Meet our Public Cloud Engineer, Sid Prasad, and our Senior Cloud Engineer, Olli Ritari! Both Sid and Olli work in our Cloud DevOps team responsible for developing RELEX’s shared cloud platforms.
Sid and Olli, as Cloud Engineers, have one thing in common: their professional backgrounds are in the consulting business. Switching to a product company with a globally competitive product has changed the content of their work a lot.
What are the most significant differences between working in a consulting firm and in the Cloud DevOps team at RELEX that aims to develop the world’s leading retail planning platform? Let’s hear it from Sid and Olli.
Fact 1: Our customers are software professionals themselves
Sid and Olli’s team is like a central hub of Cloud DevOps at RELEX. As mentioned, their customers are RELEX’s internal software developers.
“In a way, we are Cloud DevOps consultants inside RELEX. RELEXians who want to run software in the cloud often sanity check with us on what they are planning to do. We implement policies and offer best practices of working on a public cloud – doing our best to help our colleagues”, says Olli.
In other words, when working in the Cloud DevOps team, you need to be quite skilled. The end-users are other developers, who know what you’re doing and have high standards, Sid and Olli discuss tongue-in-cheek.
“When I was a consultant, my clients were not always technology professionals. We had to make our point understood to a wide variety of professionals – from the head of Identity and Access Management to a business superuser of an application. For us in the Cloud DevOps team, all our internal clients are engineers, which means we speak the same language”, Sid says.
“Also, because we’re the central hub for cloud users, we get to see what other technical teams are doing. The applications of RELEX’s Living Retail Platform product family are different from each other. It’s interesting to see what challenges the other teams face and what kind of technical problems they’re solving. You can learn a lot”, says Olli.
Fact 2: The scale of our work is HUGE
Sid and Olli’s team has a great responsibility for most of RELEX’s infrastructure, which is a full-scale hybrid cloud setup. RELEX has its own large data centres in Finland and the United States, and we also leverage public cloud services extensively. The architecture of our environments spans across multi-clouds.
“At RELEX, Cloud DevOps needs are huge, and we’re a big customer for Azure in Finland. We have a lot of subscriptions, as we need a lot of computing capacity for our products. It’s no coincidence that Microsoft has made us one of their trusted partners”, Olli and Sid describe.
Olli started to work at RELEX in October 2020, and he mentions that the scale of the work was one of the biggest reasons he switched from a consulting firm to us.
RELEX’s product, the Living Retail Platform, and its different applications have a broad end-user group. The biggest customers are giant international companies like REWE, with very different needs than smaller, more specialized, and local ones, like XXL. Living Retail Platform is a collection of RELEX’s main product areas that tackle the most common but complicated problems in the retail industry like assortments, supply chain, workforce optimization, and space planning, among others.
One keyword to describe our software developers’ work is the micro-service architecture. It means several smaller pieces of software that support and ensure the functionality of the Living Retail Platform. Everything must be built to be scalable, so we use many containers and serverless functions that can be scaled.
“Already during my consulting career, I worked a lot with Kubernetes, and security was one of the big aspects of my job. Now I’m working with a platform that enables the same safe and maintained core functionalities to be shared with multiple teams while allowing customization and controlled change management,” Olli describes the scale of his work.
Kubernetes is quite a new technology, and at RELEX, we are using Kubernetes in the whole product, so the scale is enormous. Therefore, we need to train people internally on using Kubernetes.
Olli works primarily with Kubernetes, and Sid’s responsibilities include resource management and deployment using IaC tools like Terraform. He also uses cloud-native services for security, compliance, and cost management, and he has touchpoints with RELEX’s InfoSec and Finance teams, for example.
Terraform is one of the automation tools we use that makes our work faster using infrastructure as code. Terraform allows us to avoid human error with controlled code and create reproducible infrastructure to increase availability. On top of that, it facilitates change management.
“In addition to being large in scale, RELEX’s Living Retail Platform is also the leading planning solution in the retail industry. One example is RELEX’s Supply Chain Optimization software that runs on a private cloud. Our in-memory database is the secret sauce behind its accuracy, agility, and speed,” Sid says.
Fact 3: The whole team is on the same side, sharing the same goal
“If you switch to RELEX and start working in our team, you will get to experience the nature of our rapid growth. Our Cloud DevOps team is a pioneer in-house, albeit still small. Our work has the potential to create a massive, long-lasting impact on RELEX and RELEXians”, Sid says.
What is more, Sid says that he appreciates being “one of the good guys”. Technology can do many things, such as reduce food waste. That is what Living Retail Platform helps our customers to do, among other things.
“For myself, green values are important, and that I can stand behind the company’s mission”, he says.
One clear difference between being a consultant and an in-house engineer is that in a product company, the goal for everyone in the team is to make our own product better. The whole team is on the same side, and a common obstacle is a technical problem that we’re sharing.
“Personally, I enjoy solving technical problems. I like working on a tangible product, which creates value for various teams throughout RELEX and almost all of, if not all, RELEX’s customers. Also, Helsinki is the central hub of our technology organization. It means most of the development takes place right here. So, you don’t have to struggle with getting help”, Sid says.