Infrastructure Overhaul Helps Netpulse Achieve Major Business Wins


Netpulse’s existing platform suffered from long deployment windows, sub-optimal systems administration tools, and poor scalability.


ClearScale implemented database encryption, disk optimization, big data capabilities, and managed services with numerous AWS services.


Netpulse’s new infrastructure is much more scalable, agile, and cost-effective, enabling the business to grow with demand.

Executive Summary

Netpulse is a VC-backed SaaS company in San Francisco and the fitness industry’s technology partner. Founded in 2001 and employing 70 people, Netpulse provides the #1 custom branded mobile app for health clubs. Thousands of clubs across the world use the app to engage members, drive revenue, and integrate deeply with their most important technology solutions. Customers include industry leaders such as Gold's Gym, Retro Fitness, and Equinox. Partners include ABC Financial, Perkville, and ClubCom, among many others.

Additionally, Netpulse provides a suite of APIs that amplify the digital experience on cardio equipment from leading brands such as Life Fitness and Matrix. Thousands of treadmills, stationary bikes, and ellipticals in clubs globally leverage Netpulse technology.

ClearScale and Netpulse have been partnered for over a year to optimize and build out Netpulse’s cloud infrastructure on AWS. ClearScale continues to provide managed services and day-to-day management of Netpulse’s cloud infrastructure.

The Challenge

Netpulse first approached ClearScale to help optimize its cloud deployment.

Netpulse was using RightScale, a platform for managing cloud infrastructure, but RightScale was not being used to its full potential. Instead of taking advantage of the templating provided by RightScale ServerTemplates, Netpulse was making server changes directly on the servers. This resulted in issues when launching new servers because those server changes were not retained on newly-launched instances. The long deployment windows were a major business issue because it meant that their customers’ workout equipment was delayed in communicating with Amazon and data was not immediately available for customers.

Netpulse wasn’t using auto-scaling, so their infrastructure was not able to scale up in real-time when demand was high, and RightScale’s built-in monitoring did not meet their needs. In addition, they were using sub-optimal systems administration tools and practices, such as using Rsync to sync data between servers.

In addition to addressing the issues with their current infrastructure, Netpulse needed infrastructure improvements to enable them to onboard new customers and handle the massive increase of traffic and data that onboarding each new major club chain would generate.

The Solutions and Projects

Netpulse decided to partner with ClearScale to stabilize, update, operationalize, and maintain their infrastructure.

Stabilization: Audit, Review, Tuning, and Best Practices

ClearScale immediately performed an architecture design and best practices review to reveal recommendations for optimizing the current deployment. ClearScale rebuilt and standardized the RightScale ServerTemplates and ensured that all servers were running the correct ServerTemplate versions, tuned MySQL performance, tested primary and secondary backup and restore procedures, and relaunched the entire deployment from scratch to best practices. This phase also included complete documentation of the current deployment.

The initial phase addressed the most pressing issues and enabled Netpulse to operate with a capable environment. At this point, they were ready to move on to tackle major infrastructure enhancements.

Database Encryption with MySQL LUKS

Netpulse’s larger customers have compliance requirements, so Netpulse needs the ability to encrypt user data.

ClearScale started with the RightScale MySQL Database ServerTemplate and customized it to meet Netpulse encryption requirements by adding support for an encryption layer using LUKS-encryption of partitions. LUKS (Linux Unified Key Setup) uses AES-256 to encrypt the disk volume. This modification enabled a MySQL instance to be launched using LUKS-encrypted volumes that would be used as primary data storage for MySQL.

This satisfied that portion of the compliance needs and added extra security overall.

Disk Optimization with Flashcache

Netpulse was looking for a higher-performance and more cost-effective MySQL solution.

ClearScale recommended a specialized MySQL deployment to utilize ultra-fast ephemeral SSD storage with the Flashcache solution developed by Facebook. Flashcache is a write-back block cache Linux kernel module. It’s a caching system that increases average hit rates and significantly reduces disk operation rates. Using Flashcache would achieve the lowest running cost by using ephemeral SSD storage.

Netpulse has seen 10-15x improved performance when using Flashcache. It has enabled Netpulse to sustain the huge, unpredictable load with the best ROI over time on AWS.

Big Data with Cassandra

Netpulse customers generate a massive amount of data, and that data needs to be available for club members to be able to track workouts and measure progress toward goal completion.

Netpulse was using a legacy enterprise database solution for ETL reporting and analytics. This system was slow, and Netpulse needed a BI and Big Data platform that was scalable and highly available.

ClearScale recommended that Netpulse migrate to Cassandra, a massively scalable open-source NoSQL database. Cassandra is a database with a decentralized architecture that’s durable, performant, and fault tolerant. Every node in a Cassandra cluster is identical and there is no master. Cassandra nodes discover each other for automatic replication. Any Cassandra node may be down without loss of data or service, and any node can be replaced from scratch by being bootstrapped from an existing cluster.

DataStax Enterprise (DSE) is a Big Data platform built on Cassandra that manages real-time data, analytics, and enterprise search data. DSE is specifically designed to handle large amounts of data with high availability, so this was perfect for Netpulse’s needs.

ClearScale created a DSE ServerTemplate to deploy and manage the DSE cluster. Netpulse data is stored on EBS volumes attached to an EC2 instance. EBS snapshots make consistent backups of the whole data partition, and hourly and daily snapshots are automatically scheduled and saved to S3.

Scale-Out HA File System with GlusterFS

Netpulse was using Rsync to sync data between servers and this was causing delays in data availability. By its nature, Rsync is not centralized, and sync issues and data consistency need to be closely monitored. Netpulse needed a shared network-attached storage solution to support different applications and solve Rsync issues.

ClearScale recommended GlusterFS, an open-source, distributed file system that is highly scalable with no single point of failure. Using GlusterFS would eliminate the need to Rsync data across application and load balancing servers, and would write data to nodes simultaneously. GlusterFS can be configured for a wide range of workloads and dramatically improves reliability.

ClearScale created a GlusterFS ServerTemplate to deploy GlusterFS and attach it to EBS-backed volumes for backup. The ServerTemplate runs GlusterFS in replicated mode, which means that volumes can be replicated across multiple servers. Nodes can be added or removed without disruption to service. This resolved all Rsync issues and gave Netpulse a highly available and scalable network file system.

Managed Services with CloudNoc

CloudNoc is the managed services team at ClearScale and was retained to provide ongoing managed services and oversee the day-to-day management of Netpulse’s cloud infrastructure. This enables Netpulse to focus on core business challenges and leave day-to-day technology management to CloudNoc. Netpulse can be agile, save time, and grow their business.

CloudNoc systems engineers are responsible for:

  • 24/7/365 managed services and support
  • Full infrastructure management
  • Complete monitoring of infrastructure including custom reporting
  • Issue resolution and remediation
  • Backups, DR, configuration and patch management, application deployment, and more

The Results

The scalability, high availability, and ease of management of the new deployment has enabled Netpulse to achieve major business wins and support new clients, including many nationwide fitness clubs that operate thousands of locations across the United States.

And because ClearScale provides ongoing managed services and oversees the day-to-day management of Netpulse’s cloud infrastructure, Netpulse can be agile, save time, and focus on growing their business.