Founded in 2012, iNNOVO Cloud specializes in providing virtual private cloud services to German and European financial institutions and also SMEs and Start-Ups from various other business areas who need tailored, secure IT solutions. iNNOVO offers a wide bandwidth of cloud services and platforms, that can be centralized into three different main cloud service directions. One sector focuses on helping move classical IT systems to the cloud. The second service targets “cloud-ready” customers, with a focus on container networking and microservices, by implementing services such as Kubernetes and OpenStack. The third, and possibly the most innovative and future-forward sector, provides blockchain services — and is iNNOVO’s fastest growing business.
iNNOVO Cloud is currently serving 100's organizations who use their technology around one of these three main cloud services.
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The Challenge: Find an Automated, Cost-Effective Network for OpenStack
iNNOVO’s cutting edge cloud services required a network that was modern, agile, automated and cost effective. The decision was made to run everything as an L3/IP fabric, and not have large layer 2 domains. While they had initially considered Juniper and Alcatel/Nokia as an option, they found that the licensing for the L3 features they required was too expensive. In the same vein, iNNOVO wanted to leverage automation using Ansible, thus increasing efficiency and minimizing OpEx.
In early 2017, iNNOVO decided to invest in Cumulus for their OpenStack environment. According to Tom Eichhorn, Lead Infrastructure Innovations, at iNNOVO, “Other networking vendors didn’t offer L3 routing services at a cost-effective price point, or couldn’t even provide IP routing protocols. Having a Cumulus switch that could provide this BGP routing functionality was for us a game-changer.” As their introduction to the power of Cumulus, iNNOVO Cloud started by implementing 60 switches and taking advantage of Cumulus’ turnkey solution, Cumulus Express, for their OpenStack service sector. “Cumulus gave us a cost effective, easy to manage, easy to integrate solution, and fantastic services,” Eichhorn stated.
With these new switches deployed, iNNOVO was able to see Cumulus’s support first hand. Eichhorn explains how effective Cumulus’ support is, saying how there is no first or second level gate. “When I interact with Cumulus, I get someone who knows and understand my issues. I get responses to my queries in 24 hours, and fixes within 2 weeks. With other vendors, this type of resolution could take a year.” As an example, iNNOVO had some LED lights on the switches that were always flashing red. He called up Cumulus, and the fix was issued in two weeks. “If we would have had this issue using another vendor,” Eichhorn says, “it would have taken a number of phone calls to get to the right level of support that actually understood our problem, and then they would probably have laughed at us for opening such a ticket. It’s these small things that make Cumulus a really great product.”
New Network Frontiers with BlockChain and Cumulus
With the rapid rise of their professional blockchain business, which requires a huge amount of compute power and energy, iNNOVO Cloud needed an innovative way to efficiently operate this service.
Hash functions are a fundamental part of blockchain technologies, and are the building blocks of the cryptocurrency and smart contracts industry. Simply stated, a hash function takes some input data and creates some output data. Hash algorithms are what keep blockchains secure. If the block is changed (i.e. someone tried to change the value of a smart contract or how many bitcoins they owned or how much they owe), the hashed value would be different and everyone could detect that something had changed.
iNNOVO’s unique solution is to put high density compute, networking, air conditioning, power management and redundant systems into an actual 40 foot shipping container. This solution is called Balanced Cloud Center (BCC) Container– modular and scalable mobile Data Center Containers, fully designed and assembled in Germany. iNNOVO Cloud then ships these containers off to one of the most efficient and environmentally conscious data centers in the world—the Lefdal mine in Norway, which is cooled by the nearby glacier fjords and seawater.
iNNOVO required a network that could scale with them. They needed to be certain that the network supporting their Hashing as a Service was just as future-proof, revolutionary and innovative. Knowing of the cost efficiency and automation Cumulus provided in their OpenStack service, iNNOVO decided to turn to Cumulus again — this time for their blockchain business. iNNOVO Cloud purchased 160 Mellanox switches running Cumulus Linux as the operating system for their revolutionary, fjord-powered data center in Norway’s Lefdal mine.
That’s right. iNNOVO offers Hashing-as-a-Service from a datacenter in Norway, which is located inside of a mountain.”
The fun fact here is that the mountain location used to be a real mine in which the mineral olivine has been mined for decades. iNNOVO’s customers already profit from this fascinating opportunity and run not only standard IT workloads but also real crypto mining use cases into the mine.
Speaking of the financial institutions that seek this service, Eichhorn says, “the pipeline for orders is full."
Making these containers flexible is a key criteria for iNNOVO simply because of the changing needs and tailored needs of their customers. The BCC containers can be moved around and also redesigned for customers using the same enclosure, but with different IT hardware, based upon their specific use cases. Thus, iNNOVO further leverages Cumulus networking solutions not only for the blockchain business cases, but also for other IT application use cases, including High Performance Computing, OpenStack-based platforms, Artificial Intelligence, and Industry 4.0 scenarios. As iNNOVO’s customers’ needs change, they now have a network that is agile enough to change with them.
(Image source: iNNOVO LinkedIn post March, 2018 - “The first iNNOVO crypto mining containers in the Lefdal Mine DataCenter, 100% Green Crypto Mining in the Mine.”
iNNOVO Cloud was also able to achieve their objective of leveraging automation by using Zero Touch Provisioning (ZTP) from Cumulus and Ansible to automate configuration. Eichhorn says, "Our networking configuration error rate has gone down tremendously because of the automation. Before we started using Cumulus, we had errors in roughly 1 out of every 10 switches that we provisioned. That error rate has gone from 10% to now having those errors basically eliminated.”
The benefits that iNNOVO Cloud gained from utilizing Cumulus Linux include:
- Rapid configuration: With the help of ZTP and automation tools such as Ansible, iNNOVO Cloud reduced the time to configure switches by 83%. Configuration with Cumulus now only took ten minutes, compared to 60+ minutes with proprietary solutions, saving them roughly 175 hours of networking admin time.
- Reduced errors: The combination of ZTP and Ansible reduced the configuration error rate from 10% to 0%.
- Increased cost efficiencies: iNNOVO realized significant TCO savings, including:
- Decreased CapEx: The licenses and L3 features iNNOVO required to optimize their network were about half as expensive with Cumulus than they were with the proprietary options they had previously considered.
- Decreased OpEx: With L3 capabilities and automation, a team of four can manage all of the networking needs. “Our whole focus for the future is to limit manual human interaction. The more automation we can incorporate into what we do, the faster and better we can become,” says Eichhorn.
- Supply chain choice: Cumulus is compatible with over 70 hardware platforms, meaning iNNOVO Cloud had the freedom to choose the hardware that best met their needs. They’ve been able to utilize Celestica and Mellanox white box switches. Plus, Cumulus easily integrated with OpenStack and Ansible. iNNOVO Cloud was thus able to customize their networks by utilizing the tools that worked best in both their cloud operations and blockchain operations.
- Reliable support: When discussing Cumulus’ support team, iNNOVO Cloud noted that they receive responses to queries within 24 hours, and that the team always has an answer for them. They’ve found that fixes are far more efficient, occurring within 2 weeks, as opposed to their previous experiences with proprietary vendors that could take up to a year. iNNOVO Cloud also appreciated how the support team takes all requests seriously, no matter how small, and treats them as important. This care and attention to every detail differed from the treatment they received from proprietary business, who often ignored or dismissed requests as unimportant.
iNNOVO Cloud is building innovative cloud and blockchain services and bringing them to market at an accelerated pace. Thanks to Cumulus, they’ve built a flexible, automated network to match the agility and efficiency their business demands.