Case Studies

Leading Institution Focuses on Technological Innovation

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Results

Cut Operational Costs 60%

Retired legacy infrastructure in favor of a containerized-based architecture, cutting operational costs by 60% for development team

Expanded Platform

Expanding platform from 10 to hundreds of API endpoints to expose data to internal and external clients

Mobile Application

Creation of a campus-wide mobile application to support student success, powered by APIs

Challenges:

  • Undergoing organizational DevOps transformation to promote cloud best practices.
  • Decomposing monolith and legacy applications to adopt microservices architecture and accelerate time to market for customer-facing applications.
  • Accelerating API adoption across the organization to help internal developers to more easily leverage valuable data and functionality to produce new digital products for the university community.
  • Looking to improve development velocity and expose new services in a secure and reliable way.

Solutions:

  • Rapidly scaling out a containerized infrastructure with a single point of entry for ease of management.
  • Extensible and flexible plugin architecture to meet industry standard requirements out-of-the-box without reinventing the wheel.
  • Leveraging Kong’s developer portal as the central hub for publishing relevant API documentation across all internal and external developers.
  • Automated APIs configuration management to build a unified API ecosystem for all teams in the organization.

Leading Higher-Ed and Research Institution Focuses on Technological Innovation

Located along the Lake of Geneva in Lausanne, the Université de Lausanne (UNIL) is the second longest continuously operating higher education and research institution in Switzerland. 

With a campus that brings together over 120 nationalities across approximately 17,000 students and nearly 5,000 professors, researchers, and technical staff, UNIL is renowned for its diversity and inclusion. UNIL’s research activities focus on three main themes: human and social sciences, life sciences and medicine, and environmental sciences. 

By continually reinvesting in its technology innovation, the university aims to support the quality of education and research its students and faculty are receiving. This interdisciplinary approach is further reflected in the organization’s broad curriculum, including exchange programs with world-renowned universities.

Introducing APIs and Modernization to a Varied and Distributed System

Paulo Monteiro, senior engineering manager at the Université de Lausanne, and his team faced a significant challenge when it came to developing and maintaining the complicated portfolio of higher-ed products that make up UNIL’s technology ecosystem. Because they have a diverse array of end users, including students, teachers, and researchers, Paulo and his team needed to modernize their entire infrastructure. 

“IT efficiency relies on smooth integration, interoperability, and coordination across all teaching and learning applications,” Paulo said. “This is a growing challenge facing modern universities, especially as more IT systems become increasingly distributed across varying products and services.”

While the team at UNIL knew they needed to put structure in place to help connect and integrate these disparate systems, Paulo was also keenly aware that an API solution implemented without careful consideration and management can introduce additional challenges.

“While APIs are popular for the ease of sharing data and services, managing access to these APIs can also be quite complex,” Paulo said. “This poses a major challenge because of the time, money, and resources required to enhance network security. Even small breaches can be catastrophic.”

Using Kong to Build a Flexible Abstraction Layer

“To avoid potential nightmares scenarios around managing data access to our APIs, we knew we needed a solution that could solve this problem in a simple, flexible, reliable, and scalable way,” said Paulo. 

In October 2019, UNIL selected Kong’s service connectivity platform to assist them in adopting a microservice architecture to decrease time to market for customer-facing applications and accelerate API adoption across the organization. By providing an abstraction layer across UNIL’s monolithic and microservice-based applications, Kong’s platform allows UNIL to improve its development velocity and securely manage communication between clients and microservices via API. 

As Paulo explained, “Rather than having to manage an array of networking services and associated services in isolated silos, the layer of abstraction Kong provides makes it simpler to manage distributed applications that have dependencies on a wide range of APIs.”

Adding this abstraction layer has allowed Paulo and the team at UNIL to manage their APIs at a higher level by integrating all Layer 4 through Layer 7 services for both monolithic and microservices-based applications. This means they can rapidly build and scale out a containerized infrastructure with a single entry point, for ease of management. 

For UNIL, their end goal is to help internal developers to more easily leverage valuable data and functionality to produce new digital products, which allows their academic community of students, teachers, and researchers to accomplish their important work in a more streamlined and efficient way.

“Kong helps us to accelerate development without reinventing the wheel,” Paulo said.

Prioritizing Security and Governance Across a Sprawling Network

Because UNIL processes vast volumes of data across numerous enterprise applications every day, data security and governance are one of the largest technology challenges Paulo and his team face. Shoring up network security to protect against even small breaches (which can still be catastrophic) requires time, money, and resources that the team has to balance against other priorities. Using Kong plugin solutions has been instrumental to UNIL’s ability to secure its network for its students, teachers, and administrative staff. 

Kong’s wide variety of plugins, across many use cases, allows UNIL to meet all of its security and governance needs, among many other needs. 

“Kong offers a plugin for almost every use case,” Paulo said.

The UNIL team uses the OAuth2 plugin to run their authentication and uses Kong’s security plugin to add additional security layers, such as ACL, CORS, Dynamic SSL, and IP restriction. They also use the Analytics and Monitoring plugin to visualize, inspect, and monitor API traffic, giving them a clear view of what is happening in their API universe at any given time.

UNIL has also implemented decK, Kong’s declarative configuration tool, to completely automate their end-to-end API lifecycle. By implementing scripting for API promotion and configuration, including between environments, they’ve ensured that they’re updating and delivering code in a consistent way.

This automation has also helped with API standardization, regularly checking that they are complete, compliant, consistent, and secure. All of this automation and standardization of their security and data governance processes frees up time and resources to focus on innovation and improving development velocity.

Building Towards a Modernized Future to Support Student Success

Emerging digital technologies have changed the landscape for almost every aspect of our lives, and higher education is no exception. The team at UNIL has asked themselves how they can best prepare their IT infrastructure for the reality of the digital world, as well as stay prepared in the future.

Paulo sees APIs and systems integration as the foundation for UNIL’s digital transformation, making it possible to build new systems that seamlessly share data among applications. They have already seen success through the development of their campus-wide mobile application, which integrates information from multiple systems to tell students when and where their next classes might be, view cafeteria menus, give access to course documents, search the UNIL directory, and more. All of this is only possible because of the API-first strategy that Paulo and team have implemented.

Looking ahead, Paulo plans to continue using Kong to enhance the university’s student success support. This includes enabling easier student enrollment while also providing his team with the ability to more rapidly resolve IT issues and reduce overall IT ticket rates. To enable this, they’re moving towards automating all their API configurations, which will help them build a unified API ecosystem for all teams across the organization. 

Through Kong’s flexibility, extensibility and automation provided via APIOps, UNIL has been able to successfully implement new technology standards across its campus while unifying its sprawling API ecosystem.

“Kong has helped us to complete our application modernization with a microservices-based approach in a fast, reliable and scalable way,” Paulo said.

“Kong has become a central and essential component of our enterprise software architecture.”

– Paulo Monteiro, Software Engineering Manager, Université de Lausanne

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