Amazon Web Services (AWS)
Blonk Sustainability, a prominent international authority in food system sustainability, plays a pivotal role in fostering positive transformation within the agri-food sector. Their team delivers precise and practical advice based on sound, independent research in close cooperation with their customers. Their work is based on quantitative analyses and independent data, and integrates a life cycle thinking approach that encompasses the whole value chain.
In order to quantify environmental impact, Blonk uses Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) methodology, which provides insight into the full life cycle of a product. It quantifies all inputs and outputs, as all phases of a product are taken into account and analysed from raw materials, packaging, transport, retail and consumption to disposal or recycling. This means a product will be studied from cradle-to-grave.
Based on this methodology Blonk developed its own calculation module, called Core LCA. Whole process chains can be modulated and sent to Core LCA. With complicated linear algebra and other calculation methods, Blonk generates transparent and actionable results. Interfacing with Core LCA are a range of products and tools that focus on calculating the environmental footprint of specific activities such as poultry, salmon or dairy production systems, among others.
The ChallengeThe continuous development process can always be better, faster, more efficient, and more significant. Besides that, Blonk wanted to provide a growing group of their customers with exciting tools. They started the Core LCA module about five years ago on a Django application already deployed on EC2 instances. But now that the team is growing rapidly, and many people are developing different products simultaneously, this parallel working on their codebase wasn’t satisfactory anymore. Especially since this was a relatively rigid set up in their original build, it became increasingly difficult to do specific tasks, such as efficiently calculating the results of a production system, deviating when a module focuses on a particular sector, or extending new functionalities to existing projects.
To solve this challenge, Xebia was asked to help transform the application towards a more scalable and efficient cloud native architecture. The cloud native services library from AWS was to accelerate the scaling of their calculation applications. And a fitting landing zone that could handle their growth and need for professionalism on the AWS platform. Blonk was looking for a dedicated partner to guide them through the possibilities of cloud native development.
Xebia configured the AWS landing zone according to the best practices of the AWS Cloud Foundation. With this modernized infrastructure as a base, Xebia further guided the development team at Blonk by adopting cloud native tools on the AWS platform and formulated a clear innovation path.
Xebia enabled Blonk to embrace cloud native services to modernize their way of working and allow them to reach a new potential with the Core LCA application that would not have been possible before. AWS Glue was introduced to rapidly extract, transform and load data to ensure repeatable results from their calculations. For storage, we moved to DynamoDB to enable serverless caching and storing metadata. Going beyond their current compute set, AWS Lambda was introduced to allow for serverless and thus a parallel computing capability to run their calculations while adjusting variables in real-time efficiently.
With the AWS Cloud Development Kit (CDK), all infrastructure and configurations are available in code templates that can be updated and deployed through pipelines. This way, Blonk’s development team could manage all these services in a DevOps way of working.
With the landing zone configuration of Xebia, Blonk is now able to develop sustainability applications with multiple teams independently of each other in a cloud native manner. More importantly, they can focus on what they are good at, creating applications that contribute to environmentally sustainable processes.
The cloud native solution library of AWS and the guidance from Xebia is a solid motivator for Blonk to continue investing in this platform. It allows them to elevate their applications to an unachievable level with regular infrastructure. Additionally, it enables the developers at Blonk to treat and manage the infrastructure like code. And that makes it even more manageable, as many things are taken care of, such as setting up the networking configurations. In the initial build of Core LCA, it was only possible to process one calculation at a time. Through the adoption of Lambda’s, Blonk is now enabled to process many more calculation jobs simultaneously at a fraction of the initial execution time.
Now, by weaving parts of the infrastructure into the application’s code, junior software developers who do not have much experience in infrastructure can make changes themselves and then implement them confidently. Because of this development, Blonk has become less dependent on people with in-depth knowledge of the AWS components behind it. It makes it much more accessible for their developers to maintain applications in the cloud.