Digital supply chain specialist accelerates software innovation with MongoDB Atlas
GEP is a global leader in supply chain transformation. It creates software, provides consultancy, and delivers managed services to some of the world’s biggest multinationals. It believes that intelligent supply chains have the power to change the world.
The GEP mission is to help clients reimagine their supply chains. In an increasingly connected world, where every industry is undergoing digital transformation, the company wants to find new opportunities to use supply chains for good. Beyond cost and time savings, it sees smart supply chains as a lever to cut carbon emissions and create sustainable business.
The old ways of designing, building, and deploying software are not fit for the pace of modern business, says Paul Blake, Senior Director of Engagement, GEP. Business certainties that lasted a generation are being dismantled within weeks.
“The whole approach needs to be more flexible,” Blake says. “Software needs to move horizontally across a business, vertically through an industry, and also in a third dimension, time.”
In practical terms, what this means for software development is shorter lead times, smaller projects, and a shift in mindset. “It used to be that you’d spend five years implementing ERP software that would be intended for use for 20 years or more. But the world no longer obeys the business rules that applied decades ago. Today, there is a need for software that is fit for the current challenges, and that may only be needed for a few specific customers for a very short period of time,” explains Blake.
As a global business that derives half its annual revenues from software development and SaaS, that is the opportunity for GEP. It wants to be faster to identify a software opportunity, and then quicker to create, test, refine, and deploy a solution.
Whether it’s procurement, finding and liaising with suppliers, buying, or paying, almost every aspect of business is conducted through software. In GEP’s view, software is a tool set, and if that toolset is not fit for the task in hand, the work becomes so much more difficult. It is GEP’s job to create tools that its clients can use most effectively.
As such, the company is restructuring its approach to software development. Everything must be geared to multi-cloud, with outdated monoliths broken down into microservices.
“Our primary goal was that every line of code should be deployable across every cloud. Next, there should be zero downtime for any component, from test to production,” says Nithin Prasad, Engineering Manager, GEP. “Easy to say, harder to execute.”
In the world of GEP clients, zero downtime is not simply desirable, it is business critical. “A client could have 50 trucks outside its warehouse, waiting for deliveries. It cannot afford for the inventory management to go down,” points out Nithin. “We need to test for every eventuality, and to create a failover.”
GEP’s multi-cloud approach is a strategic imperative: the company works with hundreds of Fortune 500 and Global 2000 enterprises, each with its own cloud preferences. The advantage is in being highly customizable, technically advanced, and scalable. It can work with clients who specify a certain cloud provider or allow a choice.
MongoDB Atlas, the developer data platform, is central to GEP’s multi-cloud software development strategy. It provides unmatched data distribution and mobility across AWS, Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud.
“Our primary focus was Azure, that is our default option,” says Nithin. “But SQL could only scale up to one point in time, and that wasn’t scalable or manageable from a security perspective.
“MongoDB Atlas gives us a single pane of glass for every client, with individual security partitions. Developers shouldn’t need to switch between different cloud providers. All the metrics, all the transactions are here in the Atlas dashboard.”
Nithin says many options were considered, with his team judging performance, availability, and auto-scaling. A proof of concept demonstrated a 35-40% performance advantage for Atlas.
“A data store itself is not too complex,” says Nithin. “It’s how quickly you can query data in different places that matters. Also, the developer experience matters. With SQL we had individual databases for every step of a client’s supply chain, which was a pain when developers had to go through and query each database. With MongoDB we can present that as a single database across a complete lifecycle. It helps connect the dots.”
To support their users’ ability to search for data like contracts, line items, and milestones in their new flagship software product, GEP is also currently testing MongoDB Atlas Search, which enables the company to build functionality like autocomplete, and custom scoring on top of their data in Atlas as part of a unified, fully managed platform.
The engagement with Atlas underpins GEP’s shift to low-code development and rapid prototyping, says Blake.
“MongoDB gives us access to the underlying data structures. It creates a genuine sense of innovation and open-mindedness. What we’re attempting to do is create a new model of how big systems can work. Not just at a functional level, but fundamentally. We want to rethink how data can be moved around the business.”
Paul Blake, Senior Director of Engagement, GEP
For the company, a more responsive, dynamic, development posture creates stronger ties with clients. GEP’s consultancy teams can go deeper into client issues. There is a regular flow of software innovation targeted at kinks specific to individual clients.
As an example, Blake highlights the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic. GEP recognized an opportunity to connect companies that were stocking PPE with organizations needing PPE. Its developer teams were able to make those connections quickly, and provide a software tool.
Executing at speed is essential, Nithin explains. For global supply chains, every link in the chain must operate smoothly. GEP needs to retrieve data wherever it is held, and to be certain in performance times. It must do so across a rapidly expanding workload: pre-COVID, the platform handled three million transactions; by late 2022 it is nearer 20 million.
“We strive to have 90% of transactions processed within 330 milliseconds – that’s the blink of an eye. There are certain transactions that need to be completed within 200 milliseconds, others in 50 milliseconds. It would be impossible to meet these standards without the performance of the MongoDB Atlas platform,” says Nithin.
Nithin Prasad, Engineering Manager, GEP
Atlas enables GEP to access a database in over 90 regions on AWS, Azure, and Google Cloud. For security, it can pin data to certain regions for strict compliance and ultra-low latency. Developers no longer need to switch between different cloud providers. Atlas Search helps users find documentation across 30+ databases. Metrics and all transactions are contained in the Atlas dashboard.
Blake says many clients recognize this is a pivotal moment, and there is a real opportunity for global enterprise to be a force for good. “How do you reduce costs, increase efficiency and become carbon zero?“ he asks. “The answer is: you can’t, not with the current model. But that model can be changed, it can evolve. GEP can help businesses make that transition.”