Agriculture may not be obvious high tech business but it’s arguably one of the most technically demanding sectors. Users of KisanHub’s Crop Intelligence Platform, for example, could be stood in the middle of a field in a remote region with poor connectivity and still need high reliability to match round-the-clock operations and time-sensitive decision-making.
Cambridge-based KisanHub helps its diverse customers – from individual smallholders in India to large multinationals operating across the agriculture supply chain globally – with a sophisticated yet simple decision-support platform. Over 3,000 users access its Crop Intelligence Platform which leverages cloud computing, agronomic research and machine learning to simplify complex decisions.
The company had a base of customers it was working with closely to ensure best value, and through this had gained considerable traction in many crop markets across Europe and India. This led to successful venture capital fundraising and some major new customers. “We needed to ensure we could service them if they went ahead,” says KisanHub COO Giles Barker. The business recognised decisions must be made to meet the needs of a rapidly-developing customer base.
As a growing business, KisanHub had to evolve its architecture quickly while continuing to meet customers’ expectations. However, the research and trial-and-error involved in this process proved arduous for the organisation.
Barker says, “Having ran our own infrastructure for several years, we faced a number of issues that forced us to re-evaluate how we orchestrated and managed our infrastructure around security, scalability and consistency, as well as architecting best practices.”
KisanHub allocated greater resources to maintain a robust security posture and to ensure consistency during deployment updates across clients in multiple geographies. The business was going to be constrained by its existing infrastructure and needed a more efficient and scalable orchestration, and updated process.
“Given some of the challenges, our primary objective was to build infrastructure we could forget about – infrastructure that was so reliable, scalable, and transparent we didn’t need to worry about it getting in the way, allowing us to focus on pushing the product forward,” says Barker.
From dilemmas to solutions
The company wanted to deliver services from a robust architecture, resilient to “the many possible points of failure”. The question was, where would they host this and how would they build and maintain it?
The business had three options: to build an expert in-house team, to consider relaxing its requirements, or to use service providers to start running quickly and cost-efficiently.
KisanHub identified in-house resource as too slow and expensive, while under-delivering to customers due to compromises around security and technology was not an option. Ultimately, it decided to go down the service provider route, choosing us after being introduced by Google, KisanHub’s cloud provider.
Security and scalability
So, what could Google Cloud and Rackspace deliver as partners that the business couldn’t build themselves? “There aren’t many organisations that can compete with Google for the resource and expertise they can bring to a problem,” says Barker. He adds how Google Cloud gave the business a high level of comfort with industry-leading accreditations and the ability to apply high standards around physical controls and software security policies.
The cloud also provided ‘out-of-the-box’ solutions that made managing security functions more efficient, such as IAM user management that gives granular control of who can do what and where. Barker points to the cloud’s firewall rules as providing an easy-to-manage solution while encryption in-flight and at-rest as standard was a benefit, which no other provider offered as a default. This made it easier to start running quickly, without compromising on security. “All VM maintenance and OS patching was handled as part of the service which was another load off our minds,” he adds.
In terms of the scalability KisanHub demanded from its new infrastructure, Barker says, “Google Cloud provides tools to make it easy to scale our services automatically while remaining resilient. This removes the need for significant manual intervention and unlike competing options, much of this comes built-in.” This includes auto-scaling services, auto-healing infrastructure, easy-to-configure high-availability deployments, plus database backups and failovers.
KisanHub also state that the Google solution came in at a “markedly better price” than alternative options.
Consistency and cost
When it came to business requirements for consistency, KisanHub could call on the ability to define infrastructure-as-code using Google Deployment Manager. This ensures the business could version-control changes and deploy infrastructure to multiple environments, with minimal overheads, while maintaining critical consistency.
KisanHub has deployments across time zones and related SLAs, so a small in-house team would’ve struggled to build the required infrastructure. However, with our expertise, it was able to build a high-availability infrastructure, following architectural best practices. “Working out how to get the most from a new cloud provider was a lot to attempt to do at the same time as everything else, and with limited resource. Building those capabilities in-house could never have been done on a cost-parity with Rackspace’s service,” says Barker.
Our partnership kicked in as soon as the design was complete. Barker continues, “The deployment was taken care of, we didn’t have to resource the build or QA process. This high level of support was available from day one – we didn’t have to carry out in-house training or recruit a team with Rackspace’s level of capabilities.”
The business impact
KisanHub’s mission is to help farmers move from intuition-based decision-making to analytical processes and in doing so, make agriculture more predictable and profitable. Working with Google Cloud for continued growth by making it highly secure, scalable and resource-efficient means KisanHub is well-positioned to support even more enterprises and their growers.