CERN, ESA and EMBL, now describe their application deployments in SlipStream, using simple scripting, and simply choose the cloud to which they want to deploy . HNX currently includes cloud offers from Atos, Interoute, Ultimum, Exoscale, DEAC and T-Systems, with several cloud providers expected to join the service.

With a simple, yet effective, service catalogue feature, SlipStream users can easily compare cloud capabilities, capacity and pricing, and then select the cloud service they want to use. On their side, cloud providers can regularly update their service catalogue, to ensure their service remains competitive.

Finally, the Helix Nebula collaboration re-skinned SlipStream, providing an integrated user experience, including colour, logos and documentation.

Get in touch with the SixSq team if you want to know more about the cloud connector licensing scheme and how web UI re-skinning can be done to suit your organisation’s branding.

Auto-Scale and Mutable Deployments

Context: Enterprise

Being able to automate complex deployments is important in order to reduce time to market, improve quality and security, and of course reduce costs. However, even simpler applications would benefit from being able to use a variable amount of resources. For example, based on user activity, web applications can have a surprising variations in the level of load. Database applications can be stressed when important consolidation activity takes place or when rebalancing actions are required. Further, applications could also take advantage of moving with their users such that they can redeploy themselves to be closer to the users, as the Earth rotates, for example.

SlipStream has already the ability to automate parameterised deployments. For example, users can deploy a WordPress template including user parameters such as the WordPress name, the password of the administrator and which cloud to target. But these deployments are static once provisioned - i.e. once the user has clicked the run button.

The SixSq team is currently working on the ability to support mutable deployments, a key feature that will open the door to full auto-scale capability. This first step allows users to change the number of virtual machines used for a given layer (see LAMP and complex application provisioning for details) after the initial deployment. For example, the number of web nodes in a n-tier application can be increased or removed, at the click or a button, a CLI call or a API call. In turn, SlipStream’s automation logic will kick-in to ensure that each layer is being notified, so that, for example, the load balancer layer updates its list of web nodes to forward work to, or that the database cluster rebalances itself taking into account new or old nodes.

Following from this mutable feature, monitoring and custom KPI definitions will complete the full auto-scale feature.

Enabling Education

Context: Schools or Federation of Schools

In a school, college or e-Learning situation, the customer is interested in controlling simple content delivery for classroom environments, including hands-on experience, requiring a local dedicated Wi-Fi network and individual student environment for the exercises. By providing the environment in a local private cloud, the learning experience is independent of the network. Meanwhile, the learning programme can be managed remotely, based on a set schedule. This means teachers do not have to be troubled with set up tasks and can focus on the teaching. It also relieves the need for technical staff be present at each teaching site, meaning maintenance and support contracts can be reduced, resulting in cost savings for the school or college.

NuvlaBox helps simplifies on two fronts:

  1. Rationalise the hardware by turning existing servers into virtual servers and running them on a single box: NuvlaBox. With up to 8 virtual servers (virtual machines) per NuvlaBox, the scale factor is significant. You can even stack NuvlaBoxes to increase capacity.
  2. Automate software deployment by using an App Store to deploy applications, non-IT specialists can deploy and configure complex applications, with no compromise on security. Furthermore, with the secure remote control feature supported by NuvlaBox, off-site specialists can remotely manage the box and update its hosted applications, saving on travel costs and improving response time.

With the generalisation of applications for schools and the tendency for schools to federate, the ability to securely manage and remote control NuvlaBoxes also means that IT knowledge can be centralised, yielding even higher savings, while delivering a higher and more consistent level of service.

If you’d like to know more about how the NuvlaBox can provide a simple and affordable IT solution for your school, get in touch with the SixSq team.

Putting Intelligence at the Edge of the Network

Context: Telco / Network Service Provider

Network and internet service providers are constantly trying to improve control and handover at the edge of their network. For example, they have to ensure that the crossover between the end of their network and the entry-point to the customer’s private infrastructure is as smooth as possible.

A number of measures can help here, including:

  1. firewall to protect the customer’s private network
  2. cache services for popular data
  3. backup service enabling offsite data stream at night or during low network utilisation

The problem is how to provide this type of functionality in a convenient, homogeneous way, at a price affordable to the customer, yet maintaining a low operation cost for the provider?

The NuvlaBox is ideally suited for this mission. The local App Store can be factory loaded with a set of apps defined by the provider. These can either be provisioned remotely by the provider or locally by the customer, depending on the provider’s preference.

Using the ability to control and monitor many NuvlaBoxes from the same pane of glass, via SlipStream, means that the network provider can optimise its operations, streamline costs and batch control all NuvlaBoxes.

If you’d like to know more about how the NuvlaBox can provide an IT solution for edge of the network issues, get in touch with the SixSq team.

Simple IT for Remote Operations

Context: SME, NGOs

Users operating in the field, such as aid workers (e.g. relief efforts, aid camps) and journalists (e.g. sports events, international conferences, emergency coverage) require a local IT infrastructure. A platform which can be used by non-IT specialists to simply and securely deploy applications locally has enormous value. When combined with the ability to call home in a secure manner, as is required by journalists, for example, to deliver their material, such a platform can make a real difference.

