Ancestry.com

Family stories are like applications. New ones are created every day.

Ancestry.com helps millions discover, share and preserve their family history. Using Chef®, Ancestry.com can rapidly improve its time to market for new services, while reducing costs.

The Challenge

Ancestry.com is the world's largest online family history resource, with 1.8 million subscribers worldwide. To best serve its customers, Ancestry.com leverages thousands of servers across multiple data centers, all supporting a truly service-oriented architecture with intense management demands. Since Ancestry.com's business continues to grow so rapidly, the management demands of its infrastructure can outpace its operations team's resources, necessitating the move to an infrastructure automation platform.

The Solution

Ancestry.com deployed Chef® across its large-scale IT infrastructure to enable automated configuration management and continuous component delivery. With Chef, Ancestry.com is seeking a robust infrastructure automation engine installed behind their firewall. This enables more efficient collaboration between development and operations teams in continuously deploying new applications into production. Using Chef, Ancestry.com can now bring new services to market in days, versus the weeks it took previously.

The Results

  • Bring new services to market more rapidly.
  • Automated server configuration management and environment creation with a few simple clicks, enabling agile development and efficient operations.
  • Automated application deployment using Chef.
  • Adapt to changes on the fly leveraging Chef's configuration management database.

Ancestry's Recipe for Success

Since starting as a publishing company in 1983, Ancestry.com has grown into the largest online family history resource, combining billions of digitized historical records with proprietary online search technologies and tools to enable its subscribers to make meaningful discoveries about the lives of their ancestors. To power its one-of-a-kind research platform, Ancestry.com employs thousands of primarily Windows-based servers across multiple data centers to enable the development, testing and delivery of its many sophisticated subscriber services. An infrastructure of this scale requires time-intensive, demanding management, something that eventually became cumbersome for the company's operations team.

"We believe Chef can make life much easier for our developers and operations staff as they work to build, test and implement new features and applications," said John Esser, Director of Engineering Productivity and Agile Development at Ancestry.com. "Chef helps our IT teams to more easily deploy new offerings and rapidly scale applications so our subscribers can trace their family roots by accessing the billions of genealogical records and millions of family trees from around the globe."

Leveraging Chef’s customer support and services, Ancestry.com installed Chef behind the firewall in its physical infrastructure. Using Chef, Ancestry.com has begun automating the configuration management of its entire infrastructure, which has the ability to significantly reduce management overhead and lay the foundation for continuous application delivery.

"Automating configuration management enables us to easily move applications through all our environments – from build to integration, to pre-production and finally production – with testing taking place at every stage," Esser added. "Now a new component can be introduced and eventually published in a seamless, continuous cycle, saving time and reducing risk."

Using Chef, Ancestry.com has been able to abstract infrastructure changes to basic data files, enabling its development team to quickly update the files and feed them into Chef, which creates recipes based on these files and executes the changes automatically. For example, if a new component requires an updated version of .NET or Java, the development team inputs this information into Chef, which then automates the update from the build environment all the way to production, ensuring robust testing and analysis throughout the process.

In addition to configuration management and continuous application delivery, Ancestry.com also uses Chef to obtain greater visibility into its infrastructure. Chef collects and stores data on server settings and changes, resource usage, applications and other related information, creating a configuration management database that provides Ancestry.com with highly accurate and granular detail on its infrastructure. Using this data, Ancestry.com's development and operations teams can be much more prescriptive in executing change and better utilize existing resources in bringing new services to market.

"With Chef, we've began executing an agile development strategy, significantly accelerating the rate at which we can bring new, sophisticated services to our subscribers," Esser added. "Now we have the ability to make better use of our infrastructure and are more prepared for whatever changes tomorrow may bring."

"With Chef, we've began executing an agile development strategy, significantly accelerating the rate at which we can bring new, sophisticated services to our subscribers." John Esser, Director of Engineering Productivity and Agile Development, Ancestry.com

About Chef

Chef is the provider of Chef, the automation platform for the coded business. Chef provides the speed, flexibility, and efficiency to compete in the digital economy. By modeling IT infrastructure and application delivery as code, Chef empowers businesses of all sizes to easily scale to meet demand, eliminate down time, manage complexity, and accelerate time to market.