Paulig is currently working on a global project to renew its manufacturing execution system (MES) and enterprise resource planning (ERP) system. Paulig wanted to gain a deeper understanding of its MES architecture during the testing phase, especially with regard to networking. When Knowit proposed a standardised review of the Azure environment, Paulig decided it could review more aspects of its environment than just the networking. The Well-Architected Review is a standardised service that offers a quick and cost-effective way of receiving consultation on a cloud environment.
“The review features several hundred predefined questions, and you can read through the materials in advance, so it is possible to advance to implementation much more quickly than with a full consultation. The new system will initially be used by parts of the Paulig organisation, and the entire organisation will be using it within 3–4 years. It was the perfect time to carry out a review because we are now laying the foundations for a system we will use for decades,” says Jussi Mäkelä, Tech Lead, Infrastructure Services at Paulig Group.
The review examined the test environment because a production environment did not yet exist. The purpose of the review was to verify that the architecture was aligned with the project’s original requirements and plans. The requirements are clear: The system needs to scale up and down automatically according to the load. It must always have redundancy – meaning that it is not dependent on any individual breaking component – and high fault tolerance. The system must also be sensibly manageable. Further aims were to keep the system as clear as possible and minimise manual administration work.
The Azure Well-Architected Framework consists of five pillars: cost optimisation, operational excellence, performance efficiency, reliability and security. Cost optimisation maximises value creation. Operational excellence – optimising operational processes – generates added value for the business and enables operating methods to be continuously improved and developed. Performance efficiency ensures that the computing resources correspond to workload demands cost-effectively. Reliability aims to reduce downtime, shorten service outages and improve the system’s capability to recover from infrastructure or service incidents. Security describes the capability to safeguard systems and data, as well as the confidentiality and integrity of data. Optimising resource usage also leads to optimal energy consumption, so improving the cloud environment is often also a sustainability action.
A Well-Architected Review is usually conducted as a single-day workshop involving the client and any other key stakeholders. After the workshop, Knowit’s specialists analyse the findings and compile a detailed report. The report sets out the findings and proposed optimisations according to their importance. The report also proposes follow-up measures. The entire process can be completed in as little as one week, but the timetable can be adapted according to the client’s needs. Paulig’s schedule was built around the timetables of the key personnel, and the workshop was divided into two days.
It is important to know in advance what types of people will be needed to answer the questions. Our organisation is fairly small, so the same people are responsible for several different areas. Knowit was the natural choice for this review because it implemented our environment. Paulig seeks to select certain partners and focus work between them. However, it was good that Knowit has a large organisation, so the review could be conducted by an architect who had not been involved in our partnership before. This led to observations that may not have arisen otherwise,
says Jussi Mäkelä, Tech Lead, Infrastructure Services at Paulig Group.
The report is always reviewed together with the client. It states which aspects are already good and where there is room for improvement. There is usually something to improve in every environment, as cloud providers constantly develop new features. The review helps clients to consider and analyse their entire environments comprehensively.
The networking – one of Paulig’s motivations for the review – turned out to be in good order. Several well-implemented solutions were identified for each pillar, but there were also many recommendations, which is typical for such a review. The report compiled them into 13 points, which were then prioritised. They included minor configuration changes, which are quick and easy to correct. Some have already been assigned to Knowit for development under the continuous partnership.
The Well-Architected Review does not just provide technical recommendations; it also proposes improvements to administrative processes in line with best practices. When deploying a new application, the installation instructions do not necessarily cover everything that must be considered. Well-Architected Reviews benefit all types of businesses, irrespective of their cloud maturity. The optimal scenario is to conduct regular reviews – for example, every six months – to jointly identify the next priorities.
In Paulig’s case, the review aimed to cover the functionality of the technical environment and solution and examine the administrative side. Some aspects of the environment had not yet been defined in the testing phase, so most of the findings focused on the operational excellence pillar.
“The review provided us with a good checklist of things to address before we are ready to go into production. Roles and responsibilities garnered the most observations. We are now approaching the project deadline for defining responsibilities before transitioning to production. One positive development idea was to use Infrastructure as Code (managing and deploying infrastructure using code instead of manual processes). A fairly static environment like ours is not traditionally built using code, but it could provide added value,” Jussi Mäkelä says.
A Well-Architected Review is suitable for various situations, and it can be carried out in test and production environments. Jussi Mäkelä from Paulig is happy to have conducted the review at a fairly early stage.
“I would recommend carrying out a review in two phases: firstly, when developing an environment that is already at an advanced stage of planning. Some sections of the review could be trimmed down to focus more on the starting principles – it may not be necessary to analyse every pillar in the framework. The second phase should be carried out just before entering production or shortly thereafter. This review could provide important insights into the architecture before any mistakes are made. Of course, it is also sensible to conduct a review afterwards. The findings may be better if the system is already in use, especially if any challenges have arisen. A review can reveal whether they can be addressed by altering the architecture. The Well-Architected Review is good because it examines the management model as well as the technical implementation,” says Jussi Mäkelä.