Find out how the natural resource ministries leveraged OpenShift to transform the way they deliver digital products.
For over 3 years, B.C.’s natural resource ministries have been developing applications using Red Hat® OpenShift® on the B.C. Government Private Cloud PaaS. In that time, they’ve transformed the way they deliver digital products, improving the service delivery experience for both their clients and project teams. As one of the first groups to pioneer the use of the B.C. Government Private Cloud PaaS, they’ve experienced the highs and lows of working in OpenShift. They’re looking forward to new ways to leverage the platform.
B.C.’s natural resource ministries encompass Agriculture, Food and Fisheries, Energy, Mines and Low Carbon Innovation, Environment and Climate Change Strategy, Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development and Land, Water and Resource Stewardship.
In his previous role as a DevOps lead for the natural resource ministries, Gary Wong supported teams as they developed and deployed applications in OpenShift. Gary was responsible for hiring product teams, procuring vendors and supporting application development. He was also the liaison between the applications that teams were building in the cloud and the sector’s traditional IT infrastructure.
There are 9 active teams within the ministries, who are responsible for a variety of digital applications. To date, over a dozen open-source solutions have been built in the B.C. Government Private Cloud PaaS.
One of these applications, Traction (formerly the Mines Digital Trust), endeavours to bring more transparency and trust to the mineral resource industry. 2 open-source solutions associated with the project have been built in the B.C. Government Private Cloud, the Enterprise Wallet PoC and OrgBook BC Issuer Agent. The Verified Credentials provided through these applications aim to build trust between producers, purchasers and customers of mineral resources. A demo of the Mines Digital Trust was shown at the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26).
Why the natural resource ministries moved to the cloud
Traditionally, it took a long time to set up the hardware or software required for teams to build, configure and release an application. IT shops had a demanding process to request a release to launch a new application or to update an existing application, and releases could only happen about twice a year. That schedule was a big limitation for many of Gary’s teams and led to delays in service delivery.
“If the IT schedule was full, they might tell you to wait eight months to release your application. Release was very slow.”
They also ran into complications using shared servers to run applications. Critical applications often shared space with several other products. This meant each application was dependent on the maintenance schedule or functioning of the other applications in the shared space. During critical periods, the requirement for one application to stay online could prevent others from updating.
“From a client relationship perspective, we felt like we weren’t providing product teams with the services they required. It wasn’t just about technology, it was more of a digital movement. Prior to the cloud, business teams would simply provide IT with service requirements, and receive a finished application two years later. We have partnership agreements now that we didn’t have in the past. Now the work between IT and business is more collaborative. No more throwing things over the fence.”
Gary was looking for new ways to collaborate with businesses by making the move to the B.C. Government Private Cloud PaaS. Gary was looking to deliver and deploy applications quickly and effectively. He also wanted to encourage teams to work together with developers to support applications and deliver features.
Starting to build in OpenShift
When the first teams started developing in OpenShift, it took 3 or 4 months to set them up on the platform.
“When we started there was no OpenShift training and the platform would go down for weird reasons.”
But Gary emphasizes that things have changed since then.
“Now, releasing applications takes closer to a week. There’s training for teams and the platform is much more stable.”
Gary also had difficulty finding team members with the right skill sets for the platform.
“It’s hard to find people who understand the modern way of doing web development and DevOps and who are available to be part of a team. Talent acquisition and retention are a big deal right now.”
Part of the challenge is keeping teams together long enough to ensure the continued maintenance and improvement of applications on the platform.
“Some teams don’t plan to stay and maintain their app once the project is done. They’ll get onto OpenShift for the flexibility and freedom, but they aren’t able to put the money or time into maintaining their app. If OpenShift gets upgraded and their app breaks, they don’t have a team in place to fix it.”
As Gary explains, sometimes teams start out intending to maintain their applications but are moved to other projects. In other cases, their funding gets pulled and they’re forced to cut resources to their applications. Either way, their applications remain on the platform, unmonitored and at risk of breaking.
“Right now, we have a team in place to catch these issues.”
But that isn’t the case for all sectors.
Results and future plans
When asked how his clients feel about the service delivery process in OpenShift, Gary is enthusiastic.
“Our clients are very happy with the speed of delivery and the fact that they can release anytime they want. At the start it was hard to leverage the platform, but now it’s much better. The training, technology, and Platform Services team are much more mature than they were three years ago.”
When Gary thinks about the future of service delivery, he looks to how his own ministry can better manage and leverage the cloud.
“Our vision is to support digital government in a way that supports demand. We’re at a point where we should share talent, capacity and support, because demand keeps going up.”
Combine that with training in Agile methodology and deployment best practices on OpenShift, and Gary believes that even more teams in his sector will feel empowered to deliver their services in the cloud.
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