Today’s leading companies are one step ahead of their competitors as they adopt new tools and disciplines emerging from the cloud native landscape. That was the case for Ziff Media Group, which is a collection of several media web properties including pcmag.com, mashable.com, deals.com, offers.com, and more. And, for a three-person DevOps team that supports a 260-person company, it allows them to be much more agile when it comes to launching new services and taking advantage of new technologies.
D2iQ sat down with Chris Kite, Director of Technology at Ziff Media Group and Brett Stewart, Senior DevOps Engineer at Ziff Media Group to learn more about why they invested in Kubernetes and eventually D2iQ’s Konvoy.
D2iQ: In your own words, how did Kubernetes impact or change your company goals?
CK: We made the switch to Kubernetes because this was where the current development was happening and if we didn’t we’d eventually fall behind. At the time, we weren’t experts in the space or have any hands-on experience with it yet. Our main goal was to invest in a platform that was cost-effective and had good feature support for Kubernetes on AWS. And it seemed like the Kubernetes service we initially selected was going to give us the most bang for our buck.
D2iQ: Prior to Konvoy, you were using an open source solution with commercial/vendor support. What challenges did you have?
CK: The promise of Kubernetes is that it’s supposed to be open, that it runs on most environments, and that it can be integrated with hundreds of third-party applications that all work well together. We thought that our Kubernetes solution at the time offered all of these benefits from the upstream projects. What we ended up finding was that it had some proprietary updates that locked us into versions or builds of components that prevented us from integrating with other upstream projects from the ecosystem.
When you do something with a closed, proprietary product, you are beholden to the product’s engineers at all times. You can’t fix something yourself. You can’t find something new yourself. You can’t put in a new integration yourself. They have to do it.
BS: When you actually start using the applications that cluster managers provide you, you start noticing the little differences. They don’t configure things to the default nature. When you want to do something simple like adding a Prometheus service monitor, you follow the steps the open source product gives you, but it doesn’t work. So you have to go back to the Kubernetes provider to see why and do what they say.
CK: Prior to partnering with D2iQ, external support was only available through ticketing systems and response times were lagging. So when we experienced outages, it would take days, even weeks, for a support person to get back to us. Brett would be trying to put out a fire instead of doing the things that I’d have him working on. When 30 developers are blocked for 30 minutes a day, that can add up in costs fast. Between Brett and I, we spent 30-40 hours internally writing support tickets for DNS issues because the support that was provided was neither competent or adequately engaged with us. We couldn’t help but ask, ‘are we getting the value from what we’re paying for support every year if we have to do it ourselves?’
D2iQ: What factors drove the decision to invest in Konvoy?
BS: We wanted a product that was open, reliable, and made it possible to use open source products so we could plug in and implement themselves.
CK: We also wanted a dedicated support team that could be there for quick responses, ideally over Slack in the event of an emergency, and not have to wait hours or days for each message to come back. That was the main thing that sold me on D2iQ as far as support. The speed, the competence, and the ability to meet us where we’re at on Slack. The support engineers are very fast at getting answers to us quickly, even if they don’t immediately know the answer. The engagement and the knowledge on D2iQ’s end has been very confidence inspiring and that is not something we saw from other vendors in the space.
BS: The biggest thing I enjoy about Konvoy is that everything is pure open source. Whenever I want to scale out Prometheus, Grafana, or Elasticsearch, or change configurations or authentications, I can go directly to the website documentation and just do it — everything works out of the box. I don’t have to reach out to support, wait a few days to get an answer, and keep going back and forth. I’m able to do my own research, get stuff done, and have D2iQ there for back-up support if it’s needed. I don’t have to rely on them 100% just to change something that is simple.
D2iQ: How has Konvoy accelerated your time to value and improved your overall business operations?
CT: Within two months of implementing Konvoy, we were already in production and the time to value was immediate. The openness and stability of Konvoy has given us the opportunity to get things done faster and more reliably.
BS: With Konvoy, we’re no longer doing things day-to-day with Kubernetes. We can stand up sandbox clusters which are identical to production within 30 minutes to test out new features before moving them to production. This will result in lower impact on the production servers. With D2iQ support, the initial response for all of our tickets has been around 15 minutes, which is 50% faster than it was before. What sets D2iQ support apart from others is that they have a DevOps mindset and understand the impact that our issue is causing. Rather than adding a quick fix, they dig deep to find the long term solution, which allows us to get production up and running as quickly as possible.
D2iQ: What is your long-term strategy for Konvoy?
CK: The landscape is always changing and if you’re not moving ahead you’re falling behind. With Konvoy, our long-term strategy is to explore the different offerings available in each area, like metrics, alerting, logging, scheduled jobs, storage, and have our stack hammered out. Have it keep working and stay on it for at least a couple of years.
Learn more about Ziff Media Group’s Kubernetes journey by downloading the full case study.