Innovation in increments for Heathrow using Capgemini’s Agile Innovation Platform supported by Flexagon’s FlexDeploy

March 30, 2022 | 6 minute read
Andy Bell
Integration Architect
Philip Wilkins
Cloud Developer Evangelist at OCI
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Capgemini has recently been working with London’s Heathrow Airport on a truly transformational project, which has now successfully gone live. The programme involved migrating Heathrow’s core finance, billing and HR solutions from on-premises data centres to Oracle Cloud, utilising Oracle SaaS, PaaS and IaaS. In normal circumstances, Heathrow is a multi-billion pound operation, but delivering this project happened during the worst of the Covid pandemic, with Heathrow suffering from organizational challenges and a drop in revenue by some 90%. This has led to Heathrow facing even greater pressures to manage costs.

Capgemini’s Agile Innovation Platform (AIP), which includes scripting to efficiently leverage OCI was used to great effect on the programme. AIP’s DevOps platform is based on Flexagon’s FlexDeploy. In this blog, we’ll explore how AIP and FlexDeploy worked together at Heathrow to enable the incremental delivery of innovation, accelerate delivery and provide greater cost efficiencies for using OCI.

What is AIP

Capgemini’s Agile Innovation Platform (AIP) is a set of tools, templates and guidance resources operating on top of Oracle IaaS and PaaS, including capabilities such as rapid template-driven provisioning of cloud environments. One of AIP’s foundation technologies is Infrastructure as Code which leverages the resources available on OCI using tools such as Terraform and Ansible. The use of IaC, mainly through vendor-neutral syntaxes, has gained popularity with the rise of the cloud, but this is not without its challenges. Early on, we made a key design decision that our IaC approach should be highly modular and apply best practices and tooling to maximize the benefits.

Continuous Integration and Delivery (CI/CD) is a key element of AIP. If you’re a developer, you’re likely to assume that we are using a tool like Jenkins, Circle CI, Oracle DevOps or similar. Whilst our approach can be adapted for an existing customer-preferred tool, when we have a free hand, we recommend using Flexagon’s FlexDeploy product for a variety of reasons, as described in the following paragraphs.

Innovation through Infrastructure as Code

Infrastructure as Code (IaC) is not new and innovative, but companies are still finding their feet with cloud. Some of this will result in trial and error, and the IaC learning curve can be steep. Other organizations have continued with more traditional approaches of configuring cloud using the native UI. Some organizations have baulked at the perceived disruption of adopting IaC and shied away from it as a result. Others have dabbled with Terraform and other automation tools like Ansible for specific deployments, limiting opportunities for re-use; in some cases to the point that it can only create a specific environment like production, and a completely different Terraform is needed for other environments. IaC is a tool, and like any other tool, the user must see the potential to innovate by using it astutely.

The innovation comes from the fact that we have created an approach that allows us to bring these technologies into play in a more incremental manner. Capgemini has invested in understanding and developing recommended practises and learning how to avoid running down some of the more tempting ‘Rabbit holes’. The result is prebuilt modules and full solution patterns. The modules are composable and can be easily assembled allowing the introduction of new capabilities as needed. This ability to innovate incrementally gives rise to continuous evolution, the quantum of innovation being whatever is right for your business at the given moment. For many, the quantum will not require massive disruption and no wholesale abandonment of existing processes. Our approach allows modules to be added as needed. We build on this with our principle of parameterized modularity. By just changing some configuration values, we can build a production environment or a smaller development environment. This allows us to for example quickly build a fresh environment for testing (using test suites) that is unimpacted by previous test cycles.

This approach facilitates the deployment of a fully configured E-Business Suite onto OCI in hours that historically would have taken weeks. For Heathrow Airport, we used FlexDeploy to orchestrate the process of deploying Oracle Billing Management System (BMS) onto Oracle Cloud IaaS with a base configuration from scratch in a couple of hours, a task that previously took a couple of weeks.

As the transformation of existing Oracle solutions into cloud-native implementations and new capabilities progresses, we’re continuing to build out our modules and templates to meet ever more use-cases. For example, the cloud migration of EBS with Forms extensions and APEX applications or Visual Builder Cloud Service (VBCS) and Oracle Integration Cloud (OIC) for integrated low-code apps. As these templates are built on our modules, tailoring the templates for specific nuances will be rapid and straightforward, with the ability to prove them using FlexDeploy.

FlexDeploy’s role and value in AIP

Capgemini partners with Flexagon for a host of reasons, both established and evolving:

Figure 1 The Values from Flexagon and their FlexDeploy product, which make it a strong part of AIP

The diagram above shows how Flexagon provides value to AIP. It would take a considerable amount of time to assemble and configure the open-source components required for CI/CD but Flexagon provides out of the box adapters to speed up the process considerably.

FlexDeploy is very capable of supporting IaC, but its features extend into Oracle PaaS and SaaS utilizing the various OCI interfaces available. This greatly simplifies the routine release management processes needed for activities such as developing integrations and extensions with technologies such as SOA Suite and Integration Cloud. This accelerates the process of deployment management across multiple environments (development, test, acceptance, production and so on) and means costs are reduced or can be diverted to business value rather than IT housekeeping.

Beyond just IaC

The value proposition of AIP extends beyond the acceleration achieved from IaC and into the development processes and beyond. Providing skeletons to accelerate development and exemplars to help build and automate testing, AIP promotes consistency and repeatability. These areas of AIP will help protect your investment and ensure the maintainability of the code/configuration base, including code quality checks using static analysis tooling. This ultimately helps to contain lifetime costs by reducing the effort needed to extend or change features. For the development of applications using Java and C#, this is not uncommon but applying the same principles to PL/SQL is less common. How many Apex solutions are checked for common security vulnerabilities beyond possibly pen-testing if they are internet facing?

Once a solution is in its run phase, it isn’t unusual for code and its dependencies to be left alone until a bug is found or a new feature is needed. Yet vulnerabilities in code may be identified long after development has been completed. How do you know if your solution is susceptible to such issues? Our answer is to make it as easy as possible to maintain the latest records of vulnerabilities (CVEs etc.) and configure periodic execution of scanning solutions used during the development phase to detect issues and allow an informed decision about responding.

These ideas are not innovative, but how they’re applied can be. The introduction of such ideas can be achieved in a manner that is not disruptive but will deliver benefit. Bringing such change to an organization with well-established ways of working can be perceived as too big, too difficult, and even possibly unnecessary. The root to success is how the change is introduced.

Figure 2 Logical view of build pipelines supporting Java, PL/SQL and Integration Cloud development. The orchestration of these tools comes from FlexDeploy

Real success with this

Flexagon’s Heathrow Airport whitepaper reflects the successes and value that Capgemini has delivered with FlexDeploy using OCI.

We have presented a webinar that looks at these ideas, and Heathrow graciously joined us to discuss their perspective on their experience and benefits of adopting Oracle Cloud but also a closer look at the benefits delivered by FlexDeploy and AIP. The webinar has been recorded, so you can hear the full story when you’re ready.

Further Reading

Andy Bell

Integration Architect

Integration Architect with 35 years’ experience in the IT industry, specialising in System Integration, Service Orientated Architecture (SOA), API Management, Microservices and Business Process Management (BPM).

Philip Wilkins

Cloud Developer Evangelist at OCI

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