AppDynamics and Orka: Cool in a Crisis

Founded in 2008, AppDynamics is an application performance monitoring suite that helps users create better digital experiences for customers and employees. Their suite of applications, built on an enterprise-grade platform, accelerates digital transformations to drive customer engagement and operational efficiency. AppDynamics’ APM capabilities provide visibility into every line of code and important transactions across multi-cloud environments. Other features include end-user monitoring, infrastructure visibility, and business performance monitoring.

The AppDynamics team needed a way to get off of on-premise hardware. Based on our research, MacStadium was the standout leader.

Craig Hall

Build and Release Infrastructure Manager at AppDynamics

Before MacStadium

Before AppDynamics moved their build infrastructure to MacStadium, all of their Mac minis used for app development were bare metal and managed by different teams. Every time an issue arose, a different department handled it - and it was difficult to figure out who was dealing with what. It was time for a change.

A new team was formed with the goal of centralizing the management of IT functions. And by simplifying to one IT support structure for the whole company, any issues that arose would be handled by this new team. One of the leaders of this team, Craig Hall was tasked with managing the build and release system, which meant centralizing where the build and release system would live.

Things were moving in the right direction, and the team at AppDynamics selected TeamCity for their CI/CD pipeline. But there was still once piece missing - a new virtualization platform that could be easily implemented across the entire organization. With this new team, a more streamlined way of working with lots of team members in different locations was starting to form, and with that, a vision for virtualization began to appear.

“Our builds will no longer need any cleanup steps, potentially saving 20% from the build time.”

Overheating leads to Orka overhaul

AppDynamics had been experimenting with hosting iOS development in a MacStadium private cloud since 2018, running VMware on their bare metal minis. After a conversation at KubeCon in 2019, AppDynamics made the decision to switch to Orka in early 2020. For the new, unified team at AppDynamics, moving from VMware to Orka had distinct benefits. Orka is the first and only solution for virtualizing and orchestrating macOS in a cloud environment and uses Kubernetes, which AppDynamics had been already using for two years. Familiarity with Kubernetes along with the simplicity and scalability of Orka made switching from VMware to Orka a no-brainer.

However, before they could begin using Orka, the AppDynamics team knew they needed to streamline some day-to-day operations and get their CI/CD pipeline flowing smoothly. While this was happening, the COVID-19 pandemic struck, sparking unforeseen challenges. New employees could not be onboarded in cities like Bengaluru, India, where a nationwide shutdown meant nothing, including a developer’s MacBook, could be delivered to a new employee.

In the midst of juggling the many issues that arise from a pandemic, onboarding a completely new team, and managing a newly remote workforce, another crisis struck. Hall lost access to his entire fleet of Macs in San Francisco for more than seven hours when an air conditioning failure caused the data center to overheat. Without access to his pipelines or builds, Hall decided to spin up four Orka machines ahead of schedule and integrate them into their TeamCity pipeline. Thankfully, the MacStadium team was fully operational during the pandemic and was able to assist AppDynamics in getting their Orka environment deployed earlier than expected. Because Orka is easy to use, Hall was able to get things up and running on Orka by the end of that day.

“I was able to take that really bad situation that I had no control over, quickly implement a solution, and send reassurance up through the executive chain. I said, ‘Look, we did this with Orka by the end of the day’,” Hall said of his Orka overhaul. “It was like, ‘We won. We did it.’”

Impact on AppDynamics

By shifting their builds to Orka, the team at AppDynamics was able to restore connectivity quickly to resolve an immediate need, but the long-term value was obvious. Orka gave AppDynamics the virtualization layer they needed, the ability to scale their build infrastructure efficiently - but perhaps most importantly, gave them accessibility from anywhere in the world, at any time, with off-premise hardware they’d been looking for all along. Massive downtimes due to power outages are a thing of the past and builds are running smoothly now that Orka is in the picture.


Since migrating to Orka, AppDynamics’ builds are now running completely ephemerally. With Orka, things like disk space issues and broken builds due to infrastructure are no longer a problem. Orka has brought simplicity to the build and release team at AppDynamics. 

“Our builds will no longer need any cleanup steps, potentially saving 20% from the build time,” said Hall. “Our engineers won’t have to re-run their builds due to infrastructure issues, saving them so much time. We no longer need to maintain long running boxes or deal with issues like network connectivity or problems with heating and cooling. Now the builds are spun up on a clean agent every time, completely reproducible.”