Modern IoT solutions make our environment smarter and more responsive, connecting digital and physical things around us. Of course, such complex systems require very flexible, secure and advanced hosting for smooth, reliable and fast functioning.
Hidora, our hosting service partner from Switzerland, conducted an insightful interview with Nicolas Zieglé, the Logifleet R&D Lead tech, about their useful logistic IoT product and thoughtful choice of cloud hosting provider.
What is the core expertise of Logifleet?
Logifleet is a Swiss-based company with offices located in Lausanne and St-Gallen. We deliver software solutions specifically developed for fleet and resources management, mainly focused on Swiss businesses for now. Our flagship product is an IoT solution named Logifleet 360°, built for managing and optimizing the usage of vehicles, machines, and tools to improve the logistics of any business.
Logifleet target definition is actually quite large, as our client needs vary a lot: we have customers using our product in the construction industry for automatic billing, others use temperature tracking and alerting because they deliver food or medicine. We work with businesses of any size: some need to have real-time tracking for 4 or 5 important vehicles, others have more than 1500 connected objects on the same account, and need extensive monthly reports. Any installed device reports from 3 to 1500 messages per day in the most extreme cases, but we fine-tune it to get the necessary information only and to avoid “data pollution”.
What software and applications do you use for running the project? Why did you choose them and how do they solve assigned tasks?
We use only open source tools: Elasticsearch as our main database, Kafka for data processing, and a few Spring Boot projects to serve the APIs to the different fronts and also as Kafka Producer and Consumers. We also have a Redis cluster for caching, a Gisgraphy cluster for geocoding, an sFTP server, and a few CD/CI servers. Maybe I’m forgetting a few of them.
Kafka is the most recent change to our architecture and it’s perfectly adapted to our needs, as Logiflleet has to process thousands of messages per minute. Elasticsearch is completely capable of indexing and searching fast through this volume. We also have a Kibana server for the monitoring of the Elasticsearch cluster, which is a really cool tool for an architecture like that.
What are your and your customers’ requirements for cloud hosting?
From the Logifleet R&D point of view, the availability of the service and the data safety are of the same level of importance. The pricing also matters: we are a small-medium size company yet and we deal with big data and a complete infrastructure built for it. So the infrastructure must be strong, able to endure a lot of processing but still be affordable to us.
These are really the 3 biggest requirements for us!
Our clients basically have the same demands in terms of availability and security, and the fact that their data is hosted in Switzerland is also a big plus for them.
What hosting solutions did you previously use? What struggles did you have with them?
At the very beginning of our project we hosted the data and application ourselves but couldn’t dedicate enough time to the server maintenance. We had to deal with problems linked to the air conditioning and the coming of summer. It’s an old-time story now…
Then we switched to another cloud provider, but even though it was one of the biggest in the industry in Switzerland, it was quite late on technology. They were working on their customer service because it was difficult at that time. After a night working on a disaster recovery situation, without any disaster happening but just the loss of a server, we decided to switch to some more modern provider.
Why have you decided to choose Jelastic PaaS? What benefits helped to make the decision and what results do you currently get?
It may look like a secondary feature, but we liked the idea of having control over the nodes with a simple GUI (it was a big change from our prior way of working with servers), and the dynamic billing from the server threshold and consumption.
After 3 years of using Jelastic, we are definitely happy with this choice.
Also, now we are switching to a docker-oriented model for some components, and a native Jelastic container for the others (Spring Boot is the perfect example here), this really helps us to already be on a platform handling that.
With what Jelastic hosting provider do you work? Why did you choose this provider? What performance and support results have you got?
We discovered Hidora after the decision to change our cloud provider in 2017. It was important for us to have human french-speaking support available as well as for a third-party partner of our choice – Clever net systems – which helps us with the infrastructure maintenance and architecture upgrades.
Our objective was to spend less time on DevOps and infrastructure tasks to focus on the development and with Hidora’s competitive pricing it was doable. In addition to the good communication between our cloud and infrastructure partners, Jelastic makes it pretty easy for us to manage small changes directly, which makes everybody’s work easier and more enjoyable.
Why did you decide to go with a local service provider? What is the role of personal and sensitive data regulations in your business?
Even though we don’t work on private vehicles and objects, we still deal with a lot of sensitive information, and I personally consider that anything geolocated with a timestamp and an ID can be sensitive if you know what it represents or can link it to a company or a human.
The simple fact that everything (our company, our clients, our data) is in the same country makes it easier to handle: there is only one legislation to apply regarding sensitive data storage and regulation. Of course, the “hosted in Switzerland” has its effects on our customers’ minds too, but I’m mostly glad to work with a local company but still using modern cloud technology. This wasn’t possible just a few years ago!
What do you think about containerization? What difficulties (if any) did you have while migrating from VM-based infrastructure to container-based? How do you currently cope with container management?
We were a bit scared and skeptical at first, because of old habits, but we tried it on a few servers, first for our Jenkins, then for Redis and our Gisgraphy geocoder, and realized the benefits of the container-based architecture.
I was personally afraid of “losing control” over the infrastructure on a machine level, but after a few years of maintaining VM-based servers, it’s a no-brainer for me today. This simplifies the overall architecture, is easily embedded in a full CD/CI environment and hides the things I don’t need to know.
What do you think about the Jelastic pay-per-use pricing model?
We have peaks always at the same time of the day (during working hours) because our clients are located mostly in Switzerland. This allows us to lower the server’s performances during weekends and nighttime. We can’t implement this on all our servers for now, but we are working on it.
Please describe your stack, environment types, architecture if possible.
Our product involves many tools and applications, as we have an architecture built especially for our needs, with millions of messages processed every day from all of our clients’ IoT devices :
- 2 Back-end and front-end servers for our main java (spring) application hosting.
- An Elasticsearch cluster for the database (7 “data” nodes, 3 “master” nodes, 4 “client” nodes, and 1 Kibana node for analytics).
- Some servers for Redis (1 Redis cluster composed of 3 servers), Kafka (3 Kafka + 1 Zookeeper server), 2 geocoding servers using Gisgraphy.
- A few Kafka-consumer spring boot applications running on individual nodes.
For now about half of these servers run on CentOS VPS, but we plan to have everything in containers by the end of the year.
Highlight three main points that you like about Jelastic PaaS.
I would say that the 3 main advantages of the PaaS solution that Jelastic offers are that it gives us a new way of handling our infrastructure safely, at a reduced cost, and in a simplified manner. We still can add virtual machines when it’s really the only way.
- The two-factor authentication was a deal-breaker for us speaking about server security. We need to have access to the dashboard to visualize the state of the server, plan some migration or improve the performances, but accessing the production is something sensitive at Logifleet. Jelastic allows us to consider getting ISO-27001 certified with our provider in Switzerland, which would have been impossible with our former provider.
- Obviously, the large container marketplace is useful in our industry, but the managing of cloudlets (resources given to a server) on the fly, without having to restart, is really what was game-changing for us, as we can finally oversize our server and lower it to whatever we feel comfortable with, without having to plan it days in advance. It’s an optimization of price, and I like the idea that thanks to this kind of feature, fewer resources are reserved and “wasted” for nothing on a larger scale.
- The GUI and direct access are also one point that I’d like to highlight: its well-thought design allows a quick overview of the state of the full infrastructure, and many accesses are simplified once logged in. For example, the direct merged access to /var/log of servers of the same container is really useful when you need quick secure access to check something. This is a minute win but they accumulate to days at the end of the year.
Share your upcoming plans for the project and for cooperation with Jelastic and Hidora.
As we are increasing our R&D size, we have to spend some time on our CI/CD right now, and the plan is basically to have as many servers hosted in containers as possible to get all the benefits possible. Our provider Hidora is helping us with this, as well as our infrastructure partner. Basically, we are migrating the servers hosted on Linux-based OS, the “old way”, to the native Jelastic container when possible, or to a Docker container.
If your business operates in the fast-growing IoT landscape, and you need cloud services that are easy to use, cost-efficient, and provide local state-of-the-art data centers, then try Jelastic PaaS at one of the many available service providers we partner with.