With its App Store giving the ability to deploy applications with 1-click and its capacity to run up to 8 virtual servers locally, the NuvlaBox is an ideal solution. Once the NuvlaBox has been pre-loaded with the right set up, the App Store can deploy applications autonomously (i.e. without needing network access) to support field operators. Furthermore, since field operators can deploy applications themselves, significant cost savings can be made by letting technical staff focus on more complex tasks and support.

But that’s not all. The NuvlaBox has its own Wi-Fi capabilities, which can be used to disseminate important information to other co-workers within a secure network, keeping everyone up to date with what is going on.

If an external network is available - e.g. via satellite link - even for a short period of time, the NuvlaBox can then call home to allow it to be remotely accessed. This allows off-site IT experts not only to monitor the box, but also to automatically update image recipes and blueprints, perform maintenance tasks and backup important data.

If you’d like to know more about how the NuvlaBox can provide a simple and affordable IT solution for your field ops, get in touch with the SixSq team.

Security Installations

Context: Remote control of local security application

Protection of goods, people and networks is becoming increasingly important and yet more challenging. Deploying the NuvlaBox as part of your security installation can help with the following:

1. Video surveillance

The NuvlaBox is perfect for a situation which requires local processing of video streams, to avoid sending large amounts of high definition images on the network. Large unedited video streams are a cause for concern in terms of security, privacy and bandwidth. By processing the streams locally on a NuvlaBox, the customer can process all of the original content, and only send back key events or alerts, as well as the processed video stream to the main servers, hosted in a different location.

2. Access control

Access control is key to control who or what can physically enter a location AND who can view or use resources in a computing environment. Security workers can now be equipped with a device which automatically grants access to authorised areas and feeds back information to a central control unit. Tracking these devices is essential to ensure security of personnel, premises and goods. But what happens when connectivity drops or is tampered with? Using a NuvlaBox, you can run the access control application within the building or site to ensure local operators are always connected and in control, even if external connectivity is lost.

3. Access monitoring

As more and more doors, windows and mobile items are connected and tracked, site operators have the ability to monitor their assets, set alarms and quickly investigate when unauthorised access is detected. These applications can now be deployed effortlessly and remotely, meaning that the site is not only autonomous in terms of access monitoring and in cases of loss of connectivity, but it can also be updated and managed at a distance. IT experts can do their work remotely saving on travel costs, as well as being much more responsive in case of IT incidents.

If you’d like to know more about how the NuvlaBox can form part of your security installation, or if you would be interested in integrating your product in our echo system, get in touch with the SixSq team.

Internet of Things and Sensor Aggregating

Context: SMB, NGO and Enterprise

More and more intelligent devices can be connected, contributing to the phenomenon known as Internet of Things or IoT. These applications bring both opportunities and challenges. The opportunity comes from being able to monitor more devices (e.g. home appliances, cameras, sensors of all sorts) and the ability to retrieve interesting data remotely. The challenge is in handling all this data, in a consistent and secure way. For example, sensors play an important role in agriculture and forestry today, with the need to increase production and reduce costs, while keeping a close eye on environmental impact. The use of sensors helps to exploit all available resources appropriately and to apply hazardous products moderately. However, forwarding raw data from the sensors via broadband network is expensive and not always possible due to scarce bandwidth, lack of resources and security risks.

The NuvlaBox solves that problem when used as a sensor aggregator. If we connect the sensors to the box, either via WiFi or Ethernet, applications running in the box can act as an aggregator. This aggregator can perform a number of things in the box itself:

  1. Store raw data locally
  2. Aggregate (e.g. reduce, post-process) the raw data into datasets that can be more readily used
  3. Stream data (raw or aggregated) back home. This process can be setup such that it only takes place when external connectivity is available and detected
  4. Allow remote control, when connected to the WAN, such that several locations can be monitored at once

If you’d like to know more about how the NuvlaBox can assist with sensor aggregating, get in touch with the SixSq team.

Smart Cities

Context: Cyber Intrusion Solutions

Thanks to the development of the Internet of Things (IoT), it is now much easier to monitor traffic patterns, pollution, water, power and light using ultra-low-power sensors, wireless networks, as well as web and mobile-based applications. This brings with it security and cost concerns. Authorities are required to detect any cyber intrusion into control systems used for critical infrastructure protection. In this case, the NuvlaBox can be deployed in control units across the city, where cyber intrusion detection applications are remotely deployed and monitored. Since cyber intrusion detection is running locally in the critical infrastructure, even in the case where an attacker was successful in cutting the network, the local applications are still able to detect the intrusion. The private cloud could then be equipped with alternative means of communication, such as mobile or satellite connectivity, able to deliver the alert to the appropriate operation team and authority.

Read more »

For more on Smart Cities, check out our blog.

What's next?

Interested and want to know more? We'd be pleased to provide you with further information. Get in touch.

Contact us »