Customer Spotlight - Catbird



By Reduxio Systems for Beyond The Blocks - Friday, July 15, 2016

Reduxio Systems Customer Testimonial Shane Thorson Catbird

Catbird is a pioneering company when it comes to Software-Defined Segmentation and Security for hybrid IT infrastructure. During this year's OpenStack Summit, in Austin, Texas, they answered some questions about the impact Reduxio has had on their business. The interview was given by Chief Technology Officer, Holland Barry, and Principal Architect, Shane Thorson, and moderated by SSG-Now Senior Analyst and Lab Director, Earl Follis.

Here is how Reduxio increased the efficiency of their operations.

 

 

Or read the interview transcription below:

 

Tell us a little about Catbird

Holland Barry:

Catbird makes a software-defined security product for hybrid IT infrastructure. Very specifically, we make security controls that live within the virtual fabric. It works both with VMware and OpenStack. It's kind of a cool, fun area to be in right now. I'm sure you guys hear a lot about security and stuff like that. You get to hear a bit more today, though, about how our line of work led into working with the Reduxio team, and how it's sped up a number of our operations, specifically from a development standpoint.

 

TELL US ABOUT THE STORAGE INFRASTRUCTURE AT CATBIRD

Shane Thorson:

From the onset to this week, we actally were running a hybrid situation before, or storage. As we moved into using the Reduxio, we actually used two of the Reduxio shelves, the HX550s. Our bigger problem that we had, at least going into this, was that we run a nested environment for our testing. When we would deploy the OpenStack clouds, we would actually have to allot a very large Cinder volumes at the upper end, so those second order instances would have the space available. As we met with Reduxio, and told them where our problems were, Jacob committed to giving us a Cinder plug-in.

 

Now we are able to, very much, those second order VMs, or the second order clouds that we're actually running, nested, we're able to actually build, or directly attach the Cinder from the secondary, or second order clouds, to be able to do our testing. As everybody knows, there's 600 ways to do anything in OpenStack, and so, as we test our product, we actually lay out a number of those to test side by side. One of the larger benefits that we came by, by actually attaching these volumes within the, or straight from those second order VMs, is that we were able to use the backdating feature.

 

We can spin up an entire catalog of all that we do, run through the tests. When we're done with the tests, we are able to revert those volumes back to that golden image again, saving a great deal of time. We're not actually relaunching, we're not doing anything. We're leaving them live and spinning them back. Also helps from a development standpoint when there are small changes that need to be made in the code, to immediately flip those right back and test exactly the pieces that were changed.

 

"When we're done with the tests, we are able to revert those volumes back to that golden image again, saving a great deal of time. We're not actually relaunching, we're not doing anything. We're leaving them live and spinning them back."

 

DESCRIBE THE PROBLEMS YOU WERE FACING THAT ULTIMATELY LED YOU TO USE REDUXIO

Holland Barry:

A lot of it had to do with speed. Are we allowed to mention competing products? I'll hold off on that, I won't do it to them. We're transitioning away from a product I'm sure you guys are all well-aware of, and the act of stamping out these large environments for developers, for the sake of coding, for the sake of doing QA and for the sake of doing scale testing, was beyond painful.

One of the tests that we really put this through is the real-life tests. I need to stamp out 200 nested virtual hosts, 5,000 VMs, things in that order of magnitude. Those would be measured in a matter of, like, many minutes, and we've now gotten that exercise down into being measured in the seconds, both from the creation of these environments, and also the deletion of them. I think the speed was the biggest thing. There's a number of other benefits, too, but I'd like to say that's the biggest one.

"I think the speed was the biggest thing. There's a number of other benefits, too, but I'd like to say that's the biggest one."

 

HOW LONG HAS CATBIRD BEEN USING OPENSTACK AND REDUXIO'S CINDER DRIVER?

Shane Thorson:

We actually have been in OpenStack for a couple of years, so we'd actually experienced a number of the pain points that came from the other vendors. However, we've actually been using the new Cinder plug-in, roughly, 45 days, 40 days, and have been absolutely thrilled with it. We have had no problems at all. In fact, the speed in which we're able to stamp out these additional volumes is just beyond measure. As Holland mentioned, we were in high teens in minutes, and we are now both in the creation of volumes and the deletion in volumes, to somewhere right around one second, depending on the size of the volume. Very impressive.

 

WHAT ARE THE OTHER BENEFITS OF USING REDUXIO?

Shane Thorson:

Speed is very, very much so, but also, the BackDating has been an incredible benefit to us, and to our developers and our testers.

Earl Follis:

How often are y'all using the BackDating feature? Is that a daily thing?

Shane Thorson:

Well, no, it would be many times daily.

Earl Follis:

You're using it a lot.

