A Transportation and Logistics Company Implements Azure Solutions
Azure products, centered on Azure Server Fabric, increase the technical edge and move a large transportation and logistics company into the future!
About the company
Launched in the 1930s as a small concrete hauling business, this large transportation and logistics company is now a Fortune 500 business and one of the top ten logistics companies in the world. As an industry-leader, it manages critical fleet, transportation, and supply chain functions for over 50,000 customers with over 36,000 employees and an annual revenue of more than $7 billion.
The company prides itself on applying industry-leading technology to manage their expansive infrastructure of maintenance facilities and warehouses and on hiring some of the most talented employees in the industry.
Microsoft software products have been the main integration tools used by the company, and TwoConnect has become a strategic ally in the process of designing, building, and deploying middleware platforms using microservices architecture running on Azure Service Fabric.
Microsoft BizTalk Server integrations
For over a decade the company built their enterprise application integration (EAI) with mainframe and cloud-based enterprise resource planning (ERP) providers, incorporating an extensive number of Business-to-Business (B2B) and Business-to-Customer (B2C) integrations using Microsoft BizTalk Server. Over time, however, as divisions of the company initiated new integration capabilities with different business partners and different features of the same applications, a variety of integration styles were implemented in BizTalk Server. This lead to complexity, increased management costs, and the inability to effectively scale with the company’s growth.
With the goal of achieving a controlled linear increase in the cost of integrations as the business grew, the company initiated a standardization of integrations patterns based on their years of experience implementing integrations with BizTalk Server.
Additionally, as a cost-of-ownership savings, and rather than managing their own systems in a data center, the company selected to implement next generation integrations on Microsoft Azure Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) offerings.
TwoConnect was brought in to design, build, and deploy a middleware platform implementing the Hub and Spoke pattern, which utilizes microservices architecture with .net core built on Azure Service Fabric.
The resulting solution includes:
- Message-based integration design – A full suite of integration patterns using a message-based integration design as a foundation for supporting individual messages and batches of records moving among internal, cloud, and partner systems.
- Point-to-point routing of data – A platform that supports simple point-to-point routing of data based on message content or fixed configuration.
- Inbound and outbound routing - Sophisticated inbound gathering of files and records from multiple sources to distribution to multiple outbound targets.
- Push and pull functionality – Triggering of routing that supports both push and pull operations where the initiating application can trigger an integration by pushing content to an API or a job scheduler can trigger the pulling of content from a source system.
- Inbound and outbound connectors – Inbound and outbound connectors support consumption of REST and SOAP APIs, databases (SQL Server, DB2, Snowflake), FTP/SFTP, Email, and higher-level coordination of cloud APIs for applications such as Workday and ServiceNow.
- Verification and auditability outcomes – The platform implements verification and auditability of integration outcomes as well as supports root failure analysis when issues arise.
Microsoft Azure Service Fabric and Service Bus, implemented in Azure Integrated Service Environment (ISE) with dedicated computer resources, became the foundation of the integration platform. Azure Service Bus provides scalable messaging services for intercommunication among services implemented in Azure Service Fabric.
Initially, Service Fabric was selected for its cost model that would scale linearly with growth of consumption. Because a new Standard Pricing Tier offers a similar cost model, work is underway to support the use of Azure Functions.
Restructuring organizational focus
To achieve greater efficiency within the new solution environment, the company restructured their organization to include:
- Domain teams - Use of domain teams among the various divisions of the company who own the details of data enrichment, conversion, and transformation within standardized flows among systems.
- Platform team - A platform team that provides the domain team a set of standard enterprise services as sources for data enrichment and verification as well as key standard services and explicit models for their usage, such as audit logging and exception handling.
- Dev domain teams – Additional domain teams who implement business functional services using C# to write services in Service Fabric, Azure Logic Apps, or Azure Data Factory depending on the skill sets in their organization. Note: Soon, using C# to write Azure Functions will be supported as well.
- Platform support teams – Teams dedicated to implementing and supporting common platform services to achieve standardizations and cost containment.
Custom-built hub benefits
The custom-built hub replaced all tasks previously performed in BizTalk, resulting in the elimination of major pain points by delivering extensive cost reductions, performance improvements, and increased flexibility to address ongoing business requirements.
Azure Service Fabric and Service Bus foundation
Microsoft Azure Service Fabric and Service Bus implemented in an Azure Integrated Service Environment (ISE) are the foundational services for the integration platform.
Azure Service Bus provided scalable messaging services for intercommunication among services implemented in Azure Service Fabric. Initially, Service Fabric was selected for its cost model that would scale linearly with growth of consumption. Now that a new Standard Pricing Tier offers a similar cost model, work is currently underway to support the usage of Azure Functions.
With the goal of achieving a controlled linear increase in cost of integrations as their business grew, the company has achieved a standardization of integrations patterns based on Azure Service Fabric. This has enabled the company to achieve their goals of lower cost of ownership and a move to next generation integrations on Microsoft Azure Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) offerings.
A TwoConnect integration solution
TwoConnect’s Azure Service Fabric-based integration solution means that this continuously expanding transportation and logistics enterprise can scale to meet growth demands. While BizTalk was their platform of choice for many years and is still in use, Azure is their future.
Over time, Azure will provide nearly unlimited possibilities for companies like this one to move applications and grow, while maintaining the technical edge.
Microsoft Azure products included in this solution
TwoConnect implemented the company’s integration platform based on the following Microsoft Azure services
- Enterprise Integrations and Services
- Azure Service Fabric
- Azure Service Bus
- Azure Storage Accounts
- Azure Cache for Redis
- API Management
- Azure Logic Apps
- Integration Accounts
- Custom Connectors
- Azure Functions
- Application Settings and Security Services
- Azure Key Vault
- Azure App Configuration
- Azure Application Insights
- Continuous integration and Deployment (CI/CD)
- DevOps build and releases pipelines
Services & Technologies
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