Awesome Chefs – Coding a Customer Service Platform for 35 Million Consumers

You’ve heard our founder Adam Jacob talk about it before – software is increasingly becoming the delivery platform for goods and services in today’s economy. So, it only makes sense that companies would want to leverage SaaS to extend customer service capabilities, shorten customer feedback loops, and provide a better overall customer experience.

Enter Get Satisfaction. The good folks over there operate a platform on which companies create customer communities that let their customers interact with each other, be heard, and find resolution. Today, Get Satisfaction helps more than 70,000 companies deliver top-notch customer service to more than 35 million consumers. Whoa.

To manage all that activity, the company built its online community platform in AWS. That means they have fully redundant production and disaster recovery (DR) environments at much less cost than a physical environment of similar size would cost. Cool.

Of course, Get Satisfaction is still small in terms of employees, and their engineering team is no exception. On top of that, they run a pretty complex application stack in Linux, which with all the scale of their AWS installation would be pretty much impossible to manage without some sort of automation.

So, Nick Mardsen, Director of Systems Engineering at Get Satisfaction, and his systems team combined Hosted Chef (w/its Knife EC2 plug-in for AWS) with Ironfan, a Ruby-based open source orchestration tool. Now, Ironfan defines server roles, communicates them w/Chef via Ruby code, and Chef deploys the appropriate configurations for each server role, automating configuration management for all Get Satisfaction’s AWS resources. With this process running smoothly, Nick and his team then did the same thing with application updates. Ironfan defines the app version, Chef deploys the code, the change is executed and Get Satisfaction is moving faster than ever before. Nice.

Here’s what Nick had to say:

“Managing tens of thousands of customer sites would take a small army of engineers without automation. Hosted Chef is an awesome infrastructure framework. With Chef and Ironfan, we can configure, provision, orchestrate, and deploy complex app clusters with just a few lines of code.”

Pretty neat.

If you want to read the whole story, check out our case study on Get Satisfaction here. Meanwhile, below is the press release about this profile, which also adds some details.

Get Satisfaction Powers Customer Service Platform for 35 Million Consumers with Opscode

Leading Online Community Platform Provider Deploys Opscode Hosted Chef™ to Automate Amazon Web Services Infrastructure, Ensuring Service Reliability for 70,000 Companies

SEATTLE – July 1, 2013 – Opscode®, the foundation for the coded business, today announced that Get Satisfaction, the community platform that helps companies create engaging customer experiences by fostering online conversations, has automated its entire Amazon Web Services (AWS) infrastructure with Opscode Hosted Chef™. Using Hosted Chef, Get Satisfaction has automated everything from configuration management to application delivery, providing maximum resiliency and flexibility for its online community platform.

Get Satisfaction is an online community platform that fosters consumer conversations about companies’ products and services at every stage of the lifecycle. The company uses a fully redundant, geographically dispersed AWS cloud infrastructure to deliver this innovative approach to customer service. By combining Hosted Chef and its Knife EC2 command-line plug-in for AWS with Ironfan, an open source orchestration tool, Get Satisfaction can replicate production configurations in its disaster recovery environment in just minutes, providing the flexibility to adjust to fluctuations in the cloud and manage traffic spikes. In addition, by using Hosted Chef to automate all its server configurations, Get Satisfaction has eliminated the risk of human error in resource provisioning, further improving system reliability.

“Hosted Chef defines our entire infrastructure with simple Ruby code recipes that bend to our needs. We’re not confined by strict templates, domain-specific languages, or assumptions built into other automation tools,” said Nick Marden, Director of Systems Engineering, Get Satisfaction. “Managing our Chef recipes with Hosted Chef gives us the freedom to configure, adjust, configure again, and evolve our infrastructure in full alignment with our business needs.”

“Get Satisfaction has nailed the community angle of customer service, enabling consumers to help each other and companies to better serve their customers,” said Adam Jacob, Chief Customer Officer, Opscode. “By automating their application stack with Hosted Chef, they have the agility to best leverage the cloud in delivering an unparalleled community platform.”

Get Satisfaction’s engineers have used a range of cookbooks from the Chef Community to create an easy-to-follow blueprint for configuring and deploying resources and applications, accelerating development cycles. Using Hosted Chef to define specific application attributes, Get Satisfaction has a code-based model for reuse that ensures engineering and development teams can collaborate from the same predefined guidelines, reducing errors and improving efficiency.

For detailed information on the results Get Satisfaction achieved with Hosted Chef, please read the case study here.


Lucas Welch

Former Chef Employee