Forest to cloud: NordHero supports Sitowise on transformation to AWS

Sitowise

The Sitowise forest products division, formerly Bitcomp, has completed the successful migration of its Classic forest monitoring products, Leafpoint and Foresta, from an on-premises location to a new home in the AWS cloud. Known as ‘lift and shift,’ the moving process is as it sounds, like picking up and dropping digital products from one place to another. With good team work and the support of NordHero the process ran smoothly, bringing new benefits like added security, operational streamlining, and cost optimization.

“The timing worked well in terms of product renewal,” says Heikki Paananen, Head of Development in Products, Sitowise Forest products. “Getting these products up on AWS gave us the opportunity to add more advanced features, including AI-based cues, among many other benefits.”

But of course there were also some challenges along the way. Teemu Niiranen, who led the migration from the NordHero side says, “Sometimes you can encounter some strange things when you run the very same system on a different platform.”

These can include issues related to database connections or lifting the right data needed to fix certain issues or finding ways to go around them. The products include complex data sets for forest owners with maps, or layers, mostly of remote forest areas, that number around 400, and include roads, waterways, topography, and photos of forest or infrastructure. These have been designed to help more than 120 customers to make sense of their data and help them plan and manage their forest assets for maximum health and sustainability.

Customer-driven cloud security

In the AWS cloud, customers get automatic access to add-on features like the AWS WAF (web application firewall). Plus the Sitowise product development team took advantage of the project to wrap in some additional features of their own. These were mostly related to advanced monitoring capability, data logging for better record keeping, and heightened information security measures.

“The internet can be a pretty scary place,” says Teemu. “Every day there are malicious bots out there scanning for vulnerabilities and opportunities for takeover or fraud.” However, using the new analytical tools that AWS Security Hub provides plus added security features of our own means potential hacks can be detected earlier and more easily.” Now, traffic between Classic products and other Sitowise services is going right inside AWS and no longer staying on the public internet, which has also helped security a lot.

Advanced monitoring and speed

The team’s overall system monitoring capability is better too. “We can see issues more clearly than on the old on-premises platform,” says Heikki. Having this greater breadth of data available helps in-house support teams maintain the systems more effectively, which means less service breaks and shorter down times, which is good news for our customers. “The increased speeds are also good for customers in terms of getting faster time to market for new features in the classic product lineup, and into customer use.”

“The internet can be a pretty scary place,” says Teemu. “Every day there are malicious bots out there scanning for vulnerabilities and opportunities for takeover or fraud.”

CPUs and cost optimisation

As part of the project, Sitowise changed their processor architecture to the latest ARM-based Amazon Graviton and the latest Intel processors that are built for AWS. These offer better price performance and are more energy efficient.

The migration also brought better efficiencies in overseeing CPUs and memory resources, allowing the team to optimize performance and costs based on actual requirements. Talking about the correlation between metrics and the impact of user traffic on networks and memory, Hannes Pettersson, Cloud Architect at Sitowise Digi says, “Having this comprehensive view of system dynamics gives us the opportunity to scale early to accommodate estimated traffic increases. For example in the face of large new customer traffic, the team can ramp up quickly, well in advance.”

Standardized and streamlined

By becoming integral parts of the AWS system, Foresta and Leafpoint have synced their security services with broader AWS practices across the business. Whereas they had previously been separate, this alignment brings a more standardized approach for support operations across the organization, promoting efficiency across Sitowise processes.

Even more sustainable

“With AWS, you only pay for the resources you use,” Hannes explains. “This can be cost-effective compared with maintaining on-premises hardware, as you have the flexibility to scale up or down based on actual demand.” Now the team has been able to cost-optimize their on-off work hours to use less energy, which means not running all non-production systems all the time; just when necessary. Previously the on-premises hardware was running 24-7. Less energy consumption of course means more sustainable operations and that is on top of the overarching public commitment by AWS as an organization to transition from fossil fuel in support of Paris climate goals.

“With AWS, you only pay for the resources you use,” Hannes explains. “This can be cost-effective compared with maintaining on-premises hardware, as you have the flexibility to scale up or down based on actual demand.”

Why work with NordHero?

The project was completed in good time, only four months, thanks to very careful planning and execution. “But it would have taken longer without NordHero,” Hannes recalls. “NordHero’s team was also able to focus 100% of their time on the project, which really increased the rollout speed as we others had multiple other projects going on at the same time.”

This proved especially important in the final weeks in the runup to the deadline. In IT, there is something called the 80-20 rule where 80% of the work is done in 20% of the time. While this wasn’t exactly the case here, there were tricky challenges in the final sprint, with more time spent solving the last problems.

“This is where Teemu’s expertise came to the fore,” Hannes says, “doing a lot of troubleshooting, even things outside of his normal job description.”

Teemu cites strong collaboration from the outset as key to getting to the finish line on time, and he commends the Sitowise team for their efforts in assembling all the experts around the table early. These included support teams and product developers sharing and documenting essential information.

“Before this project we had a wealth of information in the hands of just a few knowledge owners,” Heikki says. “But now thanks to the project, and with the help of NordHero, we have empowered a whole team of new knowledge super heroes!”

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