In early 2022, Glimpse is alight with the excited and anxious energy of the countdown to commercial launch — the virtual marketplace for digital content creators and consumers is about to go viral.
Unique in the streaming industry, Glimpse enables content creators to set up multitier sponsorships, gate content, modify pricing on-the-go and accept payments and tips directly from fans. To view gated videos, fans use tokens to pay for access. Fans purchase these tokens, at which point Glimpse charges a fee, and content creators receive 100% of tokens charged. This ensures they receive higher revenue than with competitive platforms. Although it is available around the world, the company is targeting North and Latin America in its current phase. Common users of the platform include gamers, esports creators, visual artists and instructors.
At its core, the 4-year-old company is a software development company strategically leveraging opportunities in the market to create a better experience for content sharers and consumers, replete with fair pay.
When the founders of Glimpse created the company, they placed innovation at the heart of their mission. Out of the gate, the company was organized to operate an efficient DevOps strategy. Onboard were extremely skilled Kubernetes experts, who built a custom cluster infrastructure from scratch. Despite their environment’s flexibility, scalability and customizability, Glimpse struggled to find the skills needed to manage such a complex infrastructure. Instead, Glimpse opted to simplify the management of its container infrastructure by implementing SUSE Rancher — making way for other business innovations in the process.
A Kubernetes-based strategy
When the company formed in 2018, the founders utilized DevOps methodologies to increase development velocity and enable frequent, seamless updates for improved user experiences. It was a bold move for a startup, given that DevOps practices were still relatively new.
Michael Burns, co-founder of Glimpse, reflects, “I’ve been a programmer since the early nineties. So, I’m used to monolithic workflows. Getting my head around microservices was a challenge, and I decided I’m not going to do any of the programming on Glimpse.” Instead, the company hired a prolific containers guru, Predrag Aleksić, to build a custom environment to support the company’s microservice and DevOps efficiencies.
Having volunteered for the Free Software Foundation Network, Aleksić is a champion of open source technologies. “As soon as Docker emerged, I started playing with containers,” he says. “First, I started with Docker Swarm, then moved to Kubernetes. I’m very engaged the open source community; I like to contribute a lot.”
Up to the task, Aleksić built homegrown Kubernetes clusters using a variety of shell scripts and compiled languages, creating a highly customizable, highly available and resilient environment. The result was a success, except for one thing: its complexity.
“It works great,” says Aleksić, “But it requires a lot of effort to maintain; and most people don’t have the needed skillset.”
Because of the system’s high customizability, upgrades could take anywhere from one to three weeks to complete. The team would have to go to the change log, read what Kubernetes had done, then apply those changes to Glimpse’s automation stack.
For every new hire tasked with maintaining the environment, its intricacies proved too complex. “We’ve had some catastrophic mistakes made with our system,” says Burns. Because few people have the same depth of understanding as Aleksić, the company struggled with hiring adequate support. Even more so, keeping its star developer preoccupied with administrative tasks threatened the company’s ability to innovate further.
Committed to maximizing efficiencies amongst its systems and staff, Glimpse turned to its trusted partner for a solution and learned about SUSE Rancher.
“The experience was really amazing. I’ve worked with Red Hat OpenShift, but when I tried SUSE Rancher, it was an easy choice for me. SUSE Rancher offers painless Kubernetes upgrades, native Kubernetes experience and is also really easy to use. It was the only option after that.”
New hire: SUSE Rancher
A key player in the business model, phoenixNAP has been with Glimpse since the beginning. When Glimpse first organized, it didn’t want to spend a tremendous amount of money standing up hardware for delivering services. Instead, Glimpse uses phoenixNAP’s Managed Private Cloud to host its development infrastructure and secure its production workloads.
“Glimpse needed the bandwidth scale to accommodate video delivery and services that call for multigigabit connections,” says Ian McClarty, president of phoenixNAP. “This is something a lot of startups struggle with — margins are eaten up in the public cloud. So, Glimpse turned to phoenixNAP for its experience in supporting large video delivery organizations with a plethora of data centers throughout the world.”
