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Industrial IoT and Edge

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Portainer Helps Enable High Availability and Automation

Customer Story: San Diego County Court System

Business overview

Business Focus
The San Diego County Superior Court is part of the California state court system. It is overseen by the Judicial Council of California, which sets policies and provides support services for all California courts.
Based in the United States
The court has more than 150 judges and commissioners across 12 courthouse locations throughout San Diego County
Key Need For Portainer
The Superior County Court system was struggling with frequent downtime of their public facing web applications.
Container Platform
Docker and Swarm
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The Challenge

The Superior County Court system was struggling with frequent downtime of their public facing web applications caused by excessive data mining activity.

Joshua, a senior IT administrator, explained that public-facing applications like the Court Index and ROA were getting “data mined really hard” by commercial organizations, “to the point where they were taking down our web server.”

With the court web applications going down a couple times a month, this was becoming a serious issue impeding public access. Joshua estimated that when core systems were down, it was costing around “$1,000,000 a day” in lost productivity and services. They had attempted to curb the problem by blocking data miners entirely or limiting their access to night-time hours, but this was an inadequate solution.

Introducing Containers and Automation

To resolve the availability issues, Joshua introduced container technology and automation.

Joshua O'Brien, Systems Engineer explains: 

“We use Docker Swarm and Docker, we build a configuration file once and we can clone it as many times as we want.”

By containerizing applications, they could scale out easily and isolate apps from each other, preventing crashes.

“I can literally roll through the upgrade process on each of the machines and the containers will auto level themselves out.”

There was still hesitancy among the Windows-focused IT staff about adopting Linux-based containers.

Joshua convinced them by implementing Portainer as a management interface:

“I needed a GUI, an easy simple to follow graphical interface that people can look at configurations, build them, copy, clone and stand up their apps.”

Portainer’s intuitive interface and federated Active Directory authentication enabled faster adoption.

Joshua estimated his own productivity was boosted 50% using Portainer compared to the command line. Another key developer also became 50% more productive because he was no longer trying to get things to work in a difficult Windows environment.

The Results: Rapid Problem Resolution

Within 12 months of implementing Portainer-managed containers, the Court Index system only went down once. Previously it had been multiple full outages per month. Joshua credited the improvements to Portainer’s visibility.

“I am able to quickly look at what’s going on, get a holistic view of everything. Very quickly I look at the stack and services - instead of digging up docker commands, it’s all automated.”

Portainer also enabled more people to triage issues:

“They don’t have to call me directly. They can at least take a first pass at it.”

Uptime went from “3 nines to 6 nines” (8.77 hours/year to 31.56 seconds/year, or 99.9999% availability) for core applications, also thanks to health checks that auto-restart containers.

Unlocking Additional Services

By scaling with containers and Portainer, the court IT team could support 24/7 data mining rather than blocking access. As Joshua explained, this furthered their public service mission: “We embrace data mining and allow them to have more. We allow not just normal, but we allow everyone.” With Portainer the core focus is back to supporting availability for everyone, instead of engineering rules to classify, prioritize and restrict access to public data.

He estimated additional data mining activities increased public data availability by 30-40%.

Key metrics were also improved thanks to Portainer:

  • $10 million productivity savings annually. 
  • Uptime improved from 3-4 nines to 6 nines.
  • Mean time to recovery went from hours to minutes.
  • Additional data mining availability increased by 30-40% with scaled infrastructure.

Looking Ahead to the Future

When asked about future improvements, Joshua focused on enhancing security:

He was already leveraging Portainer’s edge agent-based approach to lock down containers in the DMZ from external access. Overall, Joshua emphasized the importance of Portainer’s support and training resources in getting the court to embrace new technologies like containers.

By providing powerful capabilities via an intuitive interface, Portainer enabled the county court system to tap into the benefits of containers - scaling applications on demand while improving uptime and data access. As a result, both internal IT teams and the general public benefited greatly. Portainer’s automation continues to enhance the court’s IT operations and public services into the future.

"I am able to quickly look at what’s going on, get a holistic view of everything. Very quickly I look at the stack and services - instead of digging up docker commands, it’s all automated. "


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Joshua O'BrienSystems Engineer, San Diego Superior Court

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