Azure Kubernetes Services — ARTH Task 21

✍🏻 Research for industry use-cases of Azure Kubernetes Service and create a blog elaborating how it works.

What is AKS?

AKS is an open-source fully managed container orchestration service that became available in June 2018 and is available on the Microsoft Azure public cloud that can be used to deploy, scale, and manage Docker containers and container-based applications in a cluster environment.

Benefits?

→ Efficient resource utilization

→ Faster application development

→ Security and compliance

→ Quicker development and integration

Azure Kubernetes Service (AKS) offers serverless Kubernetes, an integrated continuous integration and continuous delivery (CI/CD) experience, and enterprise-grade security and governance.

We can deploy and manage containerized applications more easily with a fully-managed Kubernetes service.

It helps to unite the development and operations teams on a single platform to rapidly build, deliver and scale applications with confidence.

Real-World case study of AKS — Wrench

SmartProject, developed by Wrench Solutions, uses Microsoft Azure to help infrastructure companies deliver projects on time, and within budget

Wrench Solutions Pvt Ltd. is a leading provider of project management information solutions for the engineering and construction industry. Founded in 1998, the company now has a presence in seven countries.

Through its proprietary platform, Wrench SmartProject, the organization helps owners, contractors, designers, and consultants coordinate and synchronize all the elements of their projects. This ensures proper management of project stakeholders, information, and resources in accordance with each company’s defined standard processes. The platform has been used on more than 9,000 projects across 26 countries.

Evolving to a cloud-based platform

Wrench Solutions primarily helps infrastructure companies deliver their projects on time and within budgets. Its SmartProject platform integrates all stakeholders of a project and enables everybody to work in a collaborative way.

The organization wanted to extend the capabilities of its platform, and it needed a reliable, highly secure, and accessible cloud-based solution. Microsoft Azure was the preferred choice because all Wrench Solutions’ applications are based on Microsoft already (SQL, Microsoft 365, ASP.NET, etc.), so integration was easy.

Most infrastructure projects face delays or huge cost overruns. But with SmartProject based on Azure, the integration and collaboration of owners, contractors, design consultants, project management consultants, and vendors, etc., working on the project from different locations is possible. SmartProject provides customers with the ability to monitor and control the project, prevent cost overruns, and meet deadlines.

“Customer data in the cloud, like drawings and documents, need to be extremely secure,“ says Aju Peter CTO, Wrench Solutions. “A lot of companies were initially against hosting their data on the cloud. But that changed with time as customer trust grew, and the adoption went up, especially during COVID-19 when cloud-based solutions proved to be a savior for businesses.”

As customer organizations are still in the adoption stage, Wrench offers both the on-premises and cloud versions of SmartProject.

The combined benefits of Azure and Power BI

The organization believes that the best way to help customers is to help them gain insights and enable them to make well-informed and sound decisions to move ahead. To make these critical decisions, they need reliable, structured information and proactive notification. An infrastructure project collects huge chunks of data every day from design consultants, suppliers, field services, procurement, construction sites, commissioning, vendor ecosystems, and so on. To help customers derive useful insights out of this data, Wrench Solutions has built several intuitive dashboards on Microsoft Power BI.

“Using the data sources from Azure, our clients can build customized reports using Power BI and get very useful insights on the project data,” says Manesh Alias, Head of Projects at Wrench Solutions. “Its ease of use and viability makes it a preferred tool for dashboards and reporting, and with the advent of AI framework, Power BI is poised to be the dashboard and reporting platform of the future.”

Driving better integration with a cloud-based model

One of the most significant differentiators of the cloud-based SmartProject is how it changes the costing model of the project itself. Traditionally, installing a system like this required first creating a capital expenditure (CapEx) infrastructure, which meant investing in servers and data center maintenance. But with the cloud, an engineering company needs to invest in capabilities only for the purpose and duration of the project. So, it becomes part of the project execution cost, which is far lower than the more permanent CapEx option. This arrangement makes the cloud model more attractive and viable for organizations handling infrastructure projects.

The integration of data, documents, and collaboration in one place is one of the most important functions that SmartProject provides. This gives infrastructure companies a holistic view of how their project is progressing and how activities can be optimized.

“Today, there are many applications on the market that individually handle different pieces of the management of projects, but these exist in silos,” says K.V Daniel, CEO, Wrench Solutions. “SmartProject has all these functions in one piece. If a customer wants a system to monitor and control the projects, to deliver it on time and within the budget, an integrated system is a better choice.”

Looking Forward

Wrench Solutions is building a lot of intelligence into its dashboards and reports using Microsoft Azure Machine Learning. There are still many manual processes that infrastructure companies have not replaced with automated systems in areas like tracking the availability of personnel over the lifetime of a project and quantifying their productivity for better optimization.

“Since the project, execution is not done by a single organization, but collaboratively by a number of entities, there still exist some difficulties in keeping track of the different activities and contextualizing them in terms of a single view. We are currently working on systems that automatically capture data from different activities, using various technologies like advanced imaging and drone tech. This data will be more clear and transparent and project managers will be able to make better-informed decisions based on the insights from this data.”

Conclusion

Azure Kubernetes Service is a very powerful auto-managed service. It automatically scales up, scales down the cluster nodes as per the needs. Like Wrench Solutions many other industries using AKS and solving their use cases in a very effective manner.