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Industry: Telecom
Location: Switzerland
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Inacta: Scaling Up with Kubernetes and SUSE Rancher

Highlights

  • 80% reduction in provisioning time - from hours to minutes
  • 35% reduction in cloud costs
  • 35% reduction in management time

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Founded in 2009, Inacta AG is an independent Swiss IT company that combines the expertise of more than 80 experienced digital transformation specialists.

Inacta provides consulting, project management and software development services to a wide array of customers—from established brands to startups. An early adopter of Blockchain and artificial intelligence (AI), Inacta has a deep understanding of how to use these technologies in a targeted and strategic manner. The company is a founding member of the Crypto Valley Association and the Swiss Blockchain Federation. It was also an initiator of the Crypto Valley Directory, the Blockchain Summit and the Blockchain Competition, which promotes technology startups and offers new businesses opportunities to network with high profile companies.

Inacta’s infrastructure team, led by DevOps specialists Michael Koller, Adrian Lüthi, István Szimhár and consultant, Andrin Farner, regards the growing wave of digitization (hastened by the COVID-19 pandemic) as an ideal moment to support customers with solutions designed to promote agility and resilience. With demand for Inacta’s services growing fast, and with rapid expansion on the horizon, the company is working with Kubernetes and SUSE Rancher to drive efficiency and scale into its infrastructure.

At-a-Glance

In the wake of the global pandemic, companies are hastening digital transformation strategies in a bid to build greater resilience into their IT strategies. As a leading Swiss technology provider, Inacta AG is primed to help financial organizations prosper. By cleverly matching AI and Blockchain technologies with the needs of its customers, the company is poised for rapid growth. To help the company scale, Inacta is working with SUSE Rancher and Kubernetes to drive scale, agility and innovation.

The Journey to Containers

As a fast-moving, innovation-driven company, Inacta is keen to ensure its technology architecture is always up-to-date and, more importantly, reliable. This makes sense given well over half of Switzerland’s largest insurance companies rely on Inacta’s expertise. As do several of the country’s leading banks and financial services providers.

As a fast-growth company, developing new services and technologies at-speed, the ability to scale swiftly and safely, is crucial. Until recently, the company worked with Docker Compose, but Inacta’s DevOps team soon discovered it was only useful in single node deployments. Long term, it wouldn’t meet their requirements. The team went on to experiment with Docker Swarm, but it soon became clear this wasn’t a suitable alternative. It didn’t provide the breadth of container orchestration functionality offered by Kubernetes and, like Docker Compose, it proved problematic when it came to performing operations at scale.

Kubernetes became the obvious choice for two main reasons. Not only was it (and remains) the most commonly used open source container orchestration platform, it also allows teams to spin up and tear down new clusters at a moment’s notice without the need for additional resources.

When it came to selecting a Kubernetes management platform, to unify and streamline the experience, the team sought a completely heterogenous solution—one that would allow the use of any technologies, side-by-side, whether on-premise or in the cloud. The team also needed a platform that could automate many basic operational processes and that would be capable of scaling on-demand.

Inacta briefly considered Red Hat OpenShift, but soon realized the functionality wasn’t quite right. Not only does OpenShift’s monocluster architecture make scaling (and multi cluster management) difficult, it would also cause costs to soar. In April 2019, the DevOps team concluded SUSE Rancher was the right choice. Not only did the platform prove far more cost-effective than alternatives, but SUSE Rancher’s open source ethos matched Inacta’s similarly open approach.

Initially, Inacta ported some of its older applications to SUSE Rancher to explore how the process would work. Liking what they saw, the team decided to put containers, and SUSE Rancher, at the heart of the company’s innovation-led expansion. Inacta moved several cutting-edge services, such as Tokengate and KYCgate, to the platform, along with some new innovations in the fast-moving cryptocurrency space.

“Provisioning a new environment now takes a matter of minutes, whereas before it would take a few hours at least. All the time we used to spend on manual configuration and security, we can now spend more usefully.”

Why SUSE Rancher?

Inacta needed a Kubernetes management platform that could keep pace with its evolving needs. A VM-based, Dockercentric model had been ideal in the company’s early years, but as it grew, this approach became too resource-intensive. Docker proved too limiting, and OpenShift’s mono-cluster nature meant Inacta couldn’t rapidly scale its infrastructure at the pace required. SUSE Rancher was the only platform that could help Inacta meet its goals.

Driving scale and operational efficiency

The team’s focus was to improve what had become a cumbersome and unsustainable developer experience. Manually deploying, configuring and updating VMs was time-consuming and complex. By fixing this, the infrastructure could scale up and down in a flash.

SUSE Rancher saves development teams’ time by removing the need to reinvent the wheel with every new deployment. It eliminates, for example, the requirement to manually manage basic processes such as script development, RBAC (role-based access control), monitoring and Application Catalogue access. Clusters can be configured, deployed, replicated, viewed and managed centrally via a single pane of glass. They are updated in a unified way, at a regular cadence and at the push of a button. All this dramatically simplifies the IT management experience, increases development velocity and improves the working lives of developers.

As a result, Inacta has seen dramatic improvements to its operational efficiency. Historically, when the team wanted to work on a new service, they had to provision a new VM, configure it, then make sure everything was running correctly. This would take precious time away from strategic initiatives. Now, the team can simply let SUSE Rancher do all the heavy lifting.

“Provisioning a new environment now takes a matter of minutes, whereas before it would take a few hours at least. All the time we used to spend on manual configuration and security, we can now spend more usefully,” says Adrian Lüthi, DevOps specialist at Inacta AG.

Reducing overheads

Of course, like most businesses, Inacta has always been keen to reduce its overheads. With SUSE Rancher, the company has managed to dramatically reduce excess resource consumption and has seen a “significant reduction” in costs as a result. The company estimates that its cloud expenditure has reduced by at least a third, despite having far more functionality and scalability than ever before.

Ease of integration

When migrating to Azure AD (App Direct), the team found integrating this with SUSE Rancher was smooth and hassle-free. Thanks to SUSE Rancher’s built-in Azure plugin, Inacta was able to carry out the entire integration and migrate the whole authentication process in a “matter of minutes.” This ease of integration will be crucial for Inacta going forward.

“We recently migrated to Azure AD, which was made easier because of the built-in plug-in in SUSE Rancher. It took a matter of minutes to set up the integration and migrate everything to our existing Azure architecture,” says István Szimhár, DevOps specialist at Inacta AG.

Stress-free development

As a growing company, Inacta has taken on many new employees. It is imperative, therefore, that new hires rapidly become familiar with novel development processes. Since it began its journey with SUSE Rancher, the DevOps team has had positive feedback from developers who report they are able to seamlessly access the resources they need, at the point they are required.

“With the help of built-in templates, it was easy to create a custom role in SUSE Rancher for our developers. Here, they have exactly what they need, in a tailored environment that was a pleasure to set up. We had only minor tweaks to make which meant we could launch immediately,” says Szimhár.

What's Next for Inacta?

Since Inacta started using SUSE Rancher in 2019, the company has reaped multiple benefits. The team has seen costs reduce by more than a third; its developers now have time to put innovation first; and the company is finally able to scale with growing demand. Daily life for the company’s team is transformed. What’s next? The team plans to bring continuous deployment to the SUSE Rancher platform in order to allow immediate and autonomous deployment into production environments—something that will make the lives of its growing DevOps team even easier.