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From Ground to Cloud: How Foursquare Checked into Online Services

Watch this JNUC session in its entirety.

Have doubts about migrating to the cloud? It’s understandable, but there’s no need to fear what you cannot see. In today’s Jamf Nation User Conference (JNUC) session, Foursquare IT Systems Engineer, Jordan Dailey, shared how Foursquare transitioned from only using their JSS to enroll and inventory devices into utilizing it as a fully scalable deployment, monitoring and maintenance tool for their global user base.

Foursquare started with a mere two Mac minis in their San Francisco and New York offices before moving the service to AWS and two locally hosted virtual machines, a method to utilize DEP and Self Service. They built a DEP program that allowed for seamless deployment to global locations, and built tools to alleviate ticket volume and response time.

Dailey started with some advice. “If you take away one thing from this presentation, understand that company culture is a major factor in every single decision. If you take away two things, it’s to embrace the idea of growth and try to beat the company to it.”

Though he wasn’t there for the initial rollout, Dailey explained the process at Foursquare wasn’t complicated. They had the JAMF Software Server (JSS) and the File Distribution Point in their New York office, with the JDS in their San Francisco office – all with 95% enrollment.

Now they’re in the cloud. “This is where we start getting the good stuff,” Dailey said. “We started up two instances: one to run our JSS and MySQL database behind the firewall; and one for JSS web instance in the DMZ for all those remote users out there.”

He further explained they built two Virtual JDSs, one in New York and one in San Francisco. They used CentOS 7 and CloudFront on AWS for package deployment.

“With the network rules we set up, we were able to direct any traffic coming from the two main offices to the JSS inside the firewall and using network segments the receive their packages from their respective JDSs. Anyone coming from outside those two networks were heading the CDP and the JSS web instance.”

When it came to making the move, Dailey said they talked a lot about starting with a fresh database, versus importing the full database. After much discussion, they decided to start fresh.

“If you were lucky enough to attend last year’s JNUC, there was a great presentation about this exact thing. Shout out to whoever built the JSS Database Migration Tool. It worked beautifully in allowing us to migrate,” Dailey said.

The move meant another enrollment process. With the ability to policy the transition and let it run, this was a seamless transition for employees in their two main office. For the remote employees, they supplied the quickadd package and asked their colleagues to install it.

“Like I said earlier, culture is important,” Dailey said. “So it was necessary for us to amp up Self Service in our communications. This isn’t big brother; this is best pal.”

Even with Self Service in place, Dailey explained, challenges still arise. So don’t forget what’s most important – keep your users at the center.

“I think every single person here knows the pain of being in the middle of writing up some kind of automation script, or working on a network configuration and someone walking over to you with the, ‘Hey can I ask you a question,’ and it’s something about a printer or general slowness,” Dailey said. “Working in IT is generally interruptive. Half the time we’re doing support. The other half we’re putting out fires. Self Service definitely helps, but you have to make it work for the users.”

Dailey explained that they scope out apps and printers to various teams and offices, but it’s the maintenance tools that make the biggest difference. “We built some really great tools and quick fixes for the user to run straight out of Self Service,” he said. “Every environment is going to change, so obviously you’ll want to build tools necessary for your office; but looking over your tickets you can usually tell where high volume issues persist.”

Last bit of advice – make it fun. Dailey said customizing icons within Self Service to match your organization’s branding can have a huge impact. Dailey said, “The more enjoyable the Self Service experience can be for the user, the more they’ll use it.”