Success Story CRB & VSHN
CRB optimizes the sharing of construction standards across Switzerland with Managed Rancher by VSHN.
CRB, the Swiss center of excellence for standards in construction and real estate, relies on VSHN and SUSE Rancher. This enables the software development process to be more agile, and customers benefit from faster and more reliable digital services. CRB is supported by Kubernetes Certified Service Provider, VSHN, in the implementation and operation of the container management platform.
Tanja KnuserHead of Development and Technology and Member of the CRB Executive Board
- Lower cost compared to alternative solutions.
- Faster deployment of new applications and services.
- Zero downtime running services for CRB customers.
- Digital services remain available during updates.
- More frequent security updates provides better protection against cyber risks.
- Faster onboarding of new employees.
- Easier collaboration with external service providers.
Whenever a building is constructed anywhere in Switzerland today, the companies involved use solutions from the Swiss Research Center for Rationalization in Building and Civil Engineering (CRB). The association, which has around 5,000 members throughout Switzerland, sees itself as a center of excellence for standards in the construction and real estate industry. With numerous professional associations, CRB has been developing working tools for the entire life cycle of a building since the 1960s — from planning to realization and management.
The CRB standards help construction professionals to calculate costs uniformly, to describe and invoice services clearly and comprehensibly, and to optimize processes. Clear language rules, a uniform system and structured data formats enable an industrywide exchange of information. For this purpose, CRB maintains and administers over 1.3 million standard positions, as well as a database with over 45,000 construction terms in the Swiss national languages of German, French and Italian.
While its industry tools were originally published exclusively as print products, CRB now supports the Swiss construction industry with a variety of online tools, web applications and data for software applications.
“The ongoing digitization brings enormous opportunities for the construction industry,” emphasizes Tanja Knuser, head of development and technology and member of the CRB executive board. “Supporting new approaches, such as Building Information Modeling (BIM), requires an innovative approach to new challenges. Our goal is to use our data models to ensure a continuous and loss-free flow of information across all phases of a building.”
The journey to open source and containers
Every year, CRB invests in the expansion of digital expertise and in the development of innovative working tools that contribute to better productivity in the construction industry. The goal is to create added value for all stakeholders in the design and construction process — from clients and architects, to contractors and suppliers.
With the BIM Profile Server, for example, CRB offers a database-supported solution that facilitates the management and exchange of information in BIM projects. The tool, which was developed jointly with the University of Applied Sciences Northwestern Switzerland, helps users to provide data uniformly and consistently. In this way, misunderstandings can be avoided, and the data quality of BIM applications can be increased.
“Planning and management processes in the construction industry are very long-lasting,” explains Tanja Knuser. “Therefore, our customers expect that the data structures provided, including the resulting interfaces, will be available for years after they have been published. This clearly distinguishes CRB’s field of activity from the development of typical web applications, which are often only used for a short period of time.”
CRB must take this fact into account in all technology decisions. And it is precisely for this reason that CRB is increasingly relying on open source technologies with a large user community when developing solutions such as the BIM Profile Server.
“In this way, we minimize the risk of the technology manufacturer ceasing operations or being bought out by another manufacturer with a different corporate strategy,” explains Tanja Knuser. “We also make sure to use solutions that comply with current standards, such as the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF) guidelines. This gives us additional stability, as it allows us to keep migration efforts low in the event of a change of provider.”
CRB places massive importance not only on stability but also on agility when developing and operating applications. The existing monolithic software environment could no longer keep pace with the growing requirements in this respect. Many individual applications ran on their own virtual machines, which were managed with little or no automation. The manual administration effort was correspondingly high.
“Since we work with many different suppliers, we invested a lot of time in updating the components we needed in each case,” says Tanja Knuser. “Updating operating systems, application servers, programming languages and library versions over and over again is work that delivers no added business value, but it has to be done. That’s why we started implementing DevOps to more closely integrate software development and operations and standardize processes around application delivery.”
The primary goal was to accelerate the delivery of new and updated services and provide continuous benefits to the approximately 5,000 member companies. At the same time, the organization wanted to further improve the stability and availability of its digital services. For this reason, they increasingly relied on containerized applications and gained initial experience with Kubernetes.
“We quickly realized that we could use Kubernetes to support a much more agile development approach and run applications reliably and consistently in any infrastructure — whether on-premises or in the cloud,” says Tanja Knuser. However, at the time, CRB had limited staff resources and little experience with DevOps and container technology. The organization therefore decided to work with an external partner to plan and implement its strategy.
