Case Studies

Cargill Uses Kong to Create Unified API Platform Across Legacy and Cloud Native

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Challenges

  • Increased demand for digital experiences
  • Development friction from siloed legacy IT systems
  • Difficulty maximizing resource efficiency

Solution

  • Kong-powered platform exposing APIs for new digital products
  • Unified developer experience across legacy and cloud native systems
  • Horizontal and vertical scaling with Kong and Kubernetes

Results

  • Up to 65x faster deployment with automated validations
  • 450+ new digital services created in the past six months
  • Dynamic infrastructure that auto-scales up and down with demand

For over 150 years, Cargill has been on a mission to nourish the world in a safe, responsible and sustainable way. Headquartered in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Cargill combines extensive supply chain experience with new technologies and insights to serve as a trusted partner for food, agriculture, financial and industrial customers across more than 125 countries. One of the largest private companies operating today, Cargill employs over 150 thousand people worldwide and handles logistics for over 33 percent of the world’s food supply.

As an industry leader, Cargill has always recognized that enabling rapid innovation is critical to maintaining a competitive advantage. However, Cargill’s legacy IT systems were slowing its ability to create new digital products and services to address the evolving needs of its customers and partners. In response to these new digital imperatives, Cargill began the process of transforming its internal suite of APIs to be more dynamic, thereby enabling consumption across the entire company.

“We put Agile, DevOps and CI/CD at the heart of everything we do, and we realized that we needed new tooling to match the new ways we wanted to build products and services,” said Jason Walker, senior enterprise architect at Cargill.

“We have a wealth of data from 150 years in business, but we needed to create a simple way for folks to access it and use it to enhance our stakeholders’ experiences. By building an API-first microservices architecture, we knew we could simultaneously provide access to those data and resources and take deployment concerns out of our developers’ workflows.”

Jason Walker, senior enterprise architect at Cargill.

Pragmatic Digital Transformation with Kong

With the goal of bringing more digital experiences to stakeholders, Walker and his team came up with a three-phase plan to increase agility and transition from siloed legacy IT architecture to a modern, microservices architecture. To accomplish this, Walker’s team wanted to partner with a high-performance API platform that could function equally well in centralized and decentralized deployments. “We wanted to first centralize the platform to make it consistent, then decentralize it to maximize scale, but the legacy API management vendors we looked at weren’t aligned with our vision for decentralization,” Walker said. “Kong is lightweight and fast enough to run at the edge, with Kubernetes or in a mesh, which fits our vision perfectly. Together with Kong, we achieve the low latency needed to deploy high-performance, cloud native microservices and the flexibility to seamlessly integrate them across all our systems. ”

In addition to superior performance and flexibility, Kong allowed Cargill to simplify management and monitoring across its highly complex architecture. Kong’s out-of-the-box management tools and open source ecosystem provide Cargill with robust capabilities to simplify management of APIs across their entire lifecycle. “With the level of scale and complexity we deal with at Cargill, it’s critical that all of our technology partners provide the maximum leverage possible,” said Colin Schaub, lead API engineer at Cargill. “The tools provided by Kong make managing the platform easy, and the community ecosystem is great about adding new plugins. It’s allowed us to bring more services to market more quickly and helps us manage them better once they’re in production.”

Building a Unified Developer Experience

Creating a scalable, standardized developer experience was a foundational element of Cargill’s vision for an API-centric hybrid architecture. With thousands of internal and external developers consuming their services worldwide, ensuring consistent standards was paramount to ensuring governance. It was critical for Cargill that the API platform they selected provide a consistent experience to minimize friction and enable sharing of services. “We wanted to make sure that we were building for scale and enabling the services we built to be re-used across the company, not doing things on a one-off basis,” Walker said. “Reusable capabilities need to have one single source of truth, and Kong ensures that all of our constituents are consistent in how they use our services. With Kong, we can just give them a platform-in-a-box that ensures standardization, security and compliance.”

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Delivering On-Demand Scalability with Kong and Kubernetes

The second phase of Walker’s team’s vision was to decentralize the platform to facilitate dynamic scalability. A major component of this was utilizing cloud native design patterns, and Kong’s native support for Kubernetes was a critical factor in enabling the Cargill team to easily scale up and down with demand. “With the number of new services we’re adding and creating from decoupling legacy applications into microservices, manually managing our infrastructure would be nearly impossible. Using Kong with Kubernetes allowed us to make decentralization a reality,” Walker said.

“Kong and Kubernetes let us define how we want our services to behave and then automatically scale the services up or down depending on the situation. The combination of the two allows us to optimize for resource efficiency, resiliency and service availability all in one automated solution.”

Building the Future of Cargill's Architecture

A key component of Cargill’s decision to select Kong stemmed from confidence in the vision Kong is building towards. Moving forward, Walker and his team are interested in using the machine learning-powered and Kong Immunity to further automate workflows and assist with overall service management. “It was critical for us that the API platform we chose would allow us to move fast now, but also take us where we want to go,” Walker said. “Kong’s view of where the world of software architecture is headed aligns well with ours at Cargill, and we think [Kong] Immunity will really help make that vision a reality.”

Additional Benefits

Flexible Control via Plugins

“Kong’s plugin architecture gives us the ability to choose what functionality we want, when we want it. It also gives us the flexibility to build functionality we need that isn’t already provided by Kong or the Kong community.”

Jason Walker, Sr. Enterprise Architect

Integration with CI/CD

“A big part of our philosophy is increasing automation at all stages of the development process, and Kong integrates with our key CI/CD tools. With Kong, we can automate as much of our development pipeline as possible without needing new tooling.”

Jason Walker, Sr. Enterprise Architect

Integrating with 3rd-party Security Players

“We use Kong with Hashicorp’s Vault for secrets management, which makes the process of securing our infrastructure seamless. By linking Kong and Vault, we’re able to create a dynamic, automated infrastructure that ensures security out of the box.”

Jason Walker, Sr. Enterprise Architect

Improved API Performance

“Kong provides the low latency we need to ensure that the partners and customers who depend on our services have the greatest reliability and best experience possible. It’s critical for internal and external traffic to flow smoothly, and Kong ensures that.”

Colin Schaub, Lead API Engineer

Dedicated Customer Success

“From day one, it’s really felt like we were partners, not customers. Kong’s success engineers are incredible, and we’re always able to talk with the engineers that built the product online or at conferences, which makes it feel like a true community.”

Colin Schaub, Lead API Engineer

 

“Kong is always on top of the transitions that we see on the ground every day and is building a platform that anticipates where software is going and provides the tooling we need to build it.”

Jason Walker, Sr. Enterprise Architect