Mobile Tornado Accelerates Product Deployment with Solaris Zones

Mobile Tornado is a long-standing partner and hardware OEM of Oracle which provides Instant Communication services for mobile devices, with a focus on enterprise workforce management.

“We have seen significant performance improvements running Solaris 11 with SPARC on Oracle software with Mobile Tornado's IPRS™ (Internet Protocol Radio Service) platform.”

Shlomo Birman, VP Delivery and Services, Mobile Tornado

In our ever-changing business environment where products are outdated quickly and on-premise integration cost is sky-rocketing, Time-to-Market (TTM) is becoming the key factor for a successful technology adoption by end-customers. Mobile Tornado asked Oracle ISV Engineering to help them with the design and implementation of a new rapid provisioning environment in-house in order to improve their TTM by reducing the time it takes to deploy their solution at the customer's premises.

The main challenge for the on-premise deployment is the time difference between the HQ and the field engineer. There are also the accommodation cost associated with a long business travel and the need to do customization at the customer site without jeopardizing the environment that has been previously built at the ISV site. Finally, Mobile Tornado's software stack is modular and flexible for the customer needs, so the integration between the different software modules can sometimes be an error-prone process.

The design goals for the deployment environment were :

  • Build pre-configured VM images that include all Mobile Tornado software tiers such as the database and application tiers.
  • Automate provisioning in order to build a fully-functional environment in days vs weeks.
  • The ability to do final customization at the customer site based on the customer's need.
  • Build images with different software stacks, all-in-one for small deployments and images per software module for larger deployments.

Like any new project, we started by understanding how to find the match between the Oracle technology and the ISV. After analyzing the requirements, we came to the conclusion that the best fit for this kind of environment is the Oracle Solaris Zones technology. Solaris Zones are a zero-cost enterprise-grade virtualization technology. The key feature that Mobile Tornado was able to adopt is the Zones V2V capability. Using this feature, one can install a fully-functional environment and deploy it rapidly without the need to build and setup the software environment from scratch.

During the project, we tested various archive methods in order to find the best solution in terms of simplicity and flexibility. We came to the conclusion that creating TAR file for each Solaris zone including Mobile Tornado's software is the best archive method. The benefit of this method is that we can deploy the Solaris zones without the need of a Jumpstart install server in the environment. The zones can be updated on attach if the target operating system is newer than the system where the original image has been taken. TAR is a common file format with an easy-to-use interface; in addition you can perform a trial run before the zone is moved to the new machine in order to verify that the target machine has the correct configuration to host the zone.

The project was a huge success for Mobile Tornado in terms of TTM. Mobile Tornado can now build new environments including the hardware and software in days and not weeks. The field engineer that needs to deploy the solution needs to be only few days and not weeks away from the main office and from its family (not to mention the reduced travel cost). And every cost that is saved in the pre-production cycle makes the solution more attractive to the end-customer and more competitive in the market.

Looking into the future, Mobile Tornado would like to test the new Unified Archive technology that was introduced in Solaris 11.2. Any archived system from within a Unified Archive can be deployed to any supported same-ISA platform. This support includes crossing virtualization boundaries, so a Unified Archive created on a SPARC T5 LDOM can be supported as a Zone, and a Zone archive can be installed to a bare-metal system. With this ability you can create an image that includes all the software components inside a single image including the Global Zone and all the VMs (non-global zones). This can be used to move Solaris 11 systems between physical and virtual deployments (P2V) and vice versa, virtual to physical (V2P). In addition you can use the Unified Archive to create a Cloud in a Box. Another unique feature of this technology is the ability to do a selective restore. For example you can create an image with many VMs and during the restore process you can selectively choose which VMs you want to deploy. All those capabilities will enable Mobile Tornado to manage their deployments over time and even reduce further the deployment from days to hours.

The author would like to thank Benny Tamar and Ofer Yaron from the Mobile Tornado team for their contribution to the blog.


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