A project named after the weapon used by the character that Star Wars' Princess Leia sarcastically described as a “big walking carpet” is helping federal defense and civilian agencies scale cloud capabilities to support more users and improve customer experience.
U.S. Air Force software factory Kessel Run, fittingly named for the Star Wars hyperspace smugglers’ route traversed by Han Solo, and the General Services Administration’s Technology Transformation Services (TTS) office announced Wednesday a software-sharing collaboration allowing Cloud.gov to host 100 million unique users per hour.
The collaboration is “a proof of concept for future [federal] website development,” according to the press release.
It’s typical for government websites to host thousands to tens of thousands of users an hour; however, Kessel Run’s Bowcaster team provided “chaos engineering” services to scale Cloud.gov capacity and improve the user experience.
Kessel Run shared its Bowcaster team and tech stack, named for the weapon used by Star Wars' "big walking carpet" character Chewbacca, with the U.S. Navy Black Pearl software factory last year. The latest collaboration with GSA is the first with a non-DOD entity.
Acting Director of Cloud.gov Lindsay Young said they needed to make sure they were ready for extreme high availability needs, and Bowcaster fit the bill.
“For Cloud.gov, we stood up architectures in order to meet the high-capacity need, and working with Kessel Run we used these technologies to test and confirm that our capabilities are actually able to withstand what we thought it was so we can confidently say we can take on high-availability use cases,” Young said in an interview with GovCIO Media & Research.
Kessel Run's Chaos and Performance Tech Lead and Deputy Test Chief Omar Marrero said the teams followed the scientific method and DevSecOps methodology by iterating, testing and planning out how they were going to scale the test to support 100 million users.
“We started small and then we kept scaling up. Our Bowcaster team and the GSA team worked together and eventually got to a point where we got to 100 million users, and we were testing that capability to make sure we could scale and support it,” Marrero said in an interview with GovCIO Media & Research.
It took the teams only 10 days to test extremely high availability needs that an agency may encounter during an emergency or typical demand surges.
“Each time we played out a new scenario, there were different things we learned, so we’ve made adjustments to the platform and improved it based on what we found out during every exercise,” Young said.
By partnering with GSA, Kessel Run also learned how to tweak their tech stack to make it more scalable and easier to use, Marrero added. This is a tool that they can use to test assumptions as they continue to roll out cloud capabilities.
The new capability will also offer huge cost savings for federal agencies by sharing the Bowcaster tech stack.
“It also reduces burden on engineering. If we’re able to collaborate between federal agencies and there is no duplicate work, we can anticipate engineering up front so there’s less time trying to figure out how this happened and why it broke, which usually costs more in the end,” Marrero said.
For Kessel Run, this collaboration proved they were able to build a digital service and share it across organizations that will enhance any cloud capability and benefit agencies outside of the DOD enterprise.
“We want to share our expertise and lessons learned with DOD and other agencies. This is prime collaboration, and there is success in that,” Marrero said. “We hope to partner with others to keep doing things like this. This just shows that we can definitely deliver services at speed and collaborations like this helps DOD and all agencies.”