Cloud Automation: PayPal's OpenStack Secret Sauce

Diagram showing Cloud Automation at PayPal

PayPal makes online payments secure and painless for millions of customers per day. But PayPal’s internal customers found the pain of deploying services so great, the company’s operations team knew it had to do something.

PayPal is one of the world's largest financial institutions, processing $300,000 in payments every minute, in 25 different currencies, for 128 million active registered customers in 193 markets.

Given that kind of scale, you'd think PayPal would be an exemplar of cloud automation — indeed, of all types of automation. But the company was so mired in technical debt, it was having a hard time innovating quickly in an increasingly competitive market. An example: It took more than 100 tickets and hours of meetings to launch even a small service, according to Saran Mandair, senior director of site operations.

Under pressure to bring new features to market faster than competitors, PayPal developers demanded higher agility with 99.9999 percent availability.

The operations team faced three major challenges:

  • Agility at scale. It took three weeks to provision 50 nodes due to manual processes and hand-offs.
  • Configuration drift. Development, QA, staging and production environments were all different, causing frequent failures.
  • Siloed teams and tools. Deploying a service required hand-offs between systems, network and storage teams, significantly slowing time to production. The systems team was already using some orchestration and automation tools, but these were not portable across network and storage.

Cloud Automation with OpenStack makes PayPal more agile, with fewer errors

PayPal chose OpenStack as its private cloud operating system, largely because it provides the agility developers demand through self-service provisioning and push-button application deployment. PayPal partnered with Mirantis to deploy OpenStack using Fuel, Mirantis’ library of configuration and deployment tools built on Puppet Labs technologies.

Developers got what they needed — and PayPal’s IT ops team won, too. Eliminating configuration drift and using a common automation tool across previously siloed teams gave IT ops much more agility.

With OpenStack, PayPal’s application onboarding time is five times faster. The company’s compute costs are a third of what they were, and it has improved SLAs from three weeks to provision 50 nodes to just 30 minutes. PayPal is also well on its way to delivering code from a dev’s desktop to production in less than an hour — a dramatic improvement that’s sure to sharpen the company’s competitive edge.

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