Working closely with the Glimpse team, phoenixNAP was aware of the issues Glimpse was having. Serendipitously, phoenixNAP in the meantime launched dedicated servers with SUSE Rancher pre-installed within its Bare Metal Cloud (BMC) platform. With SUSE Rancher on BMC, DevOps teams are able to deploy, manage and orchestrate Kubernetes clusters out-of-the-box. It seemed a perfect solution for Glimpse’s needs.
Already a close partner with SUSE, phoenixNAP helped Glimpse arrange a proof of concept (POC) with SUSE Rancher in late 2021. SUSE Rancher is a 100% open source software stack that simplifies Kubernetes deployments and management, taking care of provisioning, monitoring and access control out-of-the-box.
“The experience was really amazing,” says Aleksić, talking about the POC. “I’ve worked with Red Hat OpenShift, but when I tried SUSE Rancher, it was an easy choice for me. SUSE Rancher offers painless Kubernetes upgrades, native Kubernetes experience and is also really easy to use. It was the only option after that.”
Speed, simplicity and innovation
The POC demonstrated SUSE Rancher’s ability to not only orchestrate Glimpse’s Kubernetes clusters effectively, but to also simplify management of the complete stack through a single pane of glass.
“Our code base dropped significantly,” says Aleksić. “It took us a week of reading documentation from SUSE Rancher itself and another week to code the stack. After that, making that cluster fully operatable took only 50 minutes. That’s huge for us. Compared to our homegrown cluster, SUSE Rancher is 10 minutes faster at spinning up a cluster.” For a DevOps company, 10 minutes makes all the difference.
Coupled with SUSE Rancher’s lite weight and increased speeds also comes simplicity.
Burns states: “Even though I decided not to do any of the programming on Glimpse, I would play with the Kubernetes command-line tool, kubectl and stuff like that. But once I set up SUSE Rancher and got it going, it was so much easier. You click a few buttons and everything’s up and running. I really like it.”
Of greatest importance to Glimpse, however, SUSE Rancher uniformly and automatically applies updates, freeing Aleksić to work on other tasks. “Now, I don’t have to work one to three weeks on applying upgrades,” he says. “I can focus on the pods themselves. I can write better support security policies. I can play with new features.”
“SUSE Rancher is our go-to thing so that we can bring other people in, and they don’t need Predrag’s level of technical experience to be able to help run our network,” says Burns. “Trying to find talent like Predrag is causing a problem. SUSE Rancher is going to fix that problem.”
What’s next for Glimpse?
With a successful POC behind them, Glimpse plans to migrate its workload, 500 containers unscaled, to SUSE Rancher as a final step before launch. Despite having built a Kubernetes cluster and automation stack from scratch, a source of pride for the company, Aleksić is ready to let it go: “From the business perspective, we do not care what our cluster orchestrator is. We’re more focused on the platform itself, what we’re actually offering our customers.”
Because SUSE Rancher allows users to prodigiously provision new nodes without too much coding, Glimpse plans to use multiple name spaces with strong security policies. It will also create and use different clusters per environment.
“The benefit is really huge,” adds Aleksić. “We will improve employee productivity, spending more time on the application itself, the port itself, security. We’ll also be looking at how we can minimize administrative tasks and focus more on the business side of the application.”
“SUSE Rancher will be at the core of the delivery aspect of the house, the glue that holds everything together,” describes McClarty. “Glimpse’s complex Kubernetes’ infrastructure is built to manage and scale out without having to add overhead. That includes gaming servers, streaming servers, user management systems, and billing transactions with third parties. SUSE Rancher will be at the core of that management and that scale out for them.”
Glimpse is completing its migration to SUSE Rancher in Q2 of 2022. Shortly thereafter, the hard work over four years pays off. The platform will officially launch with all the influencers and social media tactics of a modern marketing plan.
We’ll keep you updated on how the migration goes.