Digital transformation is not new. We have been talking about it for at least 15 years and many organisations have already completed the process. But we are now entering a new phase where the need to transform has been heightened by the impact of Covid-19.
“Fundamentally, nothing has changed,” says Glyn Darkin, chief technology officer with Dublin-based technology company BoatyardX. “Digital transformation strategies are basically unchanged. What’s different is that Covid-19 has been a massive accelerant. Businesses have to look at what they need to do to survive over the next two years during a period when the way people buy and consume products and services has responded to the need for social distancing.”
Client initiatives the company has worked on recently have involved the sudden requirement to integrate at scale to third party platforms, providing large analytics solutions and building out new ecommerce channels. All have required the ability to respond quickly to large increases in traffic and computational needs.
Companies which had already begun their transformation journeys are at an advantage. “In our case, BoatyardX is part of a group of companies with teams and clients distributed around Europe, the USA and Canada. The change to working from home and serving clients had no impact on us because we were already set up to manage that,” Darkin says.
That flexibility was thanks to BoatyardX’s commitment to the cloud. “Companies that hadn’t started their cloud journey had to rush to put the infrastructure in place. The lesson for businesses which hadn’t started is to look at those who had managed to keep going with no disruptions,” he says.
It is getting a lot cheaper to move to the cloud
While the cloud is central to digital transformation, companies need to be cautious. Rushing into what may appear to be an alluring offer from a cost point of view may not in fact be so inexpensive in reality.
“It is getting a lot cheaper to move to the cloud,” Darkin says. “You can do it with very few upfront costs and those costs are coming down all the time. But people need to be aware of the total cost over time. Some cloud companies will provide significant amounts of free credit that can be hugely beneficial for a company, but it is important to be aware of the potential to become locked in to the provider and take steps to avoid this .”
With many providers to choose from, some of the bigger names include Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft and Google. “There are lots of different reasons to go with one or the other. Do you double down on one or do you go with multiple cloud providers is the question,” Darkin says.
“A lot of large companies including banks, for example, opt for the multiple cloud option. Start-ups tend to go with one cloud at the beginning, but they might want to move to another provider when the free credit runs out, only to find they are locked in.”
This is why he recommends a cloud-neutral strategy. “We don’t tie our customers down to any particular cloud.”
BoatyardX can do this thanks to a technology called Kubernetes. It is an open source system for managing applications across multiple hosts including different cloud services and physical data centres. It provides mechanisms for the deployment, maintenance, and scaling of applications in the cloud.
Kubernetes is the future
“Kubernetes came out of Google but is now an open source platform for managing the cloud environment and applications running in it,” Darkin explains. “Our proposition allows firms to get up on the cloud on Kubernetes infrastructure very, very quickly, with no licence and no tie in. It has seen massive adoption in the enterprise space.”
The beauty of Kubernetes is that it makes applications truly portable and almost infinitely scalable. Applications will run anywhere, meaning that companies can move them from cloud to cloud, or even have them running on two or three clouds at once – or indeed in a data centre.
This latter point is important for certain sectors, he says. “If a company has customers in financial services, they may want to run their software on their own infrastructure for security and other reasons. Kubernetes means it can go from the cloud to data centre with no difficulty.”
Scalability is also vitally important. “A customer of ours in the entertainment business needs scale to cope with massive spikes in traffic during sports events,” he points out.
“That’s vertical scaling. Horizontal scaling, on the other hand, caters for growth in customer numbers and may be more gradual. Using Kubernetes, companies don’t have to worry about capacity limits. Kubernetes also gives companies the ability to outsource lots of the technical complexity to a partner like BoatyardX while they focus on building their product.”
He explains that customers can still build their own applications and only use BoatyardX for the complex areas. “The Twelve-Factor App methodology is the industry standard for building software-as-a-service applications (SaaS). If they use that methodology the application will sit on Kubernetes with no difficulty. They can build the product and then partner with BoatyardX to handle all the complexity.”
We're doubling down on Kubernetes to ensure our clients get the maximum benefit from its deployment
BoatyardX can also look after the security aspects. “This has been an increasing concern and that has been heightened by Covid-19. There are more bad actors out there trying to exploit the vulnerabilities created by remote working,” Darkin says.
“If you start building an application from ground zero you have to build the security controls yourself and do the testing and so on. We have done all that with our reference architecture which has been benchmarked against the Centre for Internet Security (CIS) industry standard. When a client comes to us they are getting all those security controls from day one.”
Kubernetes continues to evolve. “Lots of other capabilities are being packaged in terms of monitoring, search, and caching. These are the plumbing and pipework for the cloud and the open source route offers a much more flexible platform,” Darkin says.
“There are going to be more and more digital platforms and how you acquire and engage customers on those will be key success factors in the future. You need to be match fit to be able to connect into platforms that exist now and will come in the future. That’s why it’s so important to have a flexible cloud partner,” Darkin says.
While the future may be uncertain, Kubernetes has stood the test of time. “Its technology stack has been battle tested over time and has won the contest to become the cloud operating system of choice,” Darkin says. “At BoatyardX we’re doubling down on Kubernetes to ensure our clients get the maximum benefit from its deployment.”
BoatyardX has introduced a new service for organisations large and small seeking technology solutions to current challenges. WorkshopX is an intensive two-hour workshop where BoatyardX’s experts engage with an organisation to define the problem and identify the business process to be transformed, the technology to be modernised or the software product to be developed.
“Within 24 hours of the workshop ending we come back to the organisation with an outline for a solution to the issue as well as options for how it can be designed and built,” says MD Brian Barter. “This is a free service which we are offering to companies which are facing technology challenges but do not have the resources internally to address them.”