30 Sept, 2022
Bill Identity (BID) is a Melbourne based listed technology company that provides utility spend management services through an innovative custom cloud-based platform. BID’s solutions automate manual processes for businesses, improving data visibility and control over energy bills.
BID has experienced tremendous growth over the last few years. New sales, high rates of customer retention, uptake of additional platform services, and international expansion have all contributed to BID’s accelerated growth. They now operate across Australia, New Zealand, Europe, USA, and the UK.
The business was scaling at a rate that stretched BID’s platform, internal teams, and systems of managing work. Whilst a good problem to have, the platform needed investment, additional team members, and further development to improve resilience as the business expanded so rapidly. At the same time, a key member of BID’s Technology Leadership team moved on. This put the business in a difficult position without crucial leadership to drive the changes required to sustain BID’s international growth.
Internally, the DevOps team was working beyond capacity, balancing the competing demands of platform enhancements, maintenance, and daily operations. The absence of technical leadership in this team created additional ambiguity when it came to prioritising work, exacerbating an already arduous situation. The DevOps team needed strategic direction and additional support to ensure they were functioning effectively and prioritising activities that addressed BID’s most pressing challenges.
BID knew that recruiting someone with the right skill and experience to lead the team would likely take several months. To continue to grow as a business and remain competitive, BID asked Midnyte City for interim assistance with:
A technology leader to help define a strategy for DevOps across the platform
An assessment of the platform to understand its current operations and how this could be improved
Coordination of the DevOps team with a focus on workflow, alignment, and prioritisation
BID needed a consulting partner who could hit the ground running, helping the team manage a significant workload of planned and unplanned work as well as look under the hood of the platform to identify and implement the appropriate solutions.
The Midnyte City crew worked with BID’s Technology Leadership group on a review of the architecture, infrastructure, software development process, and ways of working. The group concluded that BID would benefit the most from adopting modern development patterns for cloud services, such as architecting applications in AWS and Terraform and implementing observability tools. The Tech Leadership group expected this to significantly improve operational efficiency and platform performance, creating the environment for a sustainable and secure continued evolution of the platform. At an enterprise level, this would help ensure that BID is able to meet scalability, availability, security, reliability, and resiliency demands now and in the future.
As a result of these recommendations, Midnyte City was able to:
Leverage BID’s existing patterns to move the non-production environment into Infrastructure as Code
Introduce cloud cost management practices to optimise cloud usage and cut unnecessary cloud spend
Stabilise the MongoDB production cluster
Significantly reduce the time it took to move prod data into a non-prod environment
Consolidate database access which simplified user management
Upskill the DevOps teams in modern software development and agile practices
Improve processes within the DevOps team so they could better manage project priorities and operational requests
Cloud cost optimisation
Like many cloud-first, rapidly scaling organisations, BID’s monthly AWS bill was a large and growing expense. The team achieved some quick wins by terminating unnecessary resources, applications, and computing services. The next step involved implementing a range of cloud cost management practices such as right sizing instances, deleting old snapshots, and optimising storage tiers. As a result, BID’s monthly AWS bill was reduced by 26%, representing tens of thousands in cost savings.
Cloud infrastructure upgrade
During the engagement, a MongoDB production cluster started to experience performance issues. The team investigated and found the root cause was the IOPS maxing out. To resolve this, the team upgraded BID’s drives to GP3 and updated the instance types to increase disk IOPS, addressing disk throughput issues. This helped reduce the time it took for customers to access reports on BID’s platform and ensured that the replication of data to secondary nodes could occur.
As part of Midnyte City’ ethical consulting approach, peer coaching, training, and knowledge sharing were part of the engagement to upskill permanent members in the DevOps team. Workshopping solutions together, Midnyte City and BID were able to move the non-production environment to infrastructure as code. The team treated the mongo EC2 instance as immutable infrastructure and created AMI with mongo. This enabled the team to test out the mongo upgrades quickly and reduced the risk associated with rolling out changes to production.
Previously, database access occurred in different ways, including VPN, windows jumpbox, and phpMyAdmin. Midnyte City and BID’s DevOps team consolidated and simplified User Management and access with bastion and SSM. The SSM bastion also removed the bottleneck and limitations of only having two concurrent remote desktop protocol sessions. These changes not only give BID a consolidated view on who has access to production data across the organisation, but also provides them with control over giving the appropriate access.
Team coordination and upskill
After observing how the team prioritised work, Midnyte City was able to help implement the right structure and processes to ensure they were functioning effectively. All team members were included in planning sessions for each sprint. Psychological safety was established and open and frequent communication encouraged, allowing the team to discuss any hurdles they faced so they could resolve these together. This created a more collaborative, safe, motivating, and solution-oriented team culture, which helped the group better manage workload and delivery.
“I have seen why Midnyte City is regarded as an expert technology consulting firm. They rolled up their sleeves, worked closely with our DevOps team, assessed how our platform could be improved, and implemented clever solutions. We’re now better set up to meet availability, reliability, resiliency, security, and scalability demands, which supports our global expansion.”
Chief Technology Officer of Bill Identity
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