The Department of Defense (DoD) hired technology consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton to transform its aging and inflexible architecture into one that supports elasticity and flexibility during spikes in user demand. Using Red Hat® Enterprise Linux®, Red Hat JBoss® Middleware, and Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization, Booz Allen Hamilton created a private cloud and elastic infrastructure that saved US$5.1 million through fiscal year 2015 and increased agility and flexibility.
- Sunfire x4170 and x4640 servers
The new Red Hat-based architecture is enabling the flexibility to do things that the organization's acquisitions businesses wouldn't have been able to do a few years ago. The automatic scaling, automatic process execution, and configuration management and monitoring capabilities are streamlining availability of the organization's services to a bigger set of users, while achieving better response times and delivering a better user experience.Cameron Mayer, senior associate, Booz Allen Hamilton
The Department of Defense (DoD), a governing body of all divisions of the United States military, needed a new technology solution for one of its divisions. This division had a physical hardware-based infrastructure that drove more than 80 legacy applications. These, in turn, supported the organization's acquisition functions. Some of these applications analyzed the health of various programs and generated heavy loads of reports, which senior personnel used to decide what DoD initiatives to fund. The organization worked with technology consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton to find an appropriate solution.
DoD needs scalable infrastructure
The client's old infrastructure consisted of more than 120 end-of-life Oracle SPARC machines. Most of them ran Solaris and could not scale to handle unpredictable workload spikes during heavy use of the applications. During heavy reporting periods—usually driven by activities in Washington, DC—the systems would experience a traffic surge. Performance suffered. That slowed down the flow of information to decision-makers until new physical servers could be provisioned.
Seeking integrated system to replace multiple platforms
In addition, the legacy applications were running on multiple hardware and operating system platforms. That created high operational costs. The team wanted to virtualize—to reduce expenses needed to buy new servers and to manage them. But it would take IT professionals as long as 2.5 weeks to configure a Linux virtual machine. Such machines must conform to the DoD's stringent security technical implementation guidelines. So the IT team would need an additional week to install, configure, and customize a development environment on that virtual machine. This extended time spent managing standard system administration tasks drained the IT team's resources. They wanted to focus instead on future application updates and building new features.
Getting infrastructure that scales, automates
"We were asked to develop an infrastructure that would make this particular DoD client much more efficient and effective," said Munjeet Singh, senior associate, Booz Allen Hamilton. "The client decided it wanted to move into a consolidated environment that would be able to scale up resources automatically so they wouldn't have to scramble to procure and configure physical servers to meet and sustain the demands of increased workloads."
Booz Allen Hamilton needed 3 different types of solutions to meet the DoD's demands:
- A stable, reliable, and secure operating system that allowed for easy maintenance automation and served as a strong foundation for cloud architecture
- A server virtualization solution that was robust, low cost, and full-featured enough to build an infrastructure that can support dozens of web-based applications, along with cloud-based Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) and Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS)
- A middleware solution to enable a cloud “engine” and to create business rules and process automation for scaling the infrastructure on demand
Getting up to date with Red Hat Enterprise Linux
First, the firm replaced the DoD's 120 end-of-life, proprietary Oracle SPARC servers with 15 Sunfire x4170 and Sunfire x4640 servers running Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6.
In the new infrastructure, all physical servers were virtualized using Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization 3.0. That enables them to run more than 80 virtual machines in a private cloud environment. Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization provides the DoD program users with advanced virtual machine metrics reporting. They also get reduced downtime and rapid provisioning of virtual machines. Using cloud architecture concepts, the DoD program deploys a self-provisioning portal with application programming interface (API) connections to Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization. Internal developers can provision their own systems and speed up the development process.
In addition to Red Hat Enterprise Linux and Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization, Booz Allen Hamilton used a third Red Hat technology, Red Hat JBoss Middleware. That includes Red Hat JBoss Business Rules Management System (BRMS), one of the core components of the cloud computing controller, or engine.
Client gains synergies
"We found significant synergies by using all the Red Hat products together: Red Hat Enterprise Linux, Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization, and Red Hat JBoss Middleware," said Nirmal Mehta, associate, Booz Allen Hamilton.
The DoD is deploying this powerful combination of JBoss BRMS and other open source software to production. The result is a more dynamic infrastructure. Today, more than 70 web-based applications that serve more than 80,000 users worldwide are running on this new infrastructure.
Using Red Hat middleware, virtualization, and platform technologies together, the client achieved substantial savings of US$5.1 million through fiscal year 2015. Factors contributing to these savings include:
- Reduced total cost of ownership across the operations and management needed to maintain the systems
- Reduced licensing costs for Oracle products and the costly operations of legacy hardware
- Deployment of modern infrastructure, which eliminated problems in system performance during spikes in use
Seeing advantages of private cloud
This infrastructure deployment will enable one of the first implementations of a private cloud with automated elasticity within the DoD.
"It has been recognized and positioned as a strong model for the rest of this DoD organization's infrastructure," said Singh. "In particular, the ability to stand up IaaS and PaaS capabilities makes this deployment stand out as a success in the government sector."
Putting virtual machines into action
The DoD client will now be able to provision and deploy new virtual machines quickly. Intricate knowledge of Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization and Red Hat Enterprise Linux is not required to develop customized, prehardened environments that conform to government regulations. Since PaaS implementations are already preconfigured, developers save an estimated 3.5 weeks of development time, making the DoD's IT team more productive.
Meeting future needs
Booz Allen Hamilton was not only able to save the Department of Defense money. The organization's infrastructure is now much more flexible, agile, and prepared to meet evolving business requirements.
"The new Red Hat-based architecture is enabling the flexibility to do things that the organization's acquisitions businesses wouldn't have been able to do a few years ago," said Cameron Mayer, senior associate, Booz Allen Hamilton. "The automatic scaling, automatic process execution, and configuration management and monitoring capabilities are streamlining availability of the organization's services to a bigger set of users, while achieving better response times and delivering a better user experience."