Hardening and optimizing Groke Technologies’ Google Cloud environment
Groke Technologies is a tech startup that enhances maritime safety by offering solutions for the industry. Their aim is to make seafaring safer one vessel at a time by providing situational awareness systems which continuously monitor vessel surroundings and provide important information to watchkeeping engineers on the bridge. To achieve this, Groke is committed to using both current and emerging cloud technologies to create the best solutions that fulfil and even exceed industry standards. Previously, they used Google Cloud only for internal services and processes, but now some of the cloud technologies/solutions are brought to customer facing applications. It makes ensuring the efficiency and security of their Google Cloud Platform more important than ever.
Cooperation in brief
|Starting point||Keys to success||Result|
Hardening and optimizing Groke Technologies’ Google Cloud environment. High standards and platform independence require in-depth expertise in GCP.
GCP Security Review to understand the current situation. Gapps provided deep, practical experience and knowledge of Google Cloud to harden the environment.
A secure and optimized environment with ongoing backend development. Cost optimization brought 10-20% of savings.
Starting point: High standards and platform independence require in-depth expertise on Google Cloud Platform
Groke Technologies prides itself on providing top-quality solutions to its clients. The company’s CEO Juha Rokka lightheartedly describes the company as an “adult startup”.
“Our goal is to ensure all our services are provided in a good industrial manner. That they are scalable, secure, and everything customers expect. We want to make sure that everything is safe for our customers and we have chosen to invest heavily in that.”
Groke has chosen to remain platform-independent, using components from different clouds or building their own when necessary. Even though it provides flexibility, it also poses one major challenge: while cloud platforms may operate similarly at a basic level, each of them has unique features and capabilities.
Arvin Cudanin, the Lead Cloud Architect, explains that the company possesses a lot of in-depth cloud expertise on other platforms, but not on Google Cloud. The lack of this expertise/capability created a sense of uncertainty. “It was sort of a grey area for us. We used to have some trouble sorting out how we can ensure Google Cloud’s security, estimate costs, do budget allocations, and confirm cloud service availabilities.”
Gapps provided the needed Google Cloud virtuosity
To patch that gap, Groke decided to tap into Gapps’ knowledge and services.
“We didn’t need general suggestions that apply to all cloud platforms: that we could do ourselves. We needed someone who has really deep expertise on Google Cloud, can get their hands dirty and show us how things work there specifically,” Cudanin explains.
However, it’s not an easy task to find a Google Cloud specialized partner in Finland: there are not many of them.
“Gapps was actually our only option because, at the time, they were the only ones we could even find,” Rokka recaps.
From Groke’s point of view, the deep, practical experience and knowledge Gapps has of one platform is a major advantage. It is also the reason why they decided to start working together to develop the platform.
Hardening the security of the environment
The cooperation started with a security focus. It was a no-brainer to prioritize as it helped to make the platform ready for executing ideas and applications. Security is also one of the main priorities at Groke.
“There are existing compliance standards in place for other industries. But in our case, we needed to evaluate the area we are operating in to create those standards,” Cudanin explains.
The work happened in three steps:
- Security review to understand the current situation: mapping out how secure the system is and what are the possible areas of attack.
- Documentation of action points.
- Prioritizing and implementing the found items.
Thanks to the existing focus on security, Groke’s Google Cloud environment was already in a pretty good state. However, there were still some untapped opportunities. Cudanin sums up that the audit helped to identify improvements in organizational policies, automated security alarms, and reporting.
“First of all, it was good to know we weren’t exposing ourselves to anything risky. But on top of that, Google provides a lot of additional protection that can be easily implemented if you have the proper knowledge. Without the audit, we wouldn’t have known about these.”
“The security evaluation brought us definitely a lot of value. The end result, the security posture recommendations report, had complete details on what the status is right now, what the risks are, and what should be the action items moving forward. Gapps helped us to understand where we are in the Google Cloud and how we can harden our security posture. Our systems are now more secure.” – Arvin Cudanin, Lead Cloud Architect
Expert knowledge for the backend development of Groke’s applications
Once the foundation was established, the cooperation continued with the backend development of Groke’s product.
“We are expanding our client-facing products in the cloud. We needed expert knowledge on certain things like scaling our product, choosing where to store our data, configuring our network, and ensuring the services will be up even when we have bigger clientele in the future. In this as well we wanted to use someone who has already been there and has deployed amazing products on the Google side before.”
Gapps’ expert has worked as a part of the team, providing valuable insights and offering solutions when needed. This way the whole team can review and define the best approach and who should do the execution – Gapps or the internal team.
This approach is beneficial for startups since it often saves costs: instead of the traditional practice, where you order something and it is delivered as a full package, you can pick and choose where to utilize the expert’s knowledge.
“It’s always better to have active communication flow instead of just having someone executing. There are tons of ways to solve a problem, and each has its own pros and cons. Gapps provides us with options so that we can make informed decisions, it’s like constant evaluation that we do together. It has increased our knowledge of certain components.”
– Arvin Cudanin, Lead Cloud Architect
Cost optimization brought 10-20% of savings
Taking the bottom line into account is a crucial aspect of any business operation. In the cloud, it means identifying potential cost-saving opportunities – but also recognizing the smartest ways to invest money.
In order to confirm both things are taken into notice, Gapps worked together with Groke to ensure Google Cloud services are used optimally. Examples of the optimisation actions include using Spot Instances instead of regular Virtual Machines when possible and configuring the right storage class for Cloud Storage.
The needed changes were relatively small, but they still had a significant impact.
“The final cost benefits from this are hard to estimate since this is continuous work we do ourselves as well. But we can confidently say it achieved 10-20% of savings. It is a good improvement that saves money in the longer term,” Cudanin states.
“Cost optimization is not something you can do just once, it has to be continuous. Both when you are wanting to save money and when you are planning to spend it.”
Juha Rokka, CEO
About Groke Technologies
Groke Technologies is a maritime industry technology company offering situational awareness systems for ship owners and operators. The goal of their product, Groke Pro, is to make seafaring safer with new emerging technologies. The company was established four years ago in Turku, Finland, together with Mitsubishi Corporation. After two years of R&D, the first product, GrokePro, was brought to market. Since then GrokePro have been delivered more than 20 customers globally. At the moment, Groke has a little under 20 employees with world class capabilities in machine learning, sensor fusion and UI/UX.