Discussing the Cloud-migration of Avery Weigh-Tronix’s key product, Exactrak, into an Azure, Cloud-based Solution, for better availability, scalability and productivity within their operations.
With over 250 years of experience, Avery Weigh-Tronix is one of the world’s leading suppliers of weighing scales, systems and equipment.
They design, manufacture, market and service a broad range of high-quality industrial products & weighing systems.
They operate worldwide through a network of wholly owned companies and international dealers and distributors, allowing them to provide a fast response and locally tailored solution in more than 100 countries. Their UK network covers the whole of the UK and Ireland, meaning they can offer the benefit of a global company with a local presence.
Around five years ago Avery Weigh-Tronix acquired a company called Exactrak, a software system that had been built for Local Authorities to monitor and capture data on the deployment of salt from their fleets of gritting trucks.
Being able to accurately monitor routes as well as the time and amount of grit/salt deployed is vital for the future planning of weather preparedness to Local Authorities. Their legal obligation to grit roads also means they need to be able to demonstrate accurate evidence of it being done in a timely manner if requested.
The Exactrak software allows them to do all of that and more, so given Avery Weigh-Tronix’s speciality in weights and measurement equipment seemed like a natural addition to their portfolio.
Unfortunately for Avery Weigh-Tronix, their purchase of the Exactrak solution coincided with Exactrak’s small technical team leaving, meaning they urgently needed a third-party supplier to be able to step in and support them managing it.
They were also aware that in its current itineration, Exactrak lacked the scalability and agility needed in a modern business. Many of its processes were manual, meaning there was a great deal of inefficiency in terms of staff resources inputting data.
cloudThing were engaged to create a sustainable Cloud-Based solution that would enable them better process efficiency throughout their operations, to include the Solution Architecture Development, Testing and Project Management.
After the Discovery Phase, cloudThings recommendation, which Avery Weigh-Tronix agreed on, was to replicate and migrate their existing applications to the Cloud using Microsoft Azure, so as to alleviate their scalability issues and gain the benefits of a deployment pipeline of Continuous Improvement.
cloudThing’s initial discussions with Avery Weigh-Tronix originally focussed on a DevOps based solution in which we’d monitor and run the VM’s (Virtual Machines) on which Exactrak ran.
However, it quickly became apparent to Avery Weigh-Tronix that they both wanted and needed more from a future partner.
In the short term, as well as just monitoring the servers on a PaaS based solution, they needed a support team who could handle any bugs occurring in the software and implement any improvements.
Many of these ‘bugs’ were occurring as their incumbent infrastructure, IIS6.0 and SQL2008, was nearing EOL (End Of Life) and was therefore insecure and at risk. Their existing provider couldn’t provide a cost-effective solution so cloudThing suggested a ‘lift and shift, to a Cloud-Based solution with Microsoft Azure.
Azure could then be leveraged to implement resilience and performance optimisation to the software.
This solution held a lot of attraction for Avery Weigh-Tronix as Exactrak, by its very nature, was very seasonal in its processing demands and so needed a solution that could flex at peak times but conserve on resources when not needed.
The AGILE processes available on Microsoft Azure also meant the pipeline of improvements Avery Weigh-Tronix had wanted to make since the acquisition could be released much more quickly with a program of Continuous Improvement.
Thus, the initial Discovery Phase led to:
The ‘lift & shift’ cloud-migration solution for Exactrak provided some interesting technical challenges for our DevOps team.
As the software was now so old it couldn’t simply be transferred onto Azure. We first needed to copy the source code into a custom-built dev environment with none of the original architects around to ask questions of. After that we ran it through a test environment until both ourselves and Avery Weigh-Tronix were happy with how it looked and operated before transferring it over to a production environment for final release.
Avery Weigh-Tronix have had a full pipeline of strategic improvements they wanted to implement on their Exactrak software that have now become possible post migration to a Cloud-Based solution using Microsoft Azure.
cloudThing are working closely with them to roadmap this plan of Continuous Improvement, a big part of which will be unifying the different code bases of Exactrak.
Due to previous, non-optimal solutions implemented before the acquisition, Avery Weigh-Tronix had inherited three different versions of the Exactrak software.
Two of which were already on the cloud (but only one in Azure) and one still using on-premise hardware.
This setup is problematic for many reasons, none the least because any improvement made on one then needs to be replicated, tested and released over the other two, tripling their workload.
However, now Exactrak is on Microsoft Azure all new solutions will be much easier to implement, future proofing the business for years to come.