The British Army relies on IT to support its personnel deployed around the world. Its Information Application Services (IAS) Branch delivers software applications, hosting, and web services to the British Army. To overcome issues with unplanned downtime and support, IAS migrated its private cloud environment from Oracle to Red Hat Enterprise Linux. With simplified, automated management through Red Hat Ansible, IAS can deploy changes faster and more efficiently. In addition, the new environment has reduced manual and other errors and eliminated unplanned downtime, helping improve the end user experience.
- Simplified and automated management to improve consistency and reduce manual errors
- Accelerated deployment of critical patches from three days to three hours and cut changed delivery time by 75%
- Improved agility by enhancing DevOps approach used to deliver services to users
- Gained access to expert support for troubleshooting any issues with new environment
I.T. PLATFORM DELAYS UPDATES AND DISRUPTS USERS
With more than 100,000 regular and reserve personnel — including 19,000 personnel deployed across 27 countries in 2017 — the British Army depends on its IT to run smoothly. A seamless IT experience is particularly important for its Information Application Services (IAS) Branch. Based in the UK, this team delivers software applications, hosting, and web services to the British Army.
“We predominantly host large corporate applications and services that provide support to families, veterans, and anyone we work with,” said Lt. Col. Dorian Seabrook, head of operations at the British Army’s IAS Branch. “These applications are similar to those in a commercial environment, such as our enterprise resource platform and our Oracle-based human resources software.”
IAS uses two main hosting environments: a public cloud server farm and the Army Hosting Environment, consisting of two private clouds. These environments are predominately Linux and Windows instances, as well as several virtual appliances. The IAS Linux platform runs a large instance of Oracle technology that hosts more than 30 applications developed in-house using Oracle Application Express (Oracle APEX). However, IAS began experiencing support, performance, and availability problems with its Oracle technology.
“While running an Oracle stack on Oracle Linux, we were finding that the Oracle Linux support was not up to the standard we expected,” said Aidan Beeson, Linux technical architect at the British Army’s IAS Branch. “We were also having compatibility issues with some software when using Oracle’s Unbreakable Enterprise Kernel [UEK].”
These problems caused unplanned downtime during upgrades, disrupted users, and slowed update deployment. “There’s always pressure to deliver quickly. We have to be more efficient in how we deliver software, as well as underlying infrastructure, upgrades, maintenance, and support,” said Seabrook.
ENTERPRISE OPEN SOURCE SOLUTION STREAMLINES MANAGEMENT
Because of these issues, IAS decided to migrate from Oracle Linux to Red Hat Enterprise Linux, supported by Red Hat Enterprise Linux Resilient Storage Add-On.
“We were redefining our operating model and wanted to deliver software faster and more efficiently to meet end users’ requirements,” said Seabrook. “As part of that we started to look at DevOps and what tools were available to support us in this venture.”
For its main Oracle solution — including five database servers and two applications servers with a central clustered file system — IAS deployed Red Hat Enterprise Linux Resilient Storage Add-On. This add-on offers file system capabilities for resiliency across system failures. IAS also hardened Red Hat Enterprise Linux in house to meet security requirements using a combination of military and other security benchmarks.
To streamline management of its new environment after migrating from physical infrastructure to a software-defined datacenter, IAS deployed Ansible Tower by Red Hat. This automation and orchestration tool was initially deployed to perform fully automated routine patches and configuration updates to the operating system. IAS then expanded its use to provide rapid patching and system reconfiguration for urgent requirements, with a streamlined development, test, and deployment pipeline.
In addition, Ansible Tower now supports DevOps and continuous integration (CI) approaches to routine system administration within the Army Hosting Environment.