Using Habitat to Build the Industrial Cloud at GE Digital

GE Digital has undertaken an ambitious effort to make possible a new generation of cloud-native industrial applications. With Predix, GE’s industrial cloud platform, GE business units and industrial companies can build and run applications to deal with all sorts of substantial machinery, ranging from power generation equipment to airplane engines to locomotives. One piece of technology enabling this approach is Habitat, an application automation engine from Chef Software.

This week, Chef launched its Habitat Builder service, making it easier than ever to build and deploy cloud-native applications. GE’s Cloud Engineering team for Predix has been using Habitat for about a year, and in that time they’ve seen significant benefits. It’s their job to provide a robust and scalable cloud runtime environment and set of services for their internal and external customers. Those customers want to deliver new industrial applications at speed, and they need to maintain compliance in often heavily regulated environments. With Habitat, GE Digital’s Predix team is enabling speed and responsiveness while managing down risk.

Packaging Applications to Move Faster and More Reliably

Habitat allows organizations to build and package any application, declaring the dependencies and configuration the application needs to run. That package can then be run in any cloud-native architecture, and deployed consistently to any format and runtime including Docker, Mesos, Kubernetes, rkt, Tar, and Cloud Foundry. Additionally, Habitat manages the application throughout its lifecycle via a supervisor, which automates updates and ongoing configuration.

In large scale cloud environments, the challenges of building, deploying, and managing applications are magnified. Prior to using Habitat, the Predix team found it cumbersome to build each cluster at the pace required, even when using automation tooling. With Habitat, GE Digital saw a 30-40% improvement in configuration convergence speed on an initial node, and a 60-70% improvement on subsequent nodes. Instead of downloading packages with each build, Habitat allows GE Digital to create its own packages and apply them consistently. In addition to increased speed, this approach helps GE Digital maintain reliability and prove compliance, all of which are critical concerns for their customers.

Optimizing for Tomorrow’s Cloud-Native Apps

Today, Habitat helps GE Digital increase speed, improve efficiency, and decrease risk. Moving forward, Habitat will help optimize Predix for any cloud-native application their customers wish to build. The Cloud Engineering team relies on Docker, Mesos, Kubernetes, and Cloud Foundry, preferring to apply the container runtime environment and platform that best fits the application’s use case. Habitat provides GE Digital the flexibility to build once, then deploy to any environment. As a result, GE Digital is not locked into a single platform and can continue to optimize Predix moving forward without rebuilding its underlying services.

While not every organization deals with the scale and compliance requirements of a GE, we all want speed and security in an uncertain and rapidly evolving world. Habitat can help. Be sure to take a look at the Habitat Builder service and give it a try. It’s free to use and you can get started in 10 minutes.

Author Dan Hauenstein

Dan is Sr. Director of Product Marketing at Chef, helping companies understand Chef so they can achieve speed and outpace the competition. He has spent 20 years in strategy, marketing, and enablement roles in the enterprise software space at companies including Hortonworks, IBM, Micromuse, and McKinsey & Co. Throughout his career he’s tried to make complicated subjects easy to understand, mainly by boiling them down to three bullet points.