Relativity's Cloud Theory Becomes Reality with Azure, Chef, and 10th Magnitude
The Challenge: Taking a Trusted Platform to the Cloud
More than 13,000 organizations around the world use the Relativity e-discovery platform to manage large volumes of data and quickly identify key issues during litigation, internal investigations, and compliance projects. Relativity has over 160,000 users in more than 40 countries from organizations like the U.S. Department of Justice, more than 70 Fortune 100 companies, and all of the American Law 200.
At RelativityFest 2016, the company announced RelativityOne, a secure and comprehensive SaaS product. They then unveiled their new self-service portal, a cloud-based, custom lab automation application that simultaneously provided over 500 attendees with an auto-provisioned environment.
The stage for this announcement had been set before the announcement. The success of the portal and RelativityOne hinged on the right cloud environment. So, Relativity turned to Microsoft because they had a Microsoft stack, and the technology and business proposition of Azure made sense for the company. They felt that Azure afforded them the best way to stay on top of industry movement and client demands.
The RelativityOne decision was sound for the business, but it was a massive undertaking with a number of challenges. Relativity had 62 environments and 995 servers with no way to know if those servers were alike. At the same time, they wanted to develop software more rapidly, which meant that their slowest links had to go faster. So, a big part of this project was configuration management, setting up new environments, and enabling their software developers to work at the speed they were capable of.
Relativity, a trusted provider of access to data for e-discovery, wanted to make a splash at their annual conference in October 2016. The plan was to offer a portal for attendees and to unveil Relativity’s cloud solution, RelativityOne. With a cloud foundation provided by Microsoft Azure, Chef Automate and InSpec, and testing and integration solutions from 10th Magnitude, the portal was delivered, RelativityOne was launched, and in 2018, RelativityOne was expanded. In addition, Relativity has dramatically reduced costs, administration overhead, and troubleshooting while increasing velocity and productivity.
The Solution: Chef Brings Automation to the Azure Table—at a Magnitude of 10
The number of environments and that many servers created the kind of unknowns that can be a recipe for disaster. Before that could happen, Relativity turned to Chef Software. Chef Automate could take on those environments, the configuration management, and all the new setups with a very easy-to-use language that Relativity was able to implement quickly. They could put in the same kind of source control and use the same software development methods that have been around for decades to turn their environments into code.
The reasons Relativity chose Chef Automate over other solutions included:
- A framework that had been in existence for a long time so that the getting onto it would not be difficult. Relativity had teams that were new to writing scripts, so they wanted to make sure they could write something that had online resources available outside for easy adoption.
- The Chef Supermarket, which enabled them to use cookbooks and tools that were already built, reducing the amount of customization.
- The community of Chef developers and users who are always willing to help.
With the combination of Azure and Chef Automate, things were humming along nicely until the team noticed that the process of checking to see whether cookbooks were working seemed to need something extra. Also, they had quickly and easily created snapshots of their environments but were not able to check the effect of changes. So, they brought in 10th Magnitude to facilitate the implementation of tools like Test Kitchen and assist with tightening up the pipeline.
They chose 10th Magnitude because of:
- The company’s commitment to Azure
- Proficiency with Chef, Test Kitchen, and Azure
- The ability to create templates for automation that hide underlying effort.
- A demonstrated innovative mindset
Results: Innovation, Cost Reduction, On-Time Delivery, and Adoption
RelativityOne offers all the functionality of Relativity, and the company couldn’t be more pleased with the results. Azure has delivered just what the company wanted in terms of flexibility, scalability, and future innovation, such as service fabric.
The decision to use Chef for automation also resulted in:
- Reduction in the amount of time it takes to start up new environments. The teams can trim hours off setup.
- Higher productivity. Because the environments are brought up by code, system administrators don’t have to waste time manually starting up as many as 32 environments. Also, developers were able to take advantage of prebuilt cookbooks, so they didn’t have to waste time customizing or developing from scratch.
- Consistent environments. Whether the person doing the setup is a senior administrator or a new employee, the environments are guaranteed to be the same.
- Much less troubleshooting. If an environment breaks, Chef Automate not only notifies the team, but it repairs whatever caused the issue.
- A dramatic increase in environment availability. Chef offers Relativity 100% assurance that the environment is set up and running at all times.
As Relativity continues to roll out new releases of RelativityOne, such as the enhancements announced in January 2018, they depend on Chef even more and approve of the work 10th Magnitude has done. Almost all the RelativityOne teams are using Chef Automate in one way or another: deployment, orchestration, spinning up environments, application development work, and now InSpec for compliance. The use cases are too numerous to list. “The question should almost be what we’re not using Chef for,” says Nick Hudacin, Senior Systems Engineer at Relativity.
The solutions provided by 10th Magnitude are icing on the cake. Using Test Kitchen, BitBucket, Jenkins, and more, 10th Magnitude delivers:
- Smooth and efficient DevOps. Developers can put a change in a recipe and check it into source control, where operations can review it and implement it almost instantly—exactly the way the developers want. In addition, infrastructure provisioning is done behind the scenes, invisible to the user.
- Innovation that spurred wider adoption. Although there was a great deal of innovation brought to the project by 10th Magnitude, one example stands out. A red circle with an X shows when there are issues with an implementation and a green checkmark indicates everything is fine. 10th Magnitude also introduced continuous integration testing, not allowing failing CI builds from feature branches to be merged into the develop and master branches, and they were excited about how much time and effort was saved in cookbook development. The practice of CI testing quickly spread throughout other Relativity teams.
- Greater velocity. Templates, open source, and integration tests increase the speed of implementation and stopped the “build-creep” that slows down implementation.