Accelerating Gasum’s digital capabilities

— with an easily scalable solution

About Gasum

The energy company Gasum is a Finnish gas sector (natural gas and biogas) expert that is building a bridge to a carbon-neutral society on land and at sea. Gasum imports natural gas to Finland, products and upgrades biogas in Finland and Sweden and transmits and delivers these for energy production, industry, homes, and land and maritime transport. The Gasum subsidiary Skangas is the leading Nordic expert in liquefied natural gas (LNG) that will continue to strengthen the position and infrastructure of LNG and the utilization of new gas solutions in Finland, Sweden and Norway.

The Gasum Group has around 400 employees in Finland, Norway and Sweden. The company’s revenue in 2016 totaled €843 million.

What we did: API Platform using AWS Cloud Architecture – UX Design – Front-end Modernisation

The Challenge

Gasum’s corporate customers require timely information and practical management tools for their products and services. It is also critical that the needs are met reliably and securely. Gasum had been serving their customers through an extranet service and were now looking to provide updated product offering, enhanced user experience fitting their customers’ everyday business needs, and enable more flexible and efficient future development of their digital services.

The existing business backend provides solid functionality covering Gasum’s internal needs. However, additional solutions are required for serving also their customers’ needs as the system lacks customer-facing user interface and also APIs which would enable developing an independent front-end application. Introducing such extensions for the backend product had been considered but found too slow and costly option to serve the constantly evolving business needs of both Gasum and their customers.

Until now these needs had been addressed with a custom extranet service now approaching the end of its lifespan. The need for comprehensive redesign had grown over time, and it had also become challenging to find competence for overhauling the legacy codebase into a modern and easily maintained service.

The Solution

Since the backend was fulfilling its most critical role well with merely limited customer-facing capabilities, we started to look for ways to enhance the product without sacrificing its good parts and re-implementing functionality that had been perfected over years of production use. Changes to the backend would be tedious and come with risks. Then again frequent improvement cycles were actually requirements for the customer-facing functionality so separating these needs and concerns would be ideal.

Gasum and SC5 agreed to undertake a proof-of-concept project to validate our hypothesis that the backend could be apified, i.e., that it was possible to develop a standard REST API which would integrate with the backend and open up its functionality for the development of modern customer-facing services – without any modifications to the backend itself. This would come with many additional benefits including separation of technical concerns into easily manageable and loosely coupled components, avoidance of vendor lock-in situations through the use of widely adopted technologies, and flexible and efficient future development paths. The proof-of-concept project was found successful just after two weeks. With the key technical risks out of the way, both Gasum and SC5 were confident to kick-off the actual development project.

SC5’s designers and developers teamed up with Gasum’s specialists with business and IT expertise and conducted an agile development project where frequent checkpoints and real-world feedback guided the efforts towards delivering maximum customer value. The major project milestones were beta release after about four months, limited production release four months later and entirely replacing the legacy system five months after that. The team size circled around three persons, on average, depending on the project phase.

The apification was in practice achieved using serverless building blocks of Amazon Web Services including API Gateway, Lambda functions (ca. 1 million invocations per month), SNS-based communication, S3 storage service and RDS databases. By leveraging AWS Lambda, we were able to target the resources to high-value design and development work instead of ops tasks such as setting up servers, ensuring scalability and reliability, etc. The ops tasks were removed not only from development effort but also operations of the service since reliability and scalability are ensured out-of-the-box by the utilized AWS services. The fully reusable API was accompanied by a static single-page front-end application.

The Results

The previous extranet was replaced by the new solution which serves the customers’ needs better than ever and accelerates Gasum’s ability to develop their business and offering with the support of digital services that can keep up with rapid changes and individual requirements. The new system has minimal operating expenses and automatically scales to meet sudden peaks in demand. The API is easily extendable and reusable for future needs.

Customers have already shown interest in making use of the API in addition to the front-end. The project was finished on budget.

Photos: Gasum Oy

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