Delivering software as a service requires no shortage of computing muscle, especially when you have a global client base that demands 100 percent uptime.
To deliver that, UK-based billing services provider BillingServ employs OpenStack-based cloud services, first from OpenStack co-founder Rackspace, and currently from major OpenStack contributor DreamHost. Clients worldwide use BillingServ’s cloud-based software to handle their billing needs, submitting invoices and taking payments online.
“We have to guarantee 100 percent uptime, because if our platform became unavailable our clients would be unable to take payments,” said Jordan Smith, executive director at BillingServ. “Everyone likes getting paid, but for our clients it’s an essential piece of their operations. The OpenStack-powered solutions supporting our platform allow us to offer total peace of mind to our clients, so they can count the availability of their billing services as a given and put their focus on the rest of their business.”
With their OpenStack solution, BillingServ is able to achieve a load-balanced server environment around the world so that any single node can withstand an influx of activity and servers are replicated five or six times with instances located in five or six different countries. While BillingServ’s top three markets are in the United States, United Kingdom, and France, the company serves clients across the European Union and in Asia as well.
DreamHost products now used by BillingServ include DreamCompute, the company’s OpenStack-powered cloud computing solution, and DreamObjects, a Ceph-based, OpenStack-compatible solution for cloud storage. Through DreamCompute, BillingServ can offer unlimited, scalable virtual cloud servers on-demand as the needs of clients require. DreamObjects provides BillingServ with reliable redundant cloud storage which delivers content via the nearest geographical server and is massively scalable as needed. BillingServ uses these DreamHost solutions throughout the United States and relies upon other OpenStack-based clouds as well, while in Europe it uses services by Amazon EC2.
“We chose an OpenStack solution because we recognized the resiliency it could instill in our operations,” said Smith when asked how BillingServ arrived at the open source infrastructure-as-a-service platform. “But the truth of the matter is that we originally made our selection because we received a free year of service from Rackspace, and we liked it. Following that we transitioned to DreamHost. The switch was painless. We used GitHub, moving the database was just another command, and DreamCompute has an OpenStack portal, it all took about two hours. The price differential is notable, and while it’s true that we don’t get the same level of fanatical support since DreamHost’s service is unmanaged, we like that. We also like their DreamObjects storage service a lot: it’s better than Amazon S3.”
BillingServ uses DreamCompute and DreamObjects to run their rather complex and hardware-taxing SaaS platform – which includes app and storage layers in addition to their DreamObjects implementation. The company’s main app server is located in the U.S., a private network database server replicated and load balanced worldwide to ensure their 100 percent uptime promise. To handle the manage technical complexity of deployments across multiple hybrid clouds, BillingServ has a team of server engineers tasked with monitoring these servers. They have also implemented a load balancer, so that if anything happens to a particular cloud server, users will be switched to another within five seconds (resulting in mere seconds of downtime or none at all).
“We use OpenStack quite a lot,” Smith said. “In fact, the only cloud we have that isn’t Openstack is in Asia; it’s nine out of ten. One of the real difference-makers for OpenStack is that we can click a button and have a virtual server spun up in just two minutes. Some other solutions can take eight to ten minutes, and that can feel like a real delay, not what we were looking for in our business. With OpenStack, a total server install takes just half an hour, and it’s up and ready to use.”
BillingServ is proud of its platform and looks forward to leveraging OpenStack’s advantages as it extends its services to new clients globally.
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