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Synthesis migrates the AFGRI eAccounts banking platform to AWS in six months

Published • 12 June 2021

AFGRI Agri Services is a leading agricultural services company with core competencies to enhance, support and guide the growth of agricultural enterprises. Afrgri eAccounts is a banking platform like no other. It is designed to enable farmers and allows them to manage their entire financial operations on one convenient platform. They can also view and receive invoices, calculate storage rates according to grade and grade type and draw reports of grain delivery. AFGRI’s vision is to unlock agricultural potential and its banking platform eAccounts had to be built on infrastructure that enables all of the above and more. As farmers and their needs grow, so would the scale, innovation and capabilities of the platform. AFGRI contacted long-term tech partner, Synthesis Software Technologies, and within as little as six months, eAccounts was sitting on AWS Cloud and reaping its benefits.

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The Challenge

The development of the eAccounts digital platform by Synthesis began in 2014 and launched in 2015. Over the years it has expanded into many areas of the organisation. Since its launch, the application and its database have been hosted on-premise by one of AFGRI’s service providers. However, the on-premise solution was holding AFGRI back from the major innovations it sought to implement. The on-premise solution was not fit for purpose compared to their vision and created many challenges: The AFGRI team wanted to revolutionise banking for farmers. They did not want to build on the old but create with the new. 

They realised that the cloud was the best option for this. It was time-consuming to keep the old infrastructure at optimum performance. In the cloud this could be delegated. The team sought the most reliable system. The cloud would allow for easy monitoring, alerting, and route cause analysis. They wanted the bank-grade security that comes with the cloud. A cloud environment provides full logging of the infrastructure estate. If an incident such as a ransomware attack had to occur, the Cloud provides a comprehensive view that no data was lost and that the claim is false. They sought bank-grade security at a good price and AWS Cloud provided just that. The old platform was slow to add and enable all the features they envisioned creating. They wanted to optimise their spend and the cloud provides a pay-per-use model where they can switch off Q&A and the testing estate where they don’t use it and switch it back on compared to their on-prem model with non-transparent rates. To provide the best-uninterrupted service to all customers, AFGRI made the decision to modernise eAccounts and migrate the platform to the public cloud. With the guidance of the Synthesis team, Amazon Web Services was chosen as the preferred cloud provider. However, AFGRI did not have the skills in-house to perform the modernisation and migration. Partnering with Synthesis, AFGRI could focus on its expertise and Synthesis could enable this.

The Solution

Due to its extensive AWS expertise and the in-depth knowledge it had of eAccounts, Synthesis was chosen as the technical expert to carry out this modernisation and migration. Johann Barnard, UNIGRO Chief Operating Officer, explains that “Synthesis provides team agility. They are highly professional individuals and are commendable.”  The solution was a combination of AWS Cloud and Synthesis architecture. This was the most cost-effective way to ensure the greatest reliability, security, and innovation. Synthesis set up a Landing Zone (LZ), rearchitected it, and placed it in the cloud. 

Synthesis rearchitected the infrastructure into a containerised Kubernetes environment that could take full advantage of the cloud. The infrastructure could now scale up and down, systems could be switched off when not in use, and any future innovations, such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), could be easily attained. AFGRI now had an enabling, fit-for-cloud infrastructure with the greatest of benefits. Data, for example, could be easily replicated across multiple availability zones and the infrastructure could scale to easily manage platform demand.  Technology Details    AFGRI and Synthesis decided to enable the application to be able to run within a containerised environment, to enable the stability and agility that is immensely important to AFGRI. To accomplish this modernisation, eAccounts was migrated from .NET Framework 4.5 to .NET Core 3.1, which meant that some components needed to be re-factored and/or re-written. Kubernetes was chosen as the container orchestration technology and therefore AWS EKS was selected as the managed platform to host the application on due to the managed nature of the control plane, as well as the ease of creation and management of the Kubernetes cluster.   The current cluster is composed of a mix of Linux and Windows nodes, with the Windows nodes being used to accommodate a legacy integration, where the SDK only supports Windows. The instance type of m5.xlarge was selected for the nodes as it meets the needs of the EKS cluster, whilst still being cost-conscious. In order to cost-optimise, further spot instances were used in the cluster node group in the DEV/QA environment, which provide substantial savings without affecting performance or availability negatively.   An Aurora MySQL compatible RDS cluster was chosen for the database layer as it provides the best feature set for a relatively minimal cost. Features such as multi-AZ and automated backups are just a few to mention that are being utilised by eAccount to meet the needs of high availability and guaranteed recovery were used.

The Result

With the help of AWS, AFGRI is now enabled to scale the eAccounts platform up or down within minutes, ensuring that interruption due to infrastructure issues is reduced or totally mitigated. This provides its customers with the best possible experience. Additionally, AFGRI now has fine-grained insight into what eAccounts costs to run monthly and has been enabled to control spend.  Monitoring has also been optimised through the transparency of the cloud. AFGRI is immediately alerted to any potential problems before they arise and there is self-healing in the infrastructure. AFGRI now operates off an exceptionally visible and stable environment. It received the full suite of benefits of the cloud, addressing all its challenges. “We now have utilisation transparency, and exceptional stability. This has proved to be a worthwhile investment,” explains Barnard.  By making use of AWS as well as an EKS cluster, AFGRI is able to deliver a better customer experience to eAccounts users. It can now focus on creating new features that truly matter to these users, rather than focusing on supporting the platform. In addition, other applications within AFGRI are now enabled to make the move, since the eAccounts team has forged the path and done most of the hard work already. The infrastructure has enabled AFGRI to unlock the potential of the cloud, enabling its customers in a fast-paced digital era.  Contact us to reap the benefits of our cloud solutions.

"Synthesis provides team agility. They are highly professional individuals and are commendable.”
Johann Barnard
Chief Operating Officer at UNIGRO

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