Rackspace::Solve San Francisco: Speed, Flexibility And Scale Take Center Stage

Solving business challenges. That was the focus Monday at Rackspace::Solve San Francisco, the first of three one-day summits that showcased how companies are overcoming the toughest challenges in their businesses and for their customers.

Cutting-edge companies focusing on innovative technologies like containers, DevOps, big data, ecommerce and more took to the stage to help attendees solve the challenges they face in their own businesses. Throughout the day, a key theme emerged: many of today’s business challenges (and opportunities) involve speed, flexibility and scale.

Docker, for example, is looking to solve the challenges that developers encounter when they build, ship and run applications and inject much-needed speed into the process. In his Rackspace::Solve talk, “The Future of Applications,” Docker CEO Ben Golub highlighted how Docker uses container technology to reduce the time it takes developers to build and run apps from weeks to minutes, and those applications can run on any infrastructure in a super lightweight fashion.

According to Golub, applications used to have long lives, be monolithic and deployed on a single server. Today, application development is iterative and constant. Apps are built from loosely coupled components and deployed on a multitude of servers.

Golub framed it this way: developers are authors, they’re content creators, and they need to stop worrying about distributing and replicating their apps, which is another challenge Docker and container technologies solve. It lets developers focus.

Meanwhile, Bill Clerico, CEO of WePay, a Rackspace customer that offers payment services for platform businesses such as marketplaces, said WePay uses DevOps to overcome a number of business challenges. DevOps, he said, adds a new level of speed and reliability – it empowers WePay to get to market with new features faster and ensures that its up and running at all times. Clerico and WePay turned to Rackspace and DevOps Automation when the company realized it couldn’t dive into DevOps alone. Clerico said DevOps has become a key enabler for WePay’s business and said it is a “necessary key imperative for us.”

On the big data front, Lew Cirne, CEO of software analytics company New Relic, said his company’s mission to “make everybody a data nerd.” To do that, big data has to be easy and approachable. It has to be flexible and scalable. Businesses today are faced with mountains of data, and the tools to analyze that data need to be simplified. He likened to big data revolution to the data processing boom of the past. New Relic aims to add visibility into software and application data.

“We want to do to big data what Excel did to old school data processing,” Cirne said.

At Zulily, one of the world’s fastest growing ecommerce sites, managing flexibility and scale present key challenges, and great opportunities. Every day at 6 a.m. Zulily launches hundreds of ecommerce events and experiences a dramatic traffic spike. Zulily can average between 15 percent and 20 percent of its daily traffic in the first 60 minutes to 90 minutes that an event is live. Zulily needs to be flexible. Previously, it was in a traditional managed colocation, but didn’t have the flexibility it needed. “Flexibility beats planning nine out of 10 times,” said Don Allen, Zulily’s senior director of technical operations. Zulily was able to confront that challenge with a hybrid cloud.

Scale is a key driver for CoreOS. “We’re all trying to build a warehouse scale machine,” said Alex Polvi, CEO of CoreOS, Linux for massive server deployments. According to Polvi, CoreOS provides a set of composable tools for its users to build their own warehouse scale machine. CoreOS uses containers to run applications; etcd to help with service discovery; and fleet to help with cluster management. This lets businesses use the principles of warehouse scale computing in their own environments.

Scale is also important to Rackspace and ObjectRocket customer Chartboost, a technology platform that helps mobile game developers find new users and monetize their games. Chartboost Co-Founder and CTO Sean Fannan said the company runs one of the largest MongoDB databases in the world, and writes to a database of one billion objects. Scaling databases and scaling the API presented key opportunities for growth. One way to manage that scale, Fannan advised, is to take a step back and take a little extra time to build something sustainable instead of rushing.

“For problems where you have major implications, taking a little bit of extra time and being thoughtful about things…spending an extra one or two days designing something that has major implications for the future can pay off tremendously,” Fannan said.

Want to hear from innovative companies about how they’re solving tough challenges in their businesses? Rackspace::Solve events are currently scheduled for September 18 in New York City and October 20 in Chicago. Registration is open now.

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