Every day, more and more Atlassian customers with self-managed environments turn to Crowd as a means for user management and controls. From Uhub to The NOVOMATIC Group, customers use Crowd to offload user management efforts, reducing the strain on performance for individual products and time for system admins. And as Crowd usage continues to increase, we’ve made sure that these performance gains scale with it.
With our latest platform release, Crowd 4.0 for Server and Data Center, we’ve improved performance areas while introducing new capabilities that make it easier than ever to support Crowd. But that’s only the beginning. The Crowd 4.0 release lays the groundwork for future capabilities that will set your organization up for success for years to come.
A higher-performing Crowd
One of the main benefits of Crowd is its ability to mitigate performance strain on individual products by centralizing user management efforts. But that doesn’t mean that Crowd itself isn’t susceptible to performance issues. Like anything, as the scope of Crowd increases, so does the possibility of sacrificing performance for scale. Specifically, the impact that authentication has on a growing number of directories and the use of nested groups to handle more complex configurations for a large user base are two areas we’ve seen contribute to performance challenges. Crowd 4.0 addresses these challenges and brings improved performance in two ways:
- The ability to optimize the priority of your cached directories
- A new approach to Crowd handles nested groups hierarchies
Let’s zero in on what you can do with cached directories, first.
Since cached directories allow admins to browse users and groups much faster in Crowd, because you don’t have to go through the process of downloading them from the external directory. We’ve seen some customers with as many as 10 external directories, used for a number of reasons such as combining different subsidiaries or different regions.
But then comes authentication. Unlike browsing users, authentication is always reaching out to external directories; it can’t authenticate users against cache because it needs to be 100 percent certain that the data is correct, and Crowd does not store passwords that come from remote directories. Now, consider that every login attempt of every one of your users gets checked against each directory. So if the directory a user’s account belongs in is towards the bottom of the order, their login experience will be slower. In Crowd 4.0, you now have the ability to optimize the priority of cached directories. This feature is opt-in, and can be enabled by selecting a checkbox in Application / Directories screen. With this feature enabled, Crowd will use the cached directories to de-prioritize directories that don’t include the user account, speeding up the authentication process. If the authenticating user doesn’t exist in any of your cached directories, Crowd will move them to the end of the queue. This helps Crowd focus on the right directories and save your users time.
In addition, Crowd has improved performance in the way it handles nested groups hierarchies, taking a different, more efficient approach. In the past, when nested groups were enabled, a search for groups that a user may or may not be in would iterate groups at each level, one by one, causing a significant lag on performance.
After instituting performance improvements on the backend of Crowd, it’s now faster to query multiple groups at once (with some limits). This change brings significant performance improvements for user authentication, permission checks, and the User groups screen.
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A platform built for the future
The 4.0 release also serves as an ongoing investment to ensure that Crowd is able to support all of the needs of your infrastructure. With the new Oracle Java licensing and release strategy, we now support Java SE 11 as the latest Long-Term-Support (LTS) version. LTS versions are released every three years and have a much longer support lifespan than Short-Term-Support (STS) releases, which means you’ll have access to updates and bug fixes for longer. Crowd 4.0 also brings support for Microsoft SQL Server 2017. We’ll be continuing to update Crowd’s capabilities and its supported platforms in coming releases to ensure that Crowd is as accessible as possible, in any environment.
Apart from database and infrastructure support, you have a new way to deploy and run Crowd. It’s now supported by Docker container images. Including Docker as part of your Server or Data Center deployment reduces overhead spent on provisioning, updating, and maintaining your instances, and ultimately helps facilitate this necessary agility as you scale.
It’s also important to note that the new handling of nested groups indirectly contributes to Crowd’s capacity for future improvements. This new approach to nested groups enables additional filtering of users based on their memberships. Since the synchronization time between products is no longer impacted, it means we can unblock potential performance degradation when adding new capabilities.
Crowd 4.0 brings new supported platforms and new features that set you up for success without sacrificing performance. To unlock the platform improvements and new capabilities in 4.0, download it now.