Future Facilities Triples the Speed of Development with MongoDB

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Future Facilities is an OEM partner of MongoDB that helps engineers and IT professionals use virtual prototyping to better plan IT deployments within data centers. By leveraging Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) simulation, users can test what-if scenarios unique to their facilities. Their web-based platform was originally built on MySQL, but the team quickly realized that the database couldn’t scale to meet their needs.

Instead, Future Facilities chose to migrate to MongoDB Enterprise Advanced. We sat down with Akhil Docca, Corporate Marketing & Product Strategy Manager of Future Facilities, to learn how migrating to MongoDB helped to triple the speed of development.

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Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and Future Facilities?

I lead the marketing and product strategy here at Future Facilities. We provide software and services specifically focused on physical infrastructure design and management to customers in the data center market. Our solutions span the entire data center ecosystem, from design to operations. By utilizing a digital clone that we call the Virtual Facility (VF), our users can see the impact of any change like adding new capacity, upgrading equipment, etc., before it is implemented.

In 2004 we released 6SigmaRoom, the data center industry’s leading CFD software for data centers. 6SigmaRoom is how our users create a VF, where they can input live data from their facility, and include necessary objects such as cooling and power units, servers and racks. Having this digital twin allows engineers to troubleshoot, predict and analyze the impact of any deployment plan, and find the optimal method for implementation. With 6SigmaRoom, engineers can speed up capacity planning and improve the overall efficiency and resilience of their data center.

6SigmaRoom is essential for accurate data center capacity planning, however, it’s a heavy-duty desktop application developed for engineers. We wanted to create a product that Facilities and IT teams could use to improve both their processes and overall data center performance. In 2016 we launched a new product, 6SigmaAccess, to do just that.

6SigmaAccess is a multi-user, browser-based software platform that allows IT professionals to interact with their data center model and propose changes through a central management system. The browser-based architecture allows us to load up a lighter version of the 3D model specifically tailored to the IT capacity planning process.

Here’s how it works. IT planners propose changes such as adding new IT or racks, decommissioning equipment or cabinets, or simply editing attributes. These changes are then submitted and queued up via MongoDB. When the data center engineer opens up 6SigmaRoom, the proposed changes are automatically merged, allowing the engineer to simply run the simulation to see how the changes would affect the facility. If the analysis reveals that the proposed installations don’t impact performance, they can then be approved, merged back into the database and scheduled for deployment

MongoDB is the integration layer between 6SigmaAccess and 6SigmaRoom that makes this process possible.

What were you using before MongoDB?

We initially started building on MySQL, but quickly ran into challenges. Whenever we wanted to make an update to the database schema, there would be a huge demand on time and resources from our developers, DBAs, and ops teams. It quickly became apparent that we wouldn’t be able to scale to meet the needs of our customers. While redesigning the platform, we knew that we had to get away from the rigid architecture of a SQL tabular database.

Our goal was to find a data platform that was easy to work with, that developers would like, and that could scale as our business grew. After briefly considering Cassandra and CouchDB, we selected MongoDB for its strong community ecosystem, which made adopting the technology seamless. MongoDB allows us to focus on delivering new features instead of having to worry about managing the database. We are able to code, test and deliver incremental changes to 6SigmaAccess without having to change 6SigmaRoom. This will shorten our development cycles by 66%, from 9 to 3 months.

Can you describe your MongoDB deployment?

The key components of 6SigmaAccess are node.js, angular.js, JSON, and RESTful APIs. 6SigmaRoom is built on C++. We are currently deploying a 3-node cluster to our enterprise customers.

Our technology is built in a way that we aren’t always writing massive amounts of data to the database. 6SigmaAccess changes tend to be a few MBs at a time. 6SigmaRoom data files tend to be in the 100s of GB range, but we only write the data into the database based on a user action. The typical (minimum) server configuration that we’ve sized for our applications are: 4-16 Cores, 64 GB of RAM & 1 TB of disk space.

We are Windows Active Directory compliant and have additional access controls built into our software that enforces roles and permissions when connecting to the database.

What advice would you give someone who is considering using MongoDB for their next project?

Start early and incorporate MongoDB in your project from the beginning. Redundancy and scalability are important at the heart of any application and planning how to achieve those goals from the onset will make development much smoother down the road. Additionally, choose a vendor with a strong support team. We were extremely impressed with MongoDB’s sales and technical team prowess throughout the conversion process, and look forward to working with them in the future.