Shane Thorson:

Yes.

 

ANYTHING ELSE YOU WANT TO ADD BEFORE WE OPEN FOR QUESTIONS?

Holland Barry:

I'd be remiss not to mention that the Reduxio boxes are relatively easy on the pocketbook, too, and that was definitely one of our considerations. Many competing solutions were, we'll say, a bit more expensive. We're a young startup venture-backed, and we don't have the deepest pockets, so that was another important data point to us making the decision.

 

DESCRIBE YOUR EXPERIENCE WITH THE REDUXIO SUPPORT TEAM

Shane Thorson:

During the evaluation phase, we had done a number of the tests, and as part of that, we had intentionally done a fail-over from active to passive, and we had done it out of, well, we had done it ourselves. It was less than, I would say, probably 45 to 50 seconds before the Reduxio staff was calling us, asking us what we had done. The monitoring of the box is just incredibly good.

 

Holland had talked about another opportunity we had to experience that, where our data center, the cooling, over a weekend, had gone out. None of the other alarms had gone off, however, the Reduxio guys called us on the phone, saying, "You might want to check this. The heat in the box is starting to rise very rapidly." Again, the support has been fantastic.

"None of the other alarms had gone off, however, the Reduxio guys called us on the phone, saying, 'You might want to check this. The heat in the box is starting to rise very rapidly.' Again, the support has been fantastic."

Holland Barry:

I will briefly riff on that topic, too, in saying that the people, for us, make a big difference. We had some pretty strong demands up front, and going to a big giant, multi-billion dollar company with feature requests, so, we all know how that story ends. It's usually not in happiness. The fact that we can call up Jacob and the team and say, "Hey, we're struggling with this, what can you do?" They come to a solution in a matter of weeks, is really, really, impressive. We're a small company, too. We have to have that same response, but it's great to have that relationship, because we need to move fast, and they've been moving fast with us.

 

what is the data size on which you are performing recovery?

Shane Thorson:

On those that we're rolling back, we're roughly, some of them are 400 gig. Some of them, actually, I guess they range between 400 and 800 gig on each of these nested ones that we're rolling back and forth.

Holland Barry:

What would be a high water mark?

Shane Thorson:

Probably the highest water mark we've got would be, probably, 2.2 terabytes.

Audience:

How long does it take?

Shane Thorson:

Actually, to roll them back, roughly two seconds. Two, two-and-a-half seconds.

 

HOW DID REDUXIO HELP YOU OVERCOME YOUR CHALLENGES?

Holland Barry:

Just off, our solution is a security appliance that lives amongst other virtual machines. Typically, the appliances live in user space, and so, what we're doing is enforcing boundaries around logical groupings of VMs, some of you might have heard the buzzword, 'micro-segmentation.' We're doing things like IDS, IPS in vulnerability scans and things like that.

 

You can imagine some of our customer environments are quite huge, so instead of us going out and investing in thousands of bare metal blades to do this testing to simulate their environment, we're virtualizing the hypervisors, so we could have a single blade running many dozen hypervisors, potentially, many thousand VMs across a cluster.

 

That's the whole reason we need speed, because we're simulating all this stuff, and we have one of the largest Telecos as our customer, for instance, and they've got a giant environment, and we frequently are having to scenario test not just what they have now, but where they think they're going to go tomorrow, and random little configuration things, troubleshooting when we find errors, and things like that.

 

When Shane said we're using the backdating thing and tearing things up and down constantly, that's exactly why, what happens if, a scenario where there's like a ton more traffic coming in, or things like that, or a bunch of VMs spin up at the same time. We kind of go through the scenarios and make sure that we don't fall down, before putting it into production.

 

WAS THE UI YOUR PRIMARY INTERFACE OR DID YOU USE COMMAND LINE?

Shane Thorson:

A little bit of both. When we first came to it, we started very much in the UI, and the configuration that way, and as we started to feel a little more comfortable, command line became more of the day-to-day. As things evolve, I'm sure it will get to the point where, well, I don't know. The UI has some huge benefits that, from a visualization standpoint, that I don't know that we could ever do without, but for the most part, yes, we believe in full API, or full command line orchestration, so that'll probably be where we land, completely.

Holland Barry:

I will say, when we first lit up the box, there were some oohs and ahhs in the room. It was definitely one of the things that hooked us, and to have the consideration for using it'd be greater.

"The UI has some huge benefits that, from a visualization standpoint, that I don't know that we could ever do without"

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Reduxio Systems

Written by Reduxio Systems

There has been no fundamental innovation in data management for primary storage for the last two decades. In 2012, a group of storage industry veterans founded Reduxio with the vision to redefine data management and protection by taking advantage of new processing, networking and media technologies.



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