Why SUSE and VSHN
The choice fell on the IT service provider VSHN, based in Zurich. VSHN is a leading provider of 24/7 cloud operations and was the first Kubernetes Certified Service Provider (KCSP) in Switzerland. The company has been working with Kubernetes for several years and offers customers comprehensive managed services around DevOps, Kubernetes and containers. VSHN uses SUSE Rancher in many customer projects as a management platform.
“SUSE Rancher makes it quite easy to run and manage Kubernetes infrastructures productively,” says Markus Speth, Co-CEO and partner at VSHN. “It means we no longer have to build container service platforms from scratch using individual components. SUSE Rancher provides the entire software stack needed to deploy Kubernetes clusters in production from a single source. In addition, the solution is very cost effective.”
VSHN therefore also recommended that CRB use the solution for their agile software infrastructure. Within a few weeks, the project partners implemented the environment with several Kubernetes clusters and began migrating the first containerized applications. Today, the CRB web shop, the CRB website and the BIM profile server, among others, run on the new infrastructure. SUSE Rancher ensures efficient, stable operations and centralized management of the entire environment.
Benefits of an agile infrastructure
Faster and easier deployments through automation
Time is money — that’s as true on the construction site as it is in the development and operation of new software applications. CRB’s developers and project managers can deploy innovative applications much faster with the new infrastructure. Provisioning times have been reduced by up to 80% in some cases. This is due to SUSE Rancher’s high level of automation. The solution standardizes typical cluster operations, such as provisioning, version management and diagnostics.
“Automation now allows us to define a technology stack that enables us to centralize all update work,” explains Tanja Knuser. “For example, we maintain a base image for all applications that we only need to update once. This saves us time and money, freeing up resources that we can invest in new and ongoing developments. In addition, SUSE Rancher allows us to update our environment much more frequently, reducing our vulnerability to cyber risks. Security patches, for example, can be applied automatically to all clusters in the environment with just a few clicks.”
One benefit for CRB customers is that SUSE Rancher supports zero downtime maintenance. Rolling updates keep digital services available to users even during a cluster update.
Higher stability and more efficient collaboration
CRB sets standards for the entire construction industry in Switzerland. With SUSE Rancher, the organization has now also largely standardized its internal processes for developing and deploying digital applications. Among other things, the solution makes it possible to apply consistent user access and security policies across all clusters — no matter where they are running.
“Uniform deployments, uniform logins, uniform monitoring — all this helps us to take the stability and security of the environment to a whole new level,” summarizes Tanja Knuser. “The standardization and clearly defined interfaces also make it easier to switch employees between different projects and integrate external service providers. Onboarding new employees has become much easier — and new projects can also be set up much more quickly and stably.”
Maximum availability through central monitoring and managed services
CRB provides data and services for thousands of companies — and numerous construction projects depend directly on the availability of these services. “It is therefore extremely important that customers can access our systems and applications at any time,” emphasizes Tanja Knuser.
With SUSE Rancher, administrators can monitor any cluster at any site, update Kubernetes versions, perform backups, and restore compromised clusters from a single console. VSHN helps CRB with these tasks, handling 24/7 operations, monitoring, backup and maintenance of all clusters. The Project Syn tools developed by VSHN are also used for this. In addition, CRB also relies on VSHN’s managed services for the operation of GitHub and Greylog.
“Today, we basically don’t have to worry about the availability of our infrastructure at all and constantly check the performance and utilization of the individual systems,” sums up Tanja Knuser. “SUSE Rancher and VSHN take a lot of manual work off our hands here. This frees our minds to focus entirely on developing and delivering innovative services for our customers.”
What’s next for CRB
The transformation of CRB’s digital offerings is in full swing — and more and more applications are being containerized and delivered via the new infrastructure.
“Now that we have the technology in place, it’s about leveraging the new capabilities for our core missions,” emphasizes Tanja Knuser. “This is optimizing processes and generating value for our customers.”
Thank you very much for the interview and your time, Tanja. We are very pleased to count CRB among our customers.
The interview was conducted by Markus Speth, Co-CEO of VSHN.
About VSHN – The DevOps Company
VSHN (pronounced vɪʒn like ‘vision’) is Switzerland’s leading partner for DevOps, Docker, Kubernetes, OpenShift and 24/7 cloud operations. VSHN was founded with the intention to fundamentally shake up the hosting market. As a lean startup, we have focused on operating IT platforms through automation, agility and a continuous improvement process. Completely location-independent and without own hardware, we operate extensive applications according to the DevOps principle agile and 24/7 on every infrastructure, so that software developers can concentrate on their business and IT operations are relieved.
- 1CRB optimizes the sharing of construction standards across Switzerland with VSHN and SUSE Rancher.
- 2Faster deployment of new applications and services.
- 3Zero downtime running services for CRB customers.
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