Metering solutions company Conlog transformed its operations with Microsoft Azure technology.
Since its inception in 1965, Conlog has been driven by the idea of using innovation and technology to provide viable solutions for everyday challenges. The company’s role as an industry leader can be attributed to its ability to adapt in accordance with the ever-changing market. For more than 20 years, Conlog has pioneered prepaid solutions, building a network that exists over four continents in 20 countries, with 70 utilities using the company’s metering solutions.
The metering specialists have thousands of vending units installed around the world, with over 400 revenue management systems internationally and locally. Initially, Conlog developed monitoring devices and alarms, but its unique ability to forecast trends and evolve with the industry led the company to its current stance as one of the world’s most prominent install base of Smart prepaid meters and solutions.
“Our systems were designed around revenue management and can easily be configured to support customer prepaid tariffs, charges as well as collect arrears amounts. The system can also be used to collect post-paid accounts or any other accounts, ensuring that a utility is able to collect the maximum amount of money that is owed by consumers.”Viven Perumal, Marketing Director, Conlog
Conlog offers a multitude of revenue management solutions that serve the needs of its clients across the globe—including a web-based revenue management solution. This solution was developed to streamline the vending of prepaid electricity to customers, ensuring an efficient and cost-effective solution using leading technology platforms.
While all these solutions do an excellent job in their specified roles, they also require advanced IT infrastructure in addition to security and management, all of which fall outside Conlog’s core business. Attempting to manage these systems in-house proved to be extremely challenging. Requirements including the sourcing and maintaining the right skills, keeping abreast of the latest IT trends and technologies demanded consistent attention from a dedicated source. An additional challenge was the aging on-premises infrastructure, which hampered its ability to adapt and scale quickly and frequently.
Several business concerns were also brought to the attention of BUI, including high hosting costs, a cumbersome backup and recovery strategy, limited monitoring, inability to automate, inadequate development environment, and the lack of efficiency when creating development, UAT, and validation environments.
To tackle these challenges, Conlog sought a long-term partner and trusted advisor that understood its business needs, had the technical capability, and was strategically invested.
BUI, a Gold Microsoft Partner, addressed Conlog’s needs through solutions and services from its a2zManaged Cloud Adoption Practices.
Adopting Microsoft’s platform and services helped Conlog to scale and react to market demand quickly and effectively through the modernization of its B2B applications. By using Microsoft Azure, Conlog was able to easily deploy new features and functionality with the scalability needed for additional compute or resources to handle the additional load, while still achieving operational efficiency and reducing costs.
Conlog and BUI entered into a long-term managed services agreement in October 2017, with the main goal to execute on the cloud strategy, while supporting and improving the Conlog environment. To help ensure that all challenges were met conclusively, BUI presented a cloud adoption plan which addressed the need for accurate information, suitable cloud solutions and services, the correct management, and effective security.
The journey, and the right advice
As a starting point, BUI worked with operations staff collecting information on the Conlog infrastructure, applications, operational and maintenance processes and procedures, and the overall health of the system.
Using a combination of assessments and the Microsoft planning tools, BUI identified several improvement areas that could be addressed through combining governance, tooling, Azure services, and continuous innovation.
Areas for improvement included:
- Utilization of cloud platform to address aging on-premises infrastructure and agility needs.
- Management of a hybrid infrastructure, upskilling of internal staff, and addressing the technical learning curve.
- Proactive monitoring of operational infrastructure.
- Insights into system health.
- Security controls, including alignment with current cybersecurity attack vector detection and prevention methodologies/processes.
- Definition of a simplified, cost-effective backup and disaster recovery strategy, process and procedures.
- Automated and improved platform patch management solution.
Based on assessment findings, BUI built a three-year hybrid cloud adoption plan, which began in October of 2017 and is currently ongoing, that aligned with Microsoft Cloud Adoption Framework. Areas of focus included:
- Gain insights
- Migrate to Azure
- Maintenance and support
- Continuous improvement
These areas were not mutually exclusive, but rather a cyclical and continuous approach to focussing efforts during Conlog’s journey to full utilization of the Azure platform.
The right solution
“To start resolving operational issues, it is key that we have continuous operational insights into the environment first. This will allow us to build a view of where the environment has challenges and then schedule and plan the changes required to bring the environment into a healthy state.”Paul Wallett, National Sales Manager, BUI
BUI extended the Conlog Infrastructure into Azure, using Azure Monitor, and made it possible for Conlog to gain deep insights into its existing environment by developing custom analytics dashboards in Azure Monitor.
By reviewing the analytics, BUI identified areas for remediation and optimisation. These areas included implementing proactive maintenance to ensure that the environment is kept in a healthy state, consistently. Through the automation of some maintenance processes, BUI was able to effectively reduce the daily load on the Conlog operational teams.
Enhanced maintenance implemented included:
- Azure backup and recovery for on-premises and cloud workloads into Azure Key Vault; providing scheduled, monitored and managed backup and disaster recovery strategy. using Azure Backup and ASR.
- Patch automation and management.
- Continuous monitoring and metering with automated alerting and ticketing.
Once the environment was sufficiently monitored and stabilised, BUI focussed efforts on identifying workloads that were ready for migration to Azure. BUI constructed the landing zone (fundamentals) as per best practices.
Workloads were classified into the following categories: sustain/decommission, remediate, consolidate, extend/enhance, and migrate or replace. With the migration list finalized, BUI began the migration of workloads. As part of the solution, BUI moved Conlog’s B2B application platform to Azure to allow for scalability, automation, and security.
This involved the rehosting of existing application and data servers in Azure while adapting monitoring and support to include new Azure resources.
Conlog and BUI are currently working to address the re-platforming of identified data workloads (Microsoft Azure SQL Server PaaS), rebuilding of applications (Kubernetes), the automation of development effort and business processes/procedures with the adoption of Microsoft Azure DevOps and the displacement of ClickView and SQL Server Reporting Services, adopting Microsoft Power BI and cognitive services.
Throughout the enablement of Azure CI, BUI continuously considered security by addressing the need for controlled and role base access, B2B access management and data security.
BUI addressed the business challenges facing Conlog via the implementation of world-class services and a variety of Microsoft technologies. This was done to address immediate business goals while improving business processes and responsiveness to new clients. The technologies used include:
- Azure Monitor
- Azure Log Analytics
- Azure Security Center
- Azure Logic Apps
- Azure Backup and Azure Site Recovery
- Azure Automation/Patch Compliance
- Azure IaaS, PaaS
- Power BI
“Conlog is enjoying the stability of Azure IaaS with modern management over previous legacy hosting. The dev team loves the agility and scalability that PaaS provides. Having the ability to quickly deploy solutions when and where customers require.”Willem Malan, Chief Technology Officer, BUI
The right management
BUI provided, and is still providing, comprehensive support and services, as well as continuously automating and improving processes and procedures.
BUI’s Azure Managed Services played a massive role in the management of the new systems by offering:
- Access to BUI Cloud Management Portal (CMP) – Azure Cost Management, self-help services
- Azure Monitor – Power BI reporting and analytics
- BUI ITLIL-based support services
- Continuous monitoring and metering of Azure implemented services
- Azure Compliance – policy, security, operational
- Azure Backup and recovery services
- Azure Automation and Patch Compliance
- Regular services delivery feedback
- Continuous improvement of existing and new Azure Services
The above services were implemented to ensure that none of the previous business challenges could resurface.
The partnership was a collaborative masterpiece. Both sides were accountable and able to rely on each other to achieve the sought-after results. BUI was a crucial component in providing expertise and managing services, which allowed Conlog to focus on its task of strategic business activities.
The results left Conlog in the position to:
- View performance metrics across core infrastructure and applications
- Have confidence in their backup and recovery system
- Have the platform to automate solution delivery and internal processes
- Have less concern about their security posture and focus more on business as usual
- Scale up or down as quickly as required
- Easily expand their B2B solutions to new customers
A symbiotic relationship of this quality would be unfortunate to lose, and so the collaboration continues. Both BUI and Conlog, using Microsoft technology, continue to push forward in pursuit of a platform that allows customers to fully consume the Conlog product as a cloud service, including revenue management systems for personal, corporate, or government use, that can order and provision meters.