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CASE STUDY:

Choozle scales its digital advertising platform with Lens Autopilot DevOps-as-a-Service

The Business

Founded in 2012, Choozle’s mission is to make digital advertising easy. The company provides a digital advertising software platform that leverages detailed consumer data to power programmatic advertising campaigns across display, video, mobile, audio, connected TV, digital out-of-home, and other media – all from a single, intuitive interface.

Company

  • Digital advertising software provider

  • Founded 2012

  • Denver, Colorado HQ

  • 76 employees

Command and control center for Kubernetes

A few years after Choozle launched, its customer base quickly grew, and the startup needed more scalable infrastructure to support hundreds of daily active users. The company’s engineering operations team started adopting Kubernetes and chose Amazon EC2 as the deployment platform. However, the AWS console was difficult to navigate, and monitoring clusters with manual kubectl commands and container logs was inefficient.

The team wanted an easy-to-use, UI-based monitoring and troubleshooting tool that even a non-engineer could use to keep an eye on infrastructure and perform simple operations, such as increasing resources in a pod or quickly identifying issues in deployments. The company has two core applications that use five production microservices, running more than 50 cronjob automated tasks.

Choozle evaluated various monitoring and troubleshooting solutions, but they were either terminal-based or provided only a dashboard. One of the company’s engineers discovered Lens, the world’s most popular Kubernetes IDE, based on an open source project led by Mirantis. Lens makes it easy to navigate and monitor Kubernetes clusters in real-time, and provides a smart terminal and Helm chart manager, so users can monitor, troubleshoot, and deploy Kubernetes resources all from the same tool. Choozle’s engineering operations team soon adopted Lens, and it became central to their day-to-day operations. “Lens is the command and control center of the core tenants of our applications,” said Mike Baldassare, Director of Product and Engineering Operations at Choozle. “I have it up all day long on my computer, and it’s the first place I go as soon as somebody reports an issue with our platform.”

Upgrading to advanced Kubernetes and a managed subscription

"The entire team at Mirantis was prepared and available for everything that we needed for the migration. Today we have a successfully migrated application that went from a legacy AWS Kubernetes cluster to a scaled, much more modern solution that preserves a better future for our application and our customers."

Mike Baldassare, Director of Product and Engineering Operations, Choozle

Choozle started out by deploying Kubernetes on bootstrapped EC2 instances. Software engineers manually maintained the infrastructure and their custom Kubernetes platform, in addition to delivering application features. After several years, however, the company wanted to upgrade to a more scalable, advanced solution and chose Google Kubernetes Engine (GKE), which provides fully-managed Kubernetes clusters on Google Cloud Platform (GCP). However, migrating was extremely risky, with possible downtime for their platform. Increasing the risk: the company lacked a dedicated team to manage and execute the transition.

Choozle was also rethinking its IT strategy. Many companies were facing challenges hiring and retaining DevOps and Kubernetes experts. “We got to the point of deciding, do we want to invest in a full DevOps team, or do we look at using a hybrid solution, with managed DevOps services and just a single engineer on our side?” Baldassare said.

He contacted Mirantis about Lens Autopilot, a DevOps-as-a-Service offering that combines the robust capabilities of Lens with expert services from Mirantis site reliability engineers to provide developer acceleration, continuous proactive security, real-time monitoring and alerting, enterprise scalability, and reduced risk for Kubernetes deployments.

Baldassare discovered that Mirantis professional services could also help Choozle move to GKE. The company decided to engage with Mirantis first to migrate their platform to GKE, and then to support the deployment with Lens Autopilot. Choozle had an urgent deadline to migrate their database within a one week time window, and Mirantis quickly pulled together resources to make it happen.

Mirantis performed a full database migration from a legacy MySQL instance to a Google Cloud SQL instance and moved clusters and workloads from EC2 to GKE. Mirantis also provided general architectural services and helped to optimize and debug applications, cluster operations, deployments, and database performance.

“The entire team at Mirantis was prepared and available for everything that we needed for the migration,” Baldassare said. “Today, we have a successfully migrated application that went from a legacy AWS Kubernetes cluster to a scaled, much more modern solution that preserves a better future for our application and our customers.”

An insurance plan for Kubernetes investments

Since migration, Choozle has come to view Lens Autopilot as a way to reduce risk with their new Kubernetes deployment. “Our executives looked at Lens Autopilot like entering an insurance plan,” Baldassare said. “We had done all this work to migrate our cluster over, and Lens Autopilot provides assurance for the new Kubernetes deployments we invested in.”

Lens Autopilot features compelling guaranteed outcomes, including the technical ability after 12 months to achieve a 10x increase in application deployment speed, 75% reduction in security vulnerabilities, accelerated time to remediation, and 2x-4x reduction in operational costs.

A vision for hiring and developing the best technical talent

Regularly voted as one of the best places to work by numerous industry publications, Choozle places strong emphasis on hiring staff who embody company values. Baldassare acquired basic DevOps skills through daily use of Lens and saw it as a way to upskill other engineers. His vision is to hire junior engineers with the best cultural fit and develop their DevOps skills using Lens and working alongside Mirantis experts. Lens Autopilot was the only DevOps-as-a-Service offering that allowed Choozle to hire and develop an in-house DevOps engineer with hands-on experience.

“We hired a software engineer who had a theoretical understanding of Kubernetes because of his attitude and culture fit, knowing that we had the support of Lens and Lens Autopilot to ramp him up and onboard him into DevOps,” Baldassare said. The company passed on a candidate with more DevOps experience, choosing instead someone who could potentially have greater impact on the company.

Baldassare ultimately plans to use Lens to upskill the entire engineering team in DevOps. “We are standardizing Lens as the product we use for DevOps, and then creating a framework of education off of Lens to onboard our engineers,” he said. “My hope is to operationalize this to a point where every engineer has access to Lens and knows how to use it to navigate to all the services touched by their applications and check that they’re working properly.”

"Choozle has been successful by choosing really great partners, and I would definitely put Mirantis on that list of great partners that we've had in our company's history."

Mike Baldassare, Director of Product and Engineering Operations, Choozle

Accelerating growth and innovation

An early innovator in providing brand clients and mid-market agencies with a self-service analytics and digital media buying platform, Choozle continues to aggressively expand with greater technology integrations and innovation, working with key partners like Mirantis. “Choozle has been successful by choosing really great partners, and I would definitely put Mirantis on that list of great partners that we’ve had in our company’s history,” Baldassare said.

Choozle’s continuing success has earned the company dozens of industry awards, including Inc. Fastest-Growing Private Companies in America, Ad Age Best Places to Work, and Entrepreneur Top Company Cultures.

Challenges

  • Efficiently navigate, monitor, and troubleshoot Kubernetes clusters

  • Migrate platform from AWS EC2 to GKE

  • Support Kubernetes deployment and scaling with minimal internal staff

Solution

  • Lens Kubernetes IDE

  • Lens Autopilot DevOps-as-a-Service

  • Mirantis architectural and migration services

Results

  • Better developer experience with UI-based monitoring and troubleshooting

  • Improved quality of hiring with resources to advance engineers in DevOps

  • Greater innovation with developers focused on building applications

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