Migrating Eneco’s Application Lifecycle Management from an on-premise environment to the cloud.
Introducing agile ways of working based on VSTS, CI and CD.
Eneco is a supplier of electricity, gas and heating. The common perception of Eneco is that of a large, heavy, and slow-moving energy company. However, Eneco clearly stands out in the domain of innovation, and they have always maintained a unique vision which differs from that of other energy providers. They are extremely aware of the fact that sustainable energy sources never get exhausted, and this means a different business model, as well as a completely different business strategy. This was the reason for Eneco to be a pioneer in terms of facilitating partners to create their own energy. “You need to anticipate prevailing trends and create an ultra-smart infrastructure. This was the main driver for initiating innovative projects like SlimLaden, Jedlix and CrowdNett”, says Stephan van Boven, Eneco’s Technical lead. “At Eneco we firmly believe that you need to switch from a commodity supplier to a service provider and energy partner. We are well aware of the fact that we have to change and that we need to provide more IT/Data driven services”, Stephan continues.
Agile ways of working
The new Eneco premises are entirely set up with flexible workplaces. Xpirit introduced agile ways of working based on VSTS, CI and CD. “Xpirit offers a wealth of experience in Scrum and a critical view of the process”, according to Stephan. Eneco always keeps its focus on the reasons why and tries to stick to the core of the matter. Xpirit’s consultant Marco used his extensive expertise in the domains of Microsoft’s “Azure” Cloud Environment and ALM, in coaching our teams, thus enabling Eneco to migrate their Application Lifecycle Management from an on-premise environment to the cloud.
Eneco meets Xpirit
After learning the basics, Eneco set up the Pilots & Big Data team in 2013. “We were exploring the opportunities offered by the Cloud, and we were looking for developers familiar with Azure technologies who could assist us in creating an environment. However, at that time these developers were a scarce commodity”, Stephan emphasizes. “And although Eneco is by no means a software company, our own staff managed to create an excellent IT workflow that allows us to provide high-quality services.”
Initially Xpirit was hired to set up the technology for innovative projects such as Toon-Data Analysis(data analysis of Eneco’s Smart Thermostat) and SlimLaden (Smart charging of electric vehicles). The next step consisted of involving Marco Mansi – an ALM expert, cloud architect and coach – to further develop the SlimLaden project, to make the transition to Azure, and to ensure the required knowledge transfer within Eneco. “Marco is very skilled in safeguarding existing assets. He really created stability in the big data team,” says Stephan.
Marco was a member of the product innovation team (team PI) and played his role as if he was an Eneco employee. The team was responsible for developing products that the business wanted to introduce to the market as pilots.
An outstanding example is ThermostaatCoach, an App that uses machine learning to determine the optimal thermostat program for the customer’s specific situation.
Xpirit also assisted in creating a platform for Big Data ingestion of meter readings. The data was then processed in Azure, using Azure PaaS services. Xpirit also assisted Eneco in developing an application that can predict whether a boiler requires maintenance, the so-called BoilerIQ App. In addition, we developed a privacy system called Argus for internal use. This system manages all privacy-sensitive information by registering the customer’s consent. Data can only be used by applications when the consent of a customer has been stored in the Argus system.
Xpirit played a pioneering role in Eneco’s new start-up named Jedlix which is the follow-up of the “Rocket Project” called SlimLaden. They built an API that can check whether someone is a customer of Eneco. This successful API is now widely used by BMW in their Smart Charging solution based on Jedlix technology.
Another project Xpirit was involved in was the Splash project. They teamed up with Eneco’s architect to create the foundation for a generic order interface. This interface is based on a Microservices architecture.
The last phase of Xpirit’s involvement consisted of training four Eneco trainees in topics including Continuous Delivery and Continuous Integration. “The junior trainees learned a tremendous lot from Marco, who raised their knowhow to an excellent level . He is an excellent coach and trainer who actively shares his knowledge,” says Stephan with enthusiasm.
"Working together with Xpirit means a lot more than just hiring a professional. You don’t just get the consultant, you get his entire network."
Eneco wants to implement a Cloud-first strategy, which entails a 100% migration to the cloud. Naturally, this is no easy task, or, as Stephan puts it: “It is not like moving from one house to the other. Instead, it involves creating a new foundation and using different architecture principles.” Xpirit has migrated Eneco’s Document Management System to the Cloud, which means that all customer correspondence is now located in the Cloud instead of in Eneco’s data center.
“In its role as sparring partner, Xpirit provides us with thorough advice as well as a critical perspective when it comes to explaining that you can’t just place a server in the Cloud. They informed us in no uncertain terms that our intended approach for migrating to the Cloud contained several incorrect assumptions,” according to Stephan.
Stephan continues: “An Xpirit consultant does not hesitate to involve his network in order to resolve issues or to obtain additional advice. There is a lot of initiative. Xpirit’s consultants share new things out of their own accord, and they are passionate in sharing their knowledge. They take the initiative in conducting workshops, for instance the basis of Azure control and the transition from TFS to VSTS in the Cloud. What’s more, their direct lines with Microsoft’s developers and product teams are extremely short and effective. They have a large number of contacts in the market, which is very valuable in this ’small’ world.”
“Our experience with Xpirit’s professionals is very positive. The consultants are nice and easy to work with. They are open, honest, communicative, accessible, and punctual. Our cooperation was based on the agile principle and was very pleasant. “They’re part of the team. They’re committed and don’t behave like an external consultant but rather like a true colleague. Xpirit’s style is the basic ingredient for working together in a pleasant manner and openly discuss critical issues, and their level of expertise is extremely high and up-to-date,” according to a satisfied Stephan.