- RightScale’s cloud-ready ServerTemplates™ are completely transparent, reusable, automated models for configuring cloud servers that enables WebFilings to make changes to deployment-wide variables in a single place rather than on each individual server or machine image.
- Through its automated management features, RightScale provides WebFilings with the peace of mind that it can increase (or decrease) capacity at any time, as needed, without adding hardware, headcount, or hassle.
- With RightScale, WebFilings has made running enterprise-grade applications on the AWS cloud a viable, cost-effective part of its overall cloud computing strategy.
WebFilings “Dual-Cloud” Solution Banks On RightScale
WebFilings develops and markets a fully integrated, cloud-based solution dedicated to meeting SEC reporting requirements. With WebFilings, reporting teams collaborate in real time on their financial reports from accounting close through SEC acceptance, reducing the time, risk, and costs associated with the entire external reporting process.
WebFilings was built from the ground up on cloud computing and has taken full advantage of everything the cloud has to offer. With no investment in hardware and no datacenter overhead, the company has been able to dedicate its resources to building a great product, supporting its customers, and growing its business. And WebFilings’ cloud-based solution has a unique twist: It uses two cloud infrastructures. By using Google App Engine to securely build its applications and Amazon Web Services with the RightScale Cloud Management Platform to support and manage enterprise-grade cloud functionality, WebFilings has achieved the best of two worlds.
The Business Challenge:
Managing Enterprise-Grade Applications On the Cloud
In many ways, WebFilings operates today how many companies soon will be. By offering a service for a typically complex, labor-intensive, and expensive process (SEC filing) and making it more efficient, less costly, and easier through collaborative, Web-based software, WebFilings has embraced cloud computing and sees it as fundamental to its business strategy. The company’s solutions have been built from inception on cloud computing, with zero investment in large servers, no datacenter, and no full-time administrator. And if that weren’t progressive enough, the company employs a “dual-cloud” solution that includes both the Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) Google App Engine (GAE) and the Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) Amazon Web Services (AWS) cloud.
RightScale has let us set up a complex cloud environment and easily manage it. If we were doing just vanilla EC2 images, we wouldn’t be where we are today.
David Tucker, WebFilings Director of Product Development
WebFilings securely built its core software using GAE, which currently provides the foundation for WebFilings’ back-end processing. As demand grew and its solutions became more sophisticated, the company found that it also needed support for enterprise-grade applications – including longer-running programs and those that use pure SQL. For this, the company tapped AWS. WebFilings’ end-user application now interoperates with read-only search services and transient translation services hosted using Amazon EC2. These Web services include a taxonomy search service for XBRL – a language for the electronic communication of business and financial data – as well as an XBRL validation service, an XBRL instance document viewer, and an EDGAR HTML translation service.
Although Amazon EC2 provided the robust, flexible cloud infrastructure that WebFilings needed to complement GAE, the WebFilings team found that maintaining Amazon Machine Images and managing elastic load balancing on AWS proved to be extremely time and labor intensive. As a solution, WebFilings looked to the RightScale Cloud Management Platform to streamline, automate, and fully manage its AWS applications.
AWS and RightScale Cloud Management
The RightScale Cloud Management Platform delivers a comprehensive cloud management solution that provides a fast cloud on-ramp and easy management of a massive number of cloud deployments with automated scaling and flexibility. It empowers any organization to tap the power of cloud computing for scalable, cost-effective IT infrastructure on demand with complete control and portability. With RightScale, WebFilings has been able to easily manage its Amazon EC2 cloud deployments while saving costs and smoothly growing as demand for its software rapidly increases. A few of the RightScale features that WebFilings has taken advantage of include:
RightScale’s Automation Engine: The RightScale automation engine executes and manages cloud deployments that automatically adapt to situations as required by system demand, system failure, or other specified events. With RightScale, WebFilings can automatically scale an array of application servers to respond to consumer demand, and as demand changes, the team can easily add or decommission servers. Through its automated management, RightScale has provided WebFilings with the peace of mind that it can turn up capacity at any time, as needed, without adding hardware, headcount, or hassle. Its AWS cloud deployments run smoothly, managed by an engine that adapts resource allocation as required, all based on active monitoring to ensure real-time response to pre-defined triggers.
RightScale ServerTemplates™: RightScale’s cloud-ready ServerTemplates are completely transparent, reusable, automated models for configuring cloud servers. These servers know how to operate in the cloud — how to obtain an IP address, how to access and manage storage, how to submit monitoring data, and how to collaborate with other servers in a cloud deployment. Using RightScale ServerTemplates, WebFilings can deploy servers that meet their specific configuration requirements almost immediately on the cloud.
RightScale ServerTemplates can be saved, cloned, and customized — significantly reducing the ongoing maintenance and management of cloud deployments. WebFilings bundles common server components into one base configuration — a RightImage™ — that can be used across many different server types. This methodology delivers portability across multiple clouds, supports automation, and significantly reduces the number of images that need to be maintained.
"Being able to template the images is key,” explains WebFilings Lead Engineer Jason Jones. “RightScale ServerTemplates are robust, reliable, and repeatable."
Patches with Zero Downtime: RightScale ServerTemplates make applying updates and patches to WebFilings software a non-issue, so there’s zero downtime. With RightScale’s modular and variable-based ServerTemplates, changes to deployment-wide variables can be made in a single place rather than on each individual server or machine image. Scripts can be run across all or selected servers to update code, execute system-wide health checks, and accomplish other routine tasks. And an entire deployment can be replicated with just one button instead of starting from scratch using a cloud provider’s APIs and then configuring each separately.
"Managing patches now means just re-applying scripts and profiles,” says David Tucker, WebFilings director of product development. "It’s a matter of moving it over rather than applying patches to all arrays. This flexibility is key and ensures that all changes to our environment are outage-free."
The Result: Agility and Cost Savings
It’s hard to put a number on time-savings and agility, but we can easily justify our investment in RightScale.
David Tucker, WebFilings Director of Product Development
Building its business from the beginning on the cloud has given WebFilings a distinct advantage. With no datacenter overhead, the company has been able to move quickly and focus its resources on growth. Using a combination of two very different cloud infrastructures, WebFilings has benefitted from the security and ease of GAE along with the robust, enterprise-grade functionality of AWS. With the RightScale Cloud Management Platform, WebFilings has magnified the benefits of cloud computing on AWS and significantly reduced the time and cost required to manage its EC2 applications.
"We've saved so much money in the administration and maintenance of our AWS cloud that the investment in RightScale is a non-factor," notes Tucker.
Through RightScale, WebFilings’ business agility has been amplified – it can simply accomplish more, faster. This agility is the result of many factors, including the ability to make system-wide changes almost instantaneously, automatically scaling up or down to meet demand, getting new developers up-to-speed and productive immediately, and more efficient collaboration between the development team.
Adding to its agility is straightforward cost-savings. WebFilings has estimated that if it used Amazon AWS alone without RightScale, the company would need to hire two full-time system administrators rather than the one part-time developer that now effectively manages the RightScale-AWS system.
With RightScale, WebFilings has made running enterprise-grade applications on the AWS cloud a viable, cost-effective part of its overall cloud computing strategy. The AWS-RightScale combination has been so successful, in fact, that WebFilings is currently planning to move its public Web site to Amazon EC2, managed by RightScale.