FastTrack at Arion Banki in Iceland

December 17, 2019

Solidify at FastTrack at Arion Banki

Solidify recently conducted a Azure DevOps Fastrack at Arion Banki in Reykjavik in Iceland. The Azure DevOps Fastrack is a program for selected Microsoft customers to get help moving their Azure DevOps/TFS platform or a selected application to the Cloud. The customer get two weeks on site help from selected Microsoft partners or from Microsoft to work with their own staff.

Arion Banki is a leading universal relationship bank in Iceland with a differentiated and innovative approach that provides products and services which meet the needs of Icelandic households and companies. Among other things, Arion Banki is on an Open Banking API journey.

I, Taavi Koosaar, had the pleasure of working with Kristinn Stefánsson, Enterprise Architect, Gunnar Þór Stefánsson, DevOps and Platform, and Daníel Sveinsson,Software Engineer, Ellert Eiríksson, Software Engineer, Björn Björnsson, Software Engineer, The Enterprise Solutions team, all working to create Open Banking APIs on Azure with Azure DevOps and Azure API Management in an innovative and fully automated way. During the two weeks we:

  • Moved one of their apis to Azure App Services with staging and stable slots using code (yaml) based azure pipelines and terraform for IaC. We templated everything so it is easy to add new apis with the same set of patterns and practices. We automated the pushing of new versions of apis to api management and being able to target and test staging (changed application code) vs stable apis.
  • Automated azure api management using terraform as IaC for both infrastructure and products
  • Added telemetry to api to get operational awareness and feedback for the engineering and product team
  • Got plan in place to take the api to production

The last day of the FastTrack I had a chat with Kristinn and Gunnar about the work we had done. Here’s the conversation as a whole:

What effect have you got from the work the last two weeks?

Kristinn: The focus was on getting a newly formed product team for some of our corporate solutions, versed in using Azure DevOps for developing API's exposed through Azure API Management. We wanted to get as far as possible with automating all the cloud infrastructure needed all the way up to installing API Management and registering the APIs into configured products. It was a lofty goal but we managed to end up with a fully automated pipeline for all the environments and lifecycle steps as well as automatic health checks, monitoring and telemetry on top of that.

Gunnar: We have been looking into Azure and Azure Devops for a while and do some work there but were in need for a good kick start. We wanted to also include one of our teams who had no prior knowledge to Azure Devops to learn by doing and create with us the full development pipeline from idea to monitoring in production. The goal was to have everything automated, the development team responsible for developing, running and monitoring the solution and enable the design thinking around products in the Azure Api Management.

Was there anything special that really has helped you?

Kristinn: The open approach to how the program was delivered really helped from our perspective. E.g. we wanted to put an emphasize on being able to potentially re-use the template for our upcoming projects and had decided on using Terraform after trying out several configuration methods previously. The willingness and patience Tiago and Taavi showed in supporting this and of course helping us leap over every potential obstacle, was incredibly important. This elevated team much more than a pre-scripted set of activities or exercises like some workshops can turn into.

Gunnar: In my opinion was it how the development team could take decisions and how they controlled on what to focus on. We could deep dive into specifics and if any issue came up we got an answer from the professionals right away. The openness and support from the professionals when we decided to use terraform to provision infrastructure. And most importantly the level of expertise we got from Solidify and Microsoft was exceptional as we got introduced to how to use the pipelines in Azure Devops and how to use templates.

Would you recommended others getting help from Solidify ?

Kristinn: Yes! We ourselves are considering making a similar program a pre-requisite for teams that will be starting Azure development in the near future. It cannot be emphasized enough how impressed we were with the help we got and how we benefitted from your, Taavi’s, extensive experience and insight throughout the two weeks. Though the focus was on the participating team and its use cases the overall benefit to our journey into cloud development was appreciated on all levels, right up to top management. After presenting to the rest of the department at the end of the week, we got a wave of comments reflecting both satisfaction and surprise with how far we got.

Gunnar: Most definitely. I have been working with Solidify for other projects as well and the level of expertise and professionalism is above our expectations.

Do you have a good idea how you are going to continue after these weeks?

Kristinn: The way forward is much clearer after the workshop and the team will proceed apace in the coming weeks though it will of course take some time to work with the business in identifying the high value use cases for the APIs we want to focus on. The workshop also established that Devops practices are the way to go, that has accelerated some of the discussions in-house around our timeline for Azure on-boarding and in enabling people to work there in the coming months.

Gunnar: We will continue with our plan with our Api platform but we have much clearer vision on how to implement it. Not only on what resources to use but also on the way of working and the practices to use. We will need to focus on enabling the pipelines for other teams and train other teams to start utilize the resources we are creating on the platform.

Summary

We want to thank Arion Banki for the opportunity to run the FastTrack and for participating in the interview. If you're interested in running a similar project at your organization, feel free to contact us at info@solidify.se.