Google cloud migration: Agosto helps e-commerce firm retool

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A Google channel partner's cloud adoption project used migration as a springboard to modernize a customer's core application via multi-tenancy and containerization.

Migration may be a key milestone in a cloud consulting gig, but the job doesn't have to end there.

The case of Agosto Inc., a cloud consulting firm based in Minneapolis, Minn., and its customer, Unilog, demonstrates there's plenty of work to be done after the initial cutover. The deal initially focused on supporting Unilog's Google cloud migration but eventually branched out from there -- with multi-tenant deployment and container technology among the new directions.

But first the background: Unilog, an e-commerce platform provider based in Bangalore, India, with North American headquarters in Wayne, Pa., decided to migrate its core B2B software from a private cloud hosted in a colocation facility to the public cloud. The goal: accelerate customer deployments, boost scalability and reduce operating costs.

Lift-and-shift migration

Unilog selected Google as its public cloud vendor and also hired Agosto for assistance. At the time of the cloud decision, Google was not offering direct support and referred Unilog to Agosto as a company with technical expertise in Google and experience in data center-to-cloud migrations, noted Swamy Mahesh, CTO and vice president of U.S. operations at Unilog. Agosto is a Google Cloud Premier Partner.

The initial phase of the Unilog engagement was a lift and shift Google cloud migration. The rapidly growing company's need to quickly launch customers on its e-commerce system was a key driver.

"That was a traditional speed-of-onboarding-new-customers issue, said Rick Erickson, executive vice president at Agosto. He said Unilog's customer launch process in its private cloud took several days. Equipment would need to be procured, unboxed and installed. Then the customer's application instance would be launched and validated.

"They needed to onboard customers much faster," he said.

The public cloud transition, however, has enabled Unilog to bring a customer onboard in less than a day, rather than four to five as was previously the case. As a private cloud operator, Unilog was constantly adding memory and CPUs to accommodate the fast pace of customer growth, Mahesh explained.

"All that headache is gone," he said.

The public cloud rollout also helped Unilog expand into Europe. The company is in the midst of an implementation that will eventually span more than a dozen countries on the continent, Mahesh said. The public cloud approach makes the overseas expansion easier since Unilog can forgo the task of searching for colocation partners in different countries.

App modernization

The Google cloud migration addressed an immediate business concern, but additional challenges soon became apparent. To flesh those out, Agosto worked with Unilog on a strategic roadmap that included, among other initiatives, the modernization of the company's e-commerce application stack.

Unilog's platform business model traditionally was based on providing each client a single-customer instance of its e-commerce software under a perpetual license. But Unilog's top management sought a transition to multi-tenancy and a software-as-a-service subscription model. The multi-tenant version of the software would potentially reduce operating costs, since Unilog would only need to update a single software image rather than build and maintain individual instances.

Obtaining those benefits is a non-trivial matter, Erickson said. He called the task of re-architecting Unilog's environment to support multi-tenant deployment as a "huge development effort."

Agosto, however, was able to tap resources from its cloud product development group, which creates custom products and applications for Google Cloud Platform. Analysts and developers from that group use techniques such as journey mapping to determine customer requirements and produce a "solution vision" document that specifies what's needed to deliver a minimum viable product application.

Unilog now offers a multi-tenant version of its software. It continues to provide its traditional software for customers who require particular features not yet available in the multi-tenant software, Mahesh said.

Container adoption

As a premier partner with Google, Agosto is able to gain early insight into the company's technology roadmap and advise customers accordingly, Erickson said. That perspective played a role in Unilog's Google cloud migration project, specifically in the field of containerization and microservices.

Agosto was able to get access to Google Container Engine (GKE), a management and orchestration system for containers based on Kubernetes, before its formal launch. Early experience with GKE proved important since Unilog was looking for ways to make sure its multi-tenant application would run as efficiently as possible, Erickson said.

"We did some early validation and testing on that platform," he noted.

Containerization lets organizations, such as Unilog, run instances of its core architecture using containers. That approach became a key underpinning of the e-commerce platform company's multi-tenant application and a source of operational efficiency. Containers running microservices let organizations perform updates on the individual components of a containerized system without having to take the whole system down for maintenance, Erickson said.

Agosto, meanwhile, is cultivating similar cloud projects with other tech companies of Unilog's size; the e-commerce company employs more than 800 people. Erickson said small-to-midrange prospects not yet on the public cloud represent a good fit for his company's services.

"We've got a number who are in the pipeline or customers who fit that profile," he said. "Many of them are looking to modernize their stack in some way."