The Agriculture Middleware Strategy passes its first inspection

| minute read

After a 25-year collaborative partnership, Sopra Steria was chosen to deliver a crucial strategic project, the migration of the Agriculture and Rural Economy’s (ARE) Livestock Inspection System (LIS) to the new middleware platform. This marks the first existing application moved into a new environment and is the result of many years of work on strategy, business cases and architecture consultancy, and delivery by ARE in collaboration with Sopra Steria and other key suppliers. 

ARE is the largest directorate in the Scottish Government, both in terms of people and budget (pre-Covid), its work is firmly cemented in Scottish identity. It actively supports communities across the country and is critical to Scottish infrastructure, therefore requires sensitive management.   

Sopra Steria has been instrumental in setting the direction for ARE and delivering the first tangible benefits of this replatforming. 

The Customer 

The ARE Directorate promotes sustainable economic growth in agriculture, the food industry, and in rural areas. It’s responsible for: 

  • agricultural policy, including how we replace and improve on the Common Agricultural Policy framework 
  • rural land management, with the aim of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, protecting fragile ecosystems within farms, and achieving a just transition to a net zero economy 
  • supporting locally-led development in rural communities 
  • preventing, controlling and eradicating animal disease in Scotland 
  • enhancing animal welfare 
  • providing scientific services and advice on agricultural and environmental matters 

Over the past 25 years Sopra Steria has provided Application Management services including developing solutions to meet Common Agriculture Policy requirements and, post Brexit, newer solutions in support of the Agriculture Reform Policy.  

The Challenge 

ARE heavily rely on Red Hat middleware as part of a common platform for the many schemes supporting the rural economy and agriculture in Scotland. These are grouped around the various phases of the Common Agricultural Policy agreements with multiple interfaces between schemes and with external bodies. 

ARE strategically targets a move to a Cloud First infrastructure model but recognises the challenge of moving an estate comprised of several monolithic applications. A viable route to achieve the long-term goal was required. 

In 2019 ARE asked Sopra Steria to deliver the inputs for a “credible, costed and deliverable business case detailing the tactical and strategic……middleware upgrades over several years”. The key deliverables were a multi-year roadmap including the Middleware Design for the architecture and application migration alongside an Outline Case to include plan, timescales, resources and costs. 

Defining the Strategy 

Sopra Steria’s Enterprise Architect team worked closely with the ARE Chief Technology Officer to produce a middleware strategy and design that would support the migration of individual components of the application landscape. This envisaged refactoring the applications into a cloud native containerised microservices model using DevOps delivery techniques to enable rapid and frequent delivery of business functionality while ensuring quality. An on-premise OpenShift capacity was proposed to gain the immediate benefits of cloud flexibility while retaining the simple connectivity to the legacy required while the new model services grew. The OpenShift environment acts as a stepping stone to the cloud through the simplification of application redeployment to the cloud through leveraging the cloud native containerised architecture. 

The strategy, and associated business cases, was finalised in 2019 and has been recognised as an exemplar of its type, endorsed by both Red Hat and Gartner. 

Building the Capability 

Following business case approval, ARE created a collaborative team involving Scottish Government Architecture and hosting teams, Product Specialists from Red Hat, and Application specialists from Sopra Steria and other suppliers. 

The end deliverable was a containerised environment running on an on-premise shared OpenShift cluster supporting flexible scale up and down of capacity, reducing power consumption and carbon footprint by minimising unnecessary overhead provision. 

This flexible capacity supports incremental growth as the workloads are migrated from the older environments. 

Modernising the applications 

Sopra Steria provided the technical leads on the development of the Livestock Inspection System. This supports ARE’s responsibility to check that livestock keepers comply with their obligations under UK and Scottish Law and ensure that high standards and practices are being followed. 

For example, accurate holding registers and livestock movement notifications can ensure the rapid tracing of animals and their movements in the event of a major disease outbreak. 

The modernised application and the OpenShift capabilities deliver real savings for the business. Automated pipelines reduce the effort and elapsed time for deployments to all environments. DevOps processes throughout the development cycle and automated testing improve the quality of the code and allow quick feature enhancement releases with reduced testing costs. 

Neil Anderson, Chief Technology Officer, Citizen and Devolved Government Services at Sopra Steria said:  

We look forward to working with ARE to complete the migration of the other workloads and achieve the next strategic step of closing the on-premise infrastructure and moving to a Cloud first provision. 



Related content

Cloud: The foundation for innovation

Cloud computing isn't just a trend- it's a strategic imperative. Read more about the foundation for innovation and the advantages of migrating to the cloud.

The Sopra Steria Group has earned the AWS Migration Competency

The Sopra Steria Group, a European Tech leader recognised for its consulting, digital services and software development, announced today that it has achieved the AWS Migration Competency.

Addressing the many objectives and challenges of a leading UK retail bank

We quickly established ourselves as a core supplier integral to the bank's launch and future requirements, largely down to a strong cultural fit. Our teams really took the time to understand the client and then adapted their behaviours to suit their particular needs.