UNIwise delivers a frictionless experience for remote learners with Kubernetes and CockroachDB

Last edited on February 19, 2021

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    Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, there has been a massive traffic spike in everything digital--from online shopping to remote learning. Under the hood, companies responsible for these technologies have had to quickly adapt to handle the growth in users. Having an elastically scalable and cloud-native stack--all the way down to the database--has helped ease this transition.

    One such company that experienced a pandemic-driven surge in popularity was UNIwise, an education tech company based in Denmark that sells an online test platform called WISEflow.

    WISEflow has been popular for years in Scandinavia and Northern Europe. But when universities shut down this spring and pivoted to remote learning, WISEflow's popularity spiked in new markets including France, Germany, and Korea. UNIwise was able to handle the increase in demand because they already had a fully cloud-native, scalable stack.

    DevOps Engineers Shoulder Scale & Resiliency Demands in the Midst of the COVID-19 PandemicCopy Icon

    The responsibility for scaling infrastructure to accommodate increased demand falls squarely on the shoulders of the DevOps engineers at UNIwise. The team follows a fully cloud-native ethos and deploys its services in Kubernetes, running in AWS. When stay-at-home orders prompted the sudden increase in traffic across different countries in Europe and Asia, the DevOps team was able to scale effortlessly to meet the demand. Legacy databases like Postgres or MySQL can cause issues in cloud-native stacks, because they don’t deliver elastic, horizontal scale. With a cloud-native database like CockroachDB, the data layer scales along with the application. As you add more Kubernetes instances to meet increased demand, CockroachDB scales in tandem.

    Scale is one challenge during this digital surge, resilience is another: DevOps teams must provide always-on services for their customers. CockroachDB is aptly named on account of the fact that it’s architected to withstand any outage. For DevOps engineers running CockroachDB with Kubernetes, that means that if a Kubernetes instance goes down, the CockroachDB instance in that pod can safely go down too, without impacting the availability of the database or application as a whole. This approach provided UNIwise the confidence that they could continue serving customers, without fear of a service outage.

    Kubernetes + PostgreSQL CompatibilityCopy Icon

    “We like the comfort of knowing that CockroachDB can scale without any hassle.” -Jonas Tranberg, DevOps Engineer at UNIwise

    UNIwise evaluated several SQL, NoSQL, and document databases. One of their DevOps engineers, Jonas Tranberg, had heard about CockroachDB at KubeCon in Copenhagen back in 2018. When Tranberg and his team revisited CockroachDB, they were pleased with the ​PostgreSQL compatibility a​nd with the ability to scale automatically. And since the DevOps team deploys their infrastructure on Kubernetes, they also appreciated that they could run CockroachDB within StatefulSets pods.

    “We liked the fact that CockroachDB is built with a distributed high availability architecture in mind from the beginning, which makes it ideal to incorporate into our current Kubernetes cluster,” says Tranberg.

    UNIwise has built a variety of key applications on it CockroachDB, deploying each on Kubernetes in a single-region AWS cluster. UNIwise uses CockroachDB to store various types of data, including messaging history, text analysis, biometric analysis for their facial recognition technology, and document versions within the lockdown browser.

    To learn more about how the DevOps engineers at UNIwise scaled to survive a traffic spike and continued to deliver a frictionless experience for universities across Europe and Asia, read the full case study.

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