Case Study / Ozinga

"Now we have a replica of our VMware environment in the cloud. So we can test it every time there is a new release. There is also the ability to take a snapshot of the environment when we mess something up. We once had to roll back to our previous state and Ravello’s snapshot came in very handy."
Chris Visser
System Administrator, Ozinga

Case Study Highlights

The Ozinga team works closely with the Apex software development and support team to roll out upgrades into their own production environment. However, since it is a business critical system for Ozinga, it was too risky to roll out changes into production without performing extensive upgrade testing on an isolated replica of the production environment.

They uploaded their VMware VMs into Ravello and saved a blueprint of their application.

Now, each time the Apex team releases a new version of their software, Ozinga is able to simply spin up a replica of its production application system in the public cloud. Since the VMs and networking remain the same, they have the confidence that the upgrade process works exactly as it would in their VMware production environment.

Established in 1928 in Evergreen Park, Illinois, as a small coal and coke yard, Ozinga survived the Great Depression and World War II before becoming one of the first ready mix providers in the region. What started as a small coal yard in 1928 has grown into the Midwest's premier supplier of concrete and materials. Today they provide ready mix concrete, decorative concrete supplies, and bulk materials while offering transportation services through an extensive network of truck, rail, barge, and ship terminals.

The company says "As we transition from one generation of leadership to the next in 2012, we're looking forward to doing more and doing it even better. Ozinga has never shied away from a challenge or a chance to innovate—and we don't plan on starting anytime soon. Ozinga is proud to be a fourth generation family-operated company in America's heartland—and we're here to stay."

Overview of Ozinga’s Logistics System

Ozinga has come a long way from the old days of using punch cards to track bulk materials dispatch and delivery. Today they use a sophisticated packaged application called Apex for managing their logistics. Apex is the leading ticketing and automation solution for the bulk materials industry. Apex includes the following modules, systems and features, all designed specifically for bulk materials providers: Ticketing, Loadout, Rail, Automation, Dispatch, Material Management, Connectivity, Back Office, Content Management, E-Commerce, and Voice Based Scheduling.

Ozinga runs their Apex production systems which powers their logistics, on VMware vSphere. The Apex system is a Windows-based, fully integrated family of products using the flexible capabilities of an SQL database. The underlying architecture and connectivity between multiple locations provides for integration of diverse work groups at one central location and for managing the complete Quote to Cash process.

The Ozinga team works closely with the Apex software development and support team to roll out upgrades into their own production environment. However, since it is a business critical system for Ozinga, it was too risky to roll out changes into production without performing extensive upgrade testing on an isolated replica of the production environment.

“Reliability is the number one priority for our logistics system - we need our systems up all the time. If it goes down even for 10 minutes in the middle of the day, it immediately impacts our business. Without it we’d be dead in the water” said Chris Visser, system administrator at Ozinga. Recreating the Apex environment for upgrade testing would be too resource intensive both in terms of hardware capacity required as well as manual overhead. It would cost a lot of money and lot of hardware to replicate the entire environment internally, so Ozinga decided to use the public cloud instead, through Ravello’s nested virtualization solution.

Ravello Solution

Ozinga has saved a blueprint of their production application in Ravello. Whenever they have a new release from the Apex software team, Chris is able to spin up a temporary upgrade testing environment in the public cloud. This new environment in the cloud is a replica of the existing VMware environment running in production in the datacenter, without any modifications to the vmdks or networking.

To get started, Chris exported all their virtual machines that comprised their Apex deployment and uploaded them into Ravello to get their application environment in to Ravello. “Due to the fairly large VM sizes, it took about a week to upload the VMs, configure the environment and save a blueprint for initial set up. Since then I haven’t had any issues - its been running fairly smoothly”, continued Chris. “Now we have a replica of our VMware environment in the cloud. So we can test it every time there is a new release. There is also the ability to take a snapshot of the environment when we mess something up. We once had to roll back to our previous state and Ravello’s snapshot came in very handy.” If all the upgrade tests pass then the same upgrade process is applied with high degree of confidence in the production environment. The temporary upgrade testing environment itself is either erased or left standing as required.

Now, each time the Apex team releases a new version of their software, Ozinga is able to simply spin up a replica of its production application system in the public cloud. Since the VMs and networking remain the same, they have the confidence that the upgrade process works exactly as it would in their VMware production environment. They also use Ravello’s collaborative features to enable shared access for the Apex and Ozinga teams during the upgrade testing process itself.

The Bottom Line

Instead of buying a lot of additional hardware and spending weeks standing up a replica of their production VMware environment on-premise, Ozinga has been able to use Ravello’s nested virtualization solution to use the public cloud to run their VMware virtual machines on AWS and also benefit from the built-in automation for cloning the entire multi-tier application environment.

About Ravello Systems

Ravello is the industry's leading nested virtualization and software defined networking service. It enables enterprises to encapsulate their complex VMware workloads and clone them in AWS without making any changes. Now enterprises can spin up development, test, UAT and staging environments on demand and significantly increase agility. Ravello is built by the same team that developed the KVM hypervisor in Linux.

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