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Technical Infrastructure Overview


See Naming Conventions.


CESSDA uses Google Cloud Platform (GCP) as the basis for its Technical Infrastructure.

GCP has the concept of Projects to group a set of computing resources and keep them separate from those belonging to other Projects. To date, the Technical Infrastructure consists of three GCP projects, CESSDA Production, CESSDA Development and CESSDA Sandbox.

General Principles for GCP Projects

The structure of each GCP project follows the same set of principles:

  • a project contains one or more Kubernetes clusters
  • a cluster contains components of the same logical type (development, staging, production, management) that form parts of different products.
  • every component is a Docker container
  • each Kubernetes cluster namespace contains components belonging to a single product, and logically separates them from the contents of other namespaces in that cluster
  • external access to the components in each namespace is mediated by a reverse proxy located in that namespace
  • all the namespaces in a cluster, and hence all the components in a cluster, share the computing resources allocated to that cluster

The Google Kubernetes Engine (GKE) is an environment for deploying containerized (i.e. Dockerized) applications. A Docker container provides an isolated context in which an application can run with its own environment. A Docker container runs a Docker image, which is a package containing the application and all its dependencies. This enables GKE to provide rapid application development by making it easy to deploy, update, and manage CESSDA’s products.

GCP Main Project Structure Sandbox

CESSDA Development GCP Project

The CESSDA Development GCP Project contains two Kubernetes clusters, development-cluster and staging-cluster. See GCP Main Project Structure for more details of the clusters.

CESSDA Production GCP Project

The CESSDA Production GCP Project contains two Kubernetes clusters, production-cluster and management-cluster.

The management-cluster contains various utility, monitoring, testing and deployment tools, based on 3rd party components including:

  • AlertManager for automatic alerting when faults or alarm conditions occur
  • Certbot for automated TLS/SSL certificate renewal
  • Grafana for visualisation of monitoring data
  • Graylog for log aggregation
  • HAProxy for reverse proxying
  • Jenkins for CI/CT - build, test and deploy components
  • JMeter for stress testing
  • Kibana for analysing and visualising logs gathered by Graylog
  • Sonatype Nexus for local caching of dependencies and an authoritative store of CESSDA authored libraries
  • Prometheus for component monitoring
  • Selenium for user journey testing
  • SonarQube code quality analysis

It also contains a Docker Registry - images built in the management-cluster are pushed to it, and deployments to other clusters in the project pull from it.

See GCP Main Project Structure for more details of the production-cluster.

Multiple Deployment Environments

The development-cluster acts as the development environment,
the staging-cluster acts as the staging environment
and the production-cluster acts as the production environment.

For example, the development instance of CDC is deployed to the development-cluster of the CESSDA Development GCP Project, the staging instance of CDC is deployed to the staging-cluster of the CESSDA Development GCP Project, and the production instance of CDC is deployed to the production-cluster of the CESSDA Production GCP Project. The same goes for the development, staging and production instances of other products such as CMV, CVS and ELSST. These deployments are independent from each other so problems in testing environments (development-cluster and staging-cluster) won’t have adverse effects on production.

Application Deployment Process

Jenkins pipelines are used to build, test and deploy components. The general principle is to build once, deploy many times, configure on launch and automatically test en route. Components are deployed to three different environments (the development-cluster, staging-cluster and production-cluster described above). The Docker registry is used as local storage to enable the ‘build once, deploy many times’ approach.

Further reading

Jenkinsfile examples

See Example Jenkinsfile with Annotations.

See Jenkinsfile template for JDK11 Maven Projects.

Example Deployment - CESSDA Data Catalogue

Each component of CDC is built from the main branch of the Git repository.

  • Jenkins automatically builds the main branch when commits are made to it.
  • A successful build is deployed to the development cluster.
  • Integration tests are run against the deployed components of the development cluster. If these are successful the components are deployed together on the staging cluster.
  • When ready to go live, the components are deployed manually to the production-cluster.

Deployment vs Application Code

The deployment scripts are generic, and are parameterised for each component and each deployment environment at the point of use.

All the deployment, monitoring and management code has been separated out from the source code for each tool by the use of different repositories. So the developers have write access to the application code repositories and the CESSDA Platform team have write access to the deployment code. This allows for the possibility of making the application code Open Source without revealing the specifics of the configuration of one or more clusters.


Developers are responsible for delivering code that complies with the prevailing CESSDA Technical standards. Source code must comply with the relevant guidelines. The CESSDA Platform team work with Developers to devise and put in place some or all of the tests used to ensure compliance with the guidelines. Developers are expected to fix any defects revealed by the tests.

Developers should provide Unit tests for their products, and the CESSDA Platform team will work with the developers and/or relevant user groups to develop Selenium tests to cover the main user journeys for each product.

The CESSDA Platform team is responsible for creating and updating the scripts that deploy products to the various build environments (development, staging, production).

There is an reverse proxy in front of all deployed tools, which is responsible for automatically checking and updating the Let’s Encrypt security certificates associated with the subdomain names for each deployment.