AWS Partner Network (APN) Blog

Helping Customers Increase Cloud Adoption and Automate on AWS – ClearScale and Chef

The APN is comprised of a large and global ecosystem of Consulting and Technology Partners, who often utilize each other’s services and solutions to provide their end customers with an even greater experience on AWS. Today, we’d like to profile the success that ClearScale, an Advanced APN Consulting Partner, has had in working with Chef, one of our APN Technology Partners.

Who is ClearScale?

ClearScale delivers high quality cloud systems integration, application development, and managed services. The company is a technical- and engineering-focused company with a highly technical team of systems engineers, architects, and developers. ClearScale’s core competency is delivering custom cloud projects and services for clients who have limited cloud experience on staff or who need additional resources. The company has worked with hundreds of clients to deliver custom infrastructure solutions on AWS, and has an offering around cloud automation with a self-service portal for clients. ClearScale is a Big Data Competency Partner.

Who is Chef?

Chef turns infrastructure into code. With Chef, an APN Technology Partner, you can automate how you build, deploy, and manage your infrastructure. Your infrastructure becomes as versionable, testable, and repeatable as application code.

Chef relies on reusable definitions known as recipes to automate infrastructure tasks. Examples of recipes are instructions for configuring web servers, databases and load balancers. Together, recipes describe what your infrastructure consists of and how each part of your infrastructure should be deployed, configured and managed.


Why Work with AWS?

A key driver for ClearScale in working with the AWS platform was AWS’ pace of innovation. “AWS is, in our opinion, the leader in cloud. The rate of AWS innovation is immense,” said Pavel Pragin, CEO & CTO at ClearScale. For the Chef team, the ability to take advantage of AWS’ speed and agility to deliver a platform for automating infrastructure in AWS for customers was key. “Early customers were cloud-first, AWS-native organizations that required automation to move fast to take advantage of AWS cloud speed. More recently, traditional enterprises trust AWS to straddle their traditional datacenter while modernizing with speed, agility, and automation,” said Ken Cheney, Vice President at Chef. Cheney continued, “Speed and scale are necessary to delight customers and succeed in today’s economy. Chef works with AWS to help customers drive innovation, deliver new features faster, and take control of their infrastructure.”

The Benefits of Working Together on AWS  

The ClearScale team saw the advantage of utilizing Chef’s infrastructure automation technology from the beginning. “ClearScale has been using Chef technology since day one, and we formalized our partnership in 2012. Chef is a powerful system configuration management tool that enables customers to automatically provision and configure new instances on Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2). Their infrastructure automation technology is top-of-the-line,” said Pragin. ClearScale uses Chef solutions in many of its client projects to fully automate clients’ cloud infrastructure. “This helps our clients take a DevOps approach, by treating their infrastructure as code and enabling faster time-to-market, improved deployment frequency, and more stable operating environments,” said Pragin. He continued, “Chef’s infrastructure automation technology paired with AWS cloud services give our clients the benefit of cloud at scale, with agility and efficiency. Our clients are able to focus on more strategic projects, and save significant time by automating routine tasks.”

It was a natural fit from the beginning for the Chef team to engage with ClearScale, as Chef felt that its technology complimented and could further enable ClearScale’s mission of delivering excellent results to clients migrating to and optimizing environments on AWS. “ClearScale’s extensive experience with AWS and Chef helps increase cloud adoption while improving client satisfaction,” said Cheney.

Customer Example – Shinola Detroit

Shinola Detroit, a company dedicated to producing American built products, including watches, bicycles, leather goods, and journals of high quality, wanted to get ready for the holidays – their peak sales time – and needed to be able to scale their ecommerce website to 10x current traffic. The company had a different dedicated solution in place, and in order to meet the potential demand spikes, the company would have to lease more servers and wasn’t confident in the ability for the existing solution to meet its needs. After evaluating its options, Shinola decided to move its ecommerce website infrastructure to AWS to enable them to autoscale and handle the holiday traffic cost-effectively.

Shinola chose to work with ClearScale to oversee the migration to AWS. ClearScale designed a new deployment that was simpler and more cost-effective thanks to automation with Chef and AWS CloudFormation. Using Chef to automate its cloud infrastructure helped Shinola’s DevOps team be more agile and efficient by automating routine, manual infrastructure management tasks.

Shinola now has a collection of Chef cookbooks that completely automate the company’s infrastructure and server provisioning process, including:

  • Apache installation and configuration
  • PHP installation and configuration (with all required modules for Drupal and Magento)
  • Collectd installation and configuration
  • AWS CloudWatch monitoring tools installation and configuration

Further, in using Chef cookbooks, Shinola has the ability to:

  • Get code from Git repository
  • Create configuration files from templates
  • Automatically add MySQL/Memcached/Redis parameters to configuration
  • Set basic authentication (when necessary)

The Shinola team also uses Knife, a powerful command line tool from Chef, to manage environments, roles, and data bags, to pull/push data to Shinola’s Git repository, and to upload new code to the Chef server.

Shinola uses a number of AWS Services. The company’s Redis cluster was replaced by Amazon ElastiCache, and its MySQL servers were replaced by Amazon Relational Database Service (Amazon RDS) to simplify management and cut costs. The single-point-of-failure NFS server was replaced with Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3) and linked up to Amazon CloudFront CDN for fast delivery. A secondary AWS Region was deployed for disaster recovery. Using Amazon Virtual Private Cloud (Amazon VPC) has helped Shinola meet PCI compliance requirements.

ClearScale designed and completed the migration for Shinola in one month, enabling Shinola to be ready well in advance of the holiday season. Additionally, Shinola was able to save 30 percent on its hosting costs by moving to AWS.

What’s Next for ClearScale and Chef on AWS?

ClearScale plans to continue utilizing Chef in future projects. As a new AWS Big Data Competency Partner, ClearScale anticipates an increased focus on Big Data engagements. Chef recently announced Chef Delivery, a service to help customers continuously deliver applications and infrastructure safely at speed.

To learn more about ClearScale, check out the company’s AWS Partner Directory here. To learn more about Chef, check out the company’s AWS Partner Directory listing here, and take a look at a number of upcoming Chef events at the AWS Pop-up Loft here.