High-resilience cloud app helps Northpower withstand major storm or earthquake
Until 2015, Northpower used cell phones and radios to pass job requests to field engineers whenever a network fault was reported. Northpower invested in a more robust system. But should it deploy the proposed business-to-business (B2B) app on its own infrastructure, or trust it to the cloud?
Alex Douglas, Information Services Manager, Northpower specified: “The service request to field operator information flow needs to have as fewer points of failure as possible, be out of band from the infrastructure we are servicing and continue to operate even if the supporting works management systems are unavailable”.
“We needed a B2B solution that connects external Call Centres to Northpower’s cloud hosted solution enabling, timely, accurate data for dispatching field engineers to the right location as fast as possible and returning updated data to the client,” said Michael Billing, Senior Developer, Northpower. “It had to be easy to maintain, cost effective, and resilient during a major disaster — when demand for repairs soar”
“We chose the Azure cloud because it would be highly resilient.” said Michael Billing. “With Azure, we reduce dependence on internal infrastructure and can guarantee a twenty-four–seven service. If there’s a physical failure of our own internal network communications or components, our field- service teams can still receive customer service requests.”
The cloud-based Reactive app took just 400 hours to develop, test and deliver. And since going live, Michael and his team have used Azure App Services tools to include worksheet data within Reactive, so contractors’ time billing data also feeds straight into Northpower Business Systems.
“Our integration partner Adaptiv got us off to a solid start and ensured the team was on the right path for success. They were there with advice when we needed it the most,” said Michael Billing.
“The Azure network has its own failover, so we don’t have to harden our own environment,” said Michael Billing.
Low day-to-day cost
The production solution costs NZ$10 per day on Azure. The Azure subscription cost for Reactive development environment is under $1 per day, which can be enabled/ disabled on-demand.
Executives know they can instantly transmit requests from call centres to engineers in most disaster scenarios, so customer wait times are minimised.
Long-term cost savings
“In the long-term Azure is a lower-cost solution, because we won’t have to maintain the hardware or the operating system,” said Michael Billing.
If a major weather event causes massive damage to power networks, Northpower can scale up Azure servers to cope with a peak in demand.
“We can use different components in Azure – such as Azure Service Bus and Logic Apps – to create new services and solutions,” said Michael Billing.
Ease of use
“Over the last year, the Azure toolbox has significantly improved. Today we can design something new very quickly without a large cost overhead,” said Michael